Postmedia: Projects focus on water stewardship

via: Projects focus on water stewardship, CAPP, Postmedia, Feb. 28, 2013

When energy producer Encana was seeking water management strategies for its Two Island Lake hydraulic fracturing operations in British Columbia’s Horn River Basin, the primary goal was to have the least-possible impact on surface water.

“We were fortunate to identify the Debolt formation, a deep, non-potable aquifer containing saline water, unsuitable for human or agricultural use,” says Mike Forgo, Encana’s Vice-President of Business Services & Stakeholder Relations. “This type of formation is not available in many areas of B.C.”

The discovery led to a project with peer company Apache to design and build the Debolt Water Treatment Plant and develop the formation as a water source reservoir – the first of its kind in Canada.

It took a great deal of innovation and collaboration to tap this unique resource, but the effort brought a significant payoff. Some 98 per cent of water needed for both companies’ operations at Two Island Lake now comes from this saline source.

Combined with systems that allow for full recovery and re-use of fracturing fluids, the result is a development with minimal draw on surface water and a low environmental footprint.

The strategy that led to the Debolt find is helping to lower surface water use in other areas of the province. In the Montney play in northeastern B.C., Encana is currently developing a water-handling and distribution hub using subsurface water sources.

“We understand that unconventional resource development is water-intensive,” Mr. Forgo says. “Encana, and the oil and gas industry, is taking proactive steps to address concerns and produce in as responsible a manner as possible.”


In keeping with its global objective, Shell Canada is constantly developing new technologies and processes to conserve water in all of its operations, and it is working with communities to address challenges and concerns.

When the company began operations west of Dawson Creek, B.C., the local community raised two issues: water use and truck traffic. Shell listened to the concerns of citizens and developed a water management strategy which focuses on recycling as well as a partnership with the City of Dawson Creek for a reclaimed water facility. This facility processes sewage waste water from the community that was formerly released into Dawson Creek.

A 48-kilometre pipeline from the plant transports the treated water to Shell’s operations in the Groundbirch gas field, where it is combined with recycled production water and used in the hydraulic fracturing process. The result is the virtual elimination of the use of surface water.

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BBC News: River basins ‘vital for growth’

12 June 2012

River basins ‘vital for growth’
By Mark Kinver Environment reporter, BBC News

The world’s top river basin regions have a vital role in the future in terms of sustaining economic growth in the future, a report has suggested.

However, current projections show that seven of the top 10 areas are currently using unsustainable volumes of water.

A UN report said the global target of halving the number of people in the world without access to safe drinking water was achieved in March 2012.

The report was commissioned by HSBC, WWF, Earthwatch and WaterAid.

The document, Exploring the Links between Water and Economic Growth, produced by Frontier Economics, recorded that almost 800 million remained without access to safe drinking water, while 2.5bn were without basic access to sanitation.

The report’s authors estimate that nations would see their GDP improve by up to 15% if the global Millennium Development Targets were achieved.

A report published by the UN in March said the international community had acheived the goal of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water.

In the past 20 years, two billion people have gained access to improved drinking water.

However, it acknowledged that global targets to improve sanitation were unlikely to be met by the 2015 deadline.

The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) lists 75% of the world’s population benefiting from improved sanitation, yet figures suggest that only 63% of the world’s population currently have improved sanitation access, a figure projected to increase only to 67% by 2015.

This means that 2.5bn people are still without the level of sanitation outlined in the MDGs.

The report by Frontier Economics listed a number of avenues that need to be addressed in order for the “water challenge” to be addressed.

As well as improving the access to drinking water and sanitation, it also listed the need for great efficiency in the way water is consumed within agriculture, industry and domestic sectors.

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EPA releases draft National Water Program 2012 Strategy

via @climateandwater Draft EPA “National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change” Released for Public Comment

EPA’s Draft 2012 Strategy adresses climate change impacts on water resources and EPA’s water programs. Climate change alters the water cycle and could affect the implementation of EPA’s programs. EPA and our state, tribal, local and federal partners must review and adapt the practices that have been developed over the past 40 years since passage of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and other statutes. Ensuring that EPA’s programs continue to protect public health, and the environment that sustains our communities and the economy, requires immediate and continuous collaboration.

National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change—Public Comment Draft (PDF) (112pp, 3.6MB, About PDF)

How to Comment:

Comments must be received on or before May 17, 2012, 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.


TorStar: A few good reasons we should think about what goes down the drains each day

Trash Talk

Sewage sludge is a problem we all need to think about
March 2, 2012 by Ellen Moorhouse

Trash Talk delves into some nasty stuff occasionally, but Toronto resident Maureen Reilly has been doing just that almost daily for 15 years. Her subject: sewage and sewage sludge.

