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WateReuse Awards Interdisciplinary Research Team for their Water Recycling System

James D. Englehardt, a professor in the University of Miami College of Engineering’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, and his research team were awarded the 2018 WateReuse Award for Excellence in the category of Transformational Innovation for their project titled, “EFRI-SEED: Design for Autonomous Net-Zero Water Buildings.”

The WateReuse Association’s annual awards program recognizes individuals and projects that have made significant contributions in support of greater adoption of water reuse. Recipients are celebrated for successfully advancing the development of alternative water supplies or developing a novel approach to meet water needs through the use of water reuse systems and approaches.

Every spring, WateReuse solicits nominations for the annual awards. A panel of industry professional reviews and evaluates the submissions. This year’s award presentation took place at the Awards for Excellence Luncheon on Monday, September 10, during the 33rd Annual WateReuse Symposium in Austin, Texas.

The award praises the interdisciplinary team’s research and development of a grid-independent, net-zero water building served by energy-minimal systems scaled to mimic biological circulatory systems. The research project began in 2011, when the National Science Foundation awarded James Englehardt and his team a $2 million grant to build on current technologies that allowed many functions of water monitoring, quality control, operation and maintenance to be decentralized in order to develop a low-energy, direct potable reuse system with net-zero water consumption for a four-bedroom, four bath apartment in University Village Residential College.

The following year, four students at the University of Miami began their residence in a net-zero water residence hall unit, as a part of the four-year project. These students lived in campus housing that was retrofitted to recycle their wastewater on-site with closely monitored quality control.

Uniquely, by reusing 100% of the water, the system reuses the thermal energy in hot water as well. In fact, it can be energy positive, saving more hot water energy than it uses in treatment and conveyance of water and wastewater combined. Moreover, no stream of concentrated contaminants is generated, and the total cost is about the same as conventional water and sewer service. The engineering techniques used in this eco-friendly project demonstrated low-energy treatment processes that recycle wastewater for