Turning pollutants into profits, while cleaning water

wastewater-treatment-profitsTreating domestic and industrial wastewater so that it can be reused for drinking, irrigation and manufacturing is costly - both environmentally and monetarily. In a recent contribution to Nature, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Bruce Rittmann and co-authors describe how to make wastewater treatment not only cost-efficient, but profitable. They demonstrate how costs could be more than recouped if valuable chemicals — including useful forms of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus — were captured from wastewater. The authors go on to propose several ways of extracting these resources, weighing the pros and cons of each. They also stress that government support will be crucial in developing these processes and making them affordable but assert that — ultimately — the benefits will outweigh the costs. Rittmann, who directs ASU's Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, shared additional insights on the untapped potential of wastewater in this interview with ASU Now.