The U.S. Navy is legendary for its kick-ass cleanliness, and now it’s tapping into recycled wastewater to use for maintenance and flushing toilets. The Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal group based in San Diego has just purchased a self-contained, energy efficient portable treatment system from Global Water Group that is actually capable of bringing wastewater up to a level that exceeds U.S. EPA and World Health Organization standards for drinking water, though the Navy has no plans for drinking it (yet).
Even if you can’t quite wrap your mind around toilet-to-tap recycling, there are still plenty of opportunities to use treated wastewater for non-drinking uses, including irrigation. And anyways, what’s the big deal about toilet-to-tap – as the saying goes, there’s no new water in the world, and even bottled water has to come from somewhere…
The U.S. Navy, Water Recycling, and Sustainability
The Navy is an old hand at water treatment. After all, drinking desalinated seawater comes with the job. The Navy recently upped the sustainability ante by developing a new high efficiency desalination system that uses about 65% less energy than conventional systems. Like the Global Water unit, the new desalination system is portable, and an earlier model has been used in the Navy’s humanitarian relief operations on land (more on that below).
Global Water Group and Wastewater Recycling
Global Water specializes in fast acting, high efficiency portable water treatment systems, with an eye toward military and humanitarian relief uses. The basis of Global’s technology is tried-and-true extended aeration activated sludge, which means stimulating the growth of bacteria that digest organic matter. The process was developed about 30 years ago and Global has come up with a couple of tweaks that speed it up. The conventional process yields a sludge byproduct, which Global eliminated by designing the system to recycle sludge back for more digestion. High tech filters remove parasites and chemicals, and instead of using chlorine as the primary disinfectant, the process kills off remaining bacteria and viruses with ultraviolet light.
The U.S. Military and Global Warming
Never mind that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Legislative Exchange Council are busily unloading their guns against climate science, the U.S. Department of Defense has put its money on the science and has determined that climate change is a significant national security issue in an official assessment issued earlier this year. In fact, the The U.S. military has been pursuing sustainability measures for years, as illustrated by the Navy’s development of solar power, hybrid-electric ships, biofuels, and new “green” coatings to keep barnacles and other biofilm off ships’ hulls (biofilm can reduce fuel efficiency by up to 40% so it’s a good thing to get rid of).
The U.S. Navy and Global Warming
Last year the Navy got a head start on the DoD and established Task Force Climate Change to prepare for the impact of rising sea levels. In particular, the Navy anticipates an increase in its humanitarian relief role, which in turn will push the development of more efficient, portable water and wastewater treatment systems. Memo to the Chamber of Commerce: Support Our Troops!
Image: Mopping by meddygarnet on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.