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How Forecasting Water Reclamation Use Can Save Money, Water Resources

This article has been adapted from the College of Engineering website.  Please click here to read the full article.


A changing climate and recent droughts in the South and West highlight the need to make the most of our limited water resources. One of the tools that can help the U.S. make efficient use of its water supplies is water reclamation – but utilities and water managers have sometimes struggled to deal with public perceptions of reclaimed water. And that has made it difficult to plan water reclamation projects.

Now an interdisciplinary team of NSF-funded researchers has developed techniques to help utilities make informed planning decisions.

“We wanted to better understand the public’s willingness to use reclaimed water and develop a model that policymakers and water utilities can use to inform their decisions about water reclamation,” says Emily Zechman Berglund, a civil and environmental engineering researcher at North Carolina State University who is the principal investigator (PI) on the NSF-funded study. “Our goal was to develop a model that could help them develop more efficient and cost-effective water reclamation projects.”

Water reclamation takes treated wastewater and uses it primarily to meet non-drinking water demands, such as for watering lawns or golf courses. However, despite the fact that reclaimed water has been treated and is safe, there can still be a perceived “yuck factor.” And some people may have trouble accepting the idea that reclaimed water is safe.