We spoke to her over a year ago and thought it timely to check back to find out what’s happening with the waste we all help generate. Indeed, just 120 kilometres northwest of Toronto, Dundalk residents are challenging plans to build a facility that will take sludge, some from Toronto, mix it with septage and industrial waste, turn it into a liquidy fertilizer product for spreading on farmers’ land.

Reilly has immersed herself in disposal issues ever since she fought (successfully) to keep industrial paper sludge off pasture surrounding her country house near Cannington. Her experience with regulatory authorities, politicians and waste haulers changed her life.

Reilly has made it her mission to cull the media for information about sewage treatment technologies, sludge controversies, industry misbehaviour and failures, scientific studies, environmental contaminants, hygiene and health issues. She sends these reports, with critical commentary, to subscribers of her Sludge Watch-l email service in a dozen countries.

She and many others believe spreading urban sewage sludge on agricultural land is a grave mistake given the contaminants and pathogens that end up in sewers because of our chemicalized and medicated lifestyles and effluents from hospitals and industry. The impacts of these substances on soils, health and ecosystems are not understood, and as Reilly says, “Of the 10 of thousands of toxic compounds that could be in sewage, the sludge is tested for less than 12.”

On the other side of the fence are other environmentalists who believe nutrients in sewage should be restored to the land. Embracing that view is a posse of companies, scientists, consultants and haulers in the waste water industry, municipalities with sludge on their hands, and some farmers, who are usually paid to take the stuff and have benefited.

So what trends are of particular concern for Reilly as we flush or pull the plug?

 Antibiotic resistance: This is a growing worry in hospitals but consider this: sewage plants, which collect both pathogens and pharmaceuticals from hospitals and homes, are a breeding ground for multi-resistant superbugs, studies have shown. Despite treatment, the bacteria can survive in sludges. “Putting sewer wastes on farms is not consistent with clean, safe food,” is Reilly’s view.

 A question of prions: Scientists are starting to explore a possible connection to Alzheimer’s disease of these misfolded proteins, already linked to mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans. Even more alarming, a recent study in mice suggests, is that Alzheimer’s could be infectious. Prions have been shown to survive in sludges after conventional sewage treatment. “We have more and more exotic diseases that would call for greater sanitation of our sewage waste,” Reilly says.

 Canada-wide policy? The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, which addresses environmental issues of national scope, has produced a draft policy suggesting all sewage sludge be identified euphemistically as “biosolids” and be directed for use in agriculture or as fuel without defining any quality standards. Reilly says the document, to be completed this year, was circulated to an undisclosed list of individuals and organizations and not released for public review.

 Mining the public purse: How do you make stinky sludges acceptable? More processing — pelletizing, composting or converting to fertilizer using often troublesome technology — as well as trucking it further afield. “There’s more and more treatment required, which runs into $100 to $200 a tonne,” she says. “What we’re seeing is a stubborn persistence of the land application agenda at enormous public cost and without any public debate.”

 Deregulating sludge? As with so many other issues in Canada, federal and provincial jurisdictions overlap. “My concern in Canada is they’re moving materials into the less and less regulated area,” Reilly says. For example, if sludge is designated a fertilizer (as in the Dundalk proposal), then it comes under federal law, Reilly says, and the feds are mainly concerned with accurate nutrient designation and do not regulate land application.

So what’s Reilly’s solution? Tap sewage for energy. Europe does it. Munich is a prime example with a two-step process of methane production followed by combustion in what’s called a fluidized bed incinerator. Half the plant’s cost goes into the stack and its emission control system, Reilly says, and energy is captured for district heating.

Ironically, Peel Region operates the largest example of a fluidized bed incinerator in the world at its Lakeview Waste Water Treatment Plant. According to a 2008 report in Canadian Consulting Engineer: “After considering 11 alternative approaches to biosolids management, it was found that incineration is the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution, and it produces the least odours.”

Reilly would agree.

Recycling water: Waste not, want not

via: The Economist blog

DECADES ago, your correspondent visited one of the larger sewage works in the Thames Valley to learn how the new biodegradable detergents, with their long hydrocarbon chains, were affecting the plant’s filtration processes. The plant was coping just fine, he was informed. And the output was so good, it was piped straight back to local reservoirs for redistribution.

Each drop of water used by Londoners subsequently passed through the plant for reprocessing at least six times before eventually escaping to the sea. The engineer in charge was convinced that, with further refinement, the sewage works would be capable of recycling the same water indefinitely—with the quality improving with each treatment cycle. Offered a glass of the finished product, your correspondent thought it tasted a good deal better than the chalky liquid that spluttered from London taps (see “From toilet to tap”, September 26th 2008).

In America, the assumption is that, if recycled at all, reprocessed effluent is used strictly for irrigating golf courses, parks and highway embankments, or for providing feedwater for industrial boilers and cooling at power stations. The one thing water authorities are loathe to discuss is how much treated sewage (politely known as “reclaimed water”) is actually incorporated in the drinking supply.

The very idea of consuming reprocessed human, animal and industrial waste can turn people’s stomachs. But it happens more than most realise.

Even municipalities that do not pump waste-water back into aquifers or reservoirs, often draw their drinking supply from rivers that contain the treated effluent from communities upstream.

A survey done in 1980 for the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), which looked at two dozen water authorities that took their drinking water from big rivers, found this unplanned use of waste-water (known as “de facto reuse”) accounted for 10% or more of the flow when the rivers were low. Given the increase in population, de facto reuse has increased substantially over the past 30 years, says a recent report on the reuse of municipal waste-water by the National Research Council (NRC) in Washington, DC.

Along the Trinity River in Texas, for instance, water now being drawn off by places downstream of Dallas and Fort Worth consists of roughly 50% effluent. In summer months, when the natural flow of the river dwindles to a trickle, drinking water piped to Houston consists almost entirely of processed effluent.

The main problem is not changes in the weather (though global warming hardly helps), but population growth. The American population has doubled, to over 300m, since the middle of last century—and is expected to increase by a further 50%, to 450m, over the next half century. Meanwhile, households as a whole have been consuming water at an even faster rate, thanks to the housing boom and the widespread use of flushed toilets, dish washers, washing machines, swimming pools and garden sprinklers.

Then there is the ongoing migration within America from the cooler climes of the north-east and mid-west to the sunbelt of the south. Since 1970, Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Texas have seen their populations surge by 85% to 400%. This exodus to warmer, dryer parts of the country has coincided with a decline in the construction of hydrological infrastructure—dams, aquaducts, tunnels, pipelines and reservoirs—for collecting, storing and transporting water to precisely those parched places.

The fact is, there are simply no more ambitious water projects remaining to be tackled like those of the early 20th century, which pumped water from the Colorado River and the snow-capped Sierra Mountains across hundreds of miles of desert to the thirsty cities of the American south-west (see “Water, water everywhere”, June 25th 2010). Today, few lakes and rivers within pumping distance of the country’s conurbations remain untapped. Meanwhile, dams that help purify effluent in rivers—by holding back water for months on end so that microbial and photochemical processes can do their job—are being dismantled to restore natural habitats and protect threatened species.

Over the past quarter of a century, the amount of water used in the United States has remained stable at around 210 billion gallons (795m cubic metres) a day. While consumption by households has tripled since the 1950s, the amount of water used to irrigate agricultural land and feed industry has declined. Farmers have embraced more efficient sprinkler systems, put more crops under glass, planted more drought-resistant varieties, and profited from selling their surplus water to nearby towns. On the industrial side, the use of thermo-electric power—with its need for cooling water—peaked in 1980 and is now below its 1970 level. Meanwhile, many old water-using industries have upgraded from steam to electric power or moved offshore.

Conservation has also helped ease the demand for fresh water, though it comes nowhere near offsetting the thirst of the sunbelt’s surging population. The only conclusion is that, like it or not, people will have to get used to drinking their own effluent.

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Postmedia News: Alberta harvest first crop of waste-raised willows

EDMONTON — After flourishing on waste water from the town’s sewage treatment plant for more than two years, Whitecourt’s biomass crop of willows and poplars was ripe for harvest.

And last week, researchers brought in three different machines to cut, chip or bundle the various varieties of the fast-growing wood.

While trees aren’t usually on the list when farmers decide what crops they will plant, these species are being tested as both fuel and a way to naturally dispose of treated waste water and sludge.

Whitecourt offered the seven-hectare site beside its treatment plant to researchers in 2006, along with an electricity hookup and an unlimited supply of waste water to irrigate the young trees with underground pipes.

“The cut last week was our second on that site. The irrigated trees were 30-per-cent larger than the ones that weren’t irrigated, and we think they will be a good fuel source for our wood-burning power plant,” says Peter Yackulik, the town’s project manager.

“The question to be answered is what will it take to commercialize this operation in the future.”

The project is part of a federally led research program, with Alberta leading the way.

Whitecourt was the first test site in Canada, and there are now five locations in the province, says Richard Krygier, a researcher with Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Wood Fibre Centre.

Saskatchewan is also interested, and Krygier hopes what has started here will eventually be copied across the country.

The other municipalities taking part with Whitecourt — Edmonton, Camrose County, Grande Prairie and Beaverlodge — met recently with government and industry supporters to form the Alberta Rural Organic Waste to Energy Network (AROWEN) to exchange ideas and encourage others to consider their approach.

“There are now 24 municipalities, companies or government departments working on this project,” says Krygier, listing an irrigation firm, a nursery company and a laboratory.

The research may provide an alternative way to treat waste water. Most areas with fewer than 5,000 residents still use lagoons and primary treatment systems, which eventually discharge into streams and rivers.

Larger centres with state-of-the-art sewage systems, such as Whitecourt and Edmonton, still have to dispose of the leftover sludge.

Researchers are studying the effects of applying this material to fields of willow trees, where it breaks down and acts as a natural fertilizer.

Edmonton’s project involves using sludge with trees on a test plot near the new remand centre being built on the city’s northern outskirts.

These trees produce biomass that can be burned for heating or to generate electricity, or in the future could be used in bio-products such as chemicals and drugs.

At the Whitecourt site, Krygier says five varieties of willow and two types of poplar were planted on irrigated and non-irrigated land.

The waste water is the same highly treated effluent discharged into the river, so it really can’t be considered sewage.

“This was our first project and we weren’t prepared to work with something that was a little ‘fresher’,” Krygier said, referring to sewage treated only to the primary level.

Using soil moisture sensors, irrigation occurred when the young trees were so dry they needed extra water.

Irrigation only works during the growing season, so a town relying on willow fields would need a winter waste water storage site, such as an engineered wetland, Krygier says.

Harvesting was done with a Claas unit, which did a good job quickly chipping the stalks, a baling machine and a cane cutter pulled behind a tractor.

It’s a new application for equipment many Alberta farmers are already accustomed to using. Farmers also have plenty of experience handling chipped material (silage for dairy cows) and round bales of hay and straw.

“But you are talking $35,000 for the cutter, $140,000 for the round bailer and $160,000 for the Claas head unit, so we were demonstrating different equipment scales of harvesting.”

The willow and poplar chips are being dried in the yard of Edmonton’s Northern Forestry Centre, testing a new technique adopted from Ireland — pumping air through slotted pipes under the pile — that has been modified by a local grain-drying firm.

“In Ireland they could dry wood chips with 45 to 50 per cent moisture content, which is what they are right now in winter, down to 18 to 20 per cent in four months,” Krygier says.

The chips will be studied and graded at a national forestry research lab to determine their quality.

Other countries, such as Sweden, have plantations of fast-growing trees harvested every few years just like crops. If it makes economic sense, large areas of brush land, marginal farmland and even the land under power lines could support willow crops in Alberta.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News


Using wastewater to irrigate short rotation crops delivers dual dividend (Logging and Sawmill Journal, Nov 2011)

For more information about this method, contact Martin Blank at (780) 435-7309 or, Richard Krygier at (780) 435-7286 or, or Derek Sidders at (780) 435-7355 or

FastCompany: CDP to Big Companies: Report Your Water Use

Water is one of those resources that is both wasted and undervalued–according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 47% of the world’s population will live in “areas of high water stress” by 2030 if conservation policies aren’t implemented. And climate change (read: unpredictable weather) will only increase the problem in the coming years. That’s why it makes sense that the Carbon Disclosure Project, a U.K.-based nonprofit that has the largest database of corporate climate change information in the world, is targeting water with the CDP Water Disclosure project.

The project, launched this week, asks over 300 of the world’s biggest companies to report their water use on behalf of 137 major financial institutions that have signed a request for information. Questions on the CDP’s 11-page questionnaire (PDF) deal with everything from water use in supply chains to regulatory risks related to water.

Some companies are jumping at the opportunity to take part in the project–we have already received eager press releases from Molson Coors and Ford detailing their participation. Other companies that have signed on include L’Oreal, Reed Elsevier, and PepsiCo.

The information contained in the questionnaire is ultra-important to investors, but it’s not going to be easy for companies to fill out. While it might be simple enough to detail water use of internal operations, getting suppliers to reveal their water usage statistics isn’t quite as easy. Still, it’s better that major companies hash out their water issues now instead of 20 years down the line–by then, it might be too late to fix them.

[CDP Water Disclosure]