Why It Is Important
Wastewater operations are typically the largest energy expense in a community, and reductions in energy usage can yield significant environmental, economic, and social benefits for these communities. The total annual energy use by municipal wastewater treatment systems in the U.S. is approximately 30 billion kWh. The energy use of these systems is expected to increase by up to 20% in the coming decades due to more stringent water quality standards and growing water demand based on population growth. Moreover, wastewater contains about five times more energy than is needed for its treatment in terms of untapped thermal energy, which can be captured and used to generate energy.
Wastewater facility retrofits can yield up to 50% in energy savings, and 30% on average. In recent years a growing number of utilities responsible for clean water have been moving from strict wastewater treatment to water resource management, some formally renaming themselves water resource recovery facilities. As wastewater facilities undergo this transition in equipment, processes, and operations, there are abundant opportunities to make energy efficiency retrofits. Facilities can expand this energy-efficient foundation with resource recovery measures to move closer to a sustainable wastewater infrastructure.
Partnering with State and Local Governments
Through the Better Buildings Sustainable Wastewater Infrastructure of the Future (SWIFt) Accelerator, DOE is working over three years with 27 state, regional, and local partners representing 100+ water resource recovery facilities to accelerate a pathway toward a sustainable infrastructure. SWIFt aims to catalyze the adoption of innovative and best-practice approaches in data management, technologies, and financing for infrastructure improvement. Partners will seek to improve the energy efficiency of their participating water resource recovery facilities by at least 30% and integrate at least one resource recovery measure.