Open Access: Sewer mining – a water resue option supporting circular economy, public service provision and entrepreneurship
Water scarcity, either due to increased urbanisation or climatic variability, has motivated societies to reduce pressure on water resources mainly by reducing water demand. However, this practice alone is not sufficient to guarantee the quality of life that high quality water services underpin, especially within a context of increased urbanisation. As such, the idea of water reuse has been gaining momentum for some time and has recently found a more general context within the idea of the Circular Economy. This paper is set within the context of an ongoing discussion between centralized and decentralized water reuse techniques and the investigation of trade-offs between efficiency and economic viability of reuse at different scales. Specifially, we argue for an intermediate scale of a water reuse option termed 'sewer-mining', which could be considered a reuse scheme at the neighbourhood scale. We suggest that sewer mining a) provides a feasible alternative reuse option when the geopgraphy of the wastewater treatment plant is problematic, b) relies on mature treatment technologies and c) presents an opportunity for Small Medium Enterprises (SME's) to be involved in the water market, securing environmental, social and economic benefits. To support this argument, we report on a pilot sewer-mining application at Athens, Greece. The pilot integrates two subsystems: a packaged treatment unit and an information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. The paper reports on the pilot's overall performance and critically evaluates the potential of the sewer-mining idea to become a significant piece of the circular economy puzzle for water.
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