Turning waste into resource: CH2M recognized for its work on water reuse

Hardly a week goes by without stories of acute water scarcity making the headlines in geographies such as California, India or South Africa. It is estimated that the world could face a 40% water supply gap as early as 2030.

On the other hand, 80% of used water is discharged back into the natural environment without any treatment. This has made water reuse for the alleviation of water scarcity a hot topic among many industry leaders. This week CH2M, a global engineering and project delivery company and a longstanding WBCSD member was rewarded with the Stockholm Industry Water Award (SIWA) for its dedication to developing methods for water reuse.

The company’s success started in the early stages of waste-water treatment, when it found new ways of filtering water and cleaning up rivers after World War II. In the 1970s, CH2M began working with the Upper Occoquan Service Authority’s Regional Water Reclamation Plant in Virginia to assist with designing the world’s first and largest indirect potable reuse plant. Ever since, the company has continuously worked on improving its technologies and developing cost-effective approaches to water treatment. CH2M’s work on Singapore’s NEWater can be considered an important milestone in this regard, where high-tech water purification processes allow for wastewater to be transformed into ultra-clean and safe drinking water, now covering 30% of the city’s water supply.

Public awareness, however, remains a major concern for the development of waste-to-potable water projects. How to convince people that the new technologies allow treated water to be 100% safe for drinking? CH2M pioneered in using social science research and innovative education tools to positively shape public perception for potable reuse projects. Studies prove that public acceptance is often a question of language. Replacing terms such as “treated sewage” with “wastewater reclamation” allows reuse to be perceived in a positive manner. This acceptance is reinforced by an improved understanding of the water cycle by the general public.

This year, SIWA recognized the importance of water reuse technologies to decreasing exposure to water risk while safeguarding sustainable water supply for future generations. Water reuse is also critical in building a more circular notion of the water cycle and moving towards a coherent strategy for water stewardship. At the WBCSD, we are working with forward-looking businesses such as CH2M on developing scalable solutions that allow companies to become better water stewards. Together with our members, we develop water management tools and business solutions in the fields of natural infrastructure, water reuse, water-energy-climate nexus as well as water and sanitation.

The SIWA award ceremony will take place during the Stockholm International Water Week on 23 - 28 August. More information about the award can be found here. For additional information, please contact Joppe Cramwinckel at cramwinckel@wbcsd.org.

About SIWA
The Stockholm Industry Water Award (SIWA) was established in 2000 to stimulate and celebrate outstanding and transformative water achievements by companies in improving production, managing risks, finding solutions and contributing to wise water management. The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) were partners in establishing the award, which is also supported by International Water Association (IWA) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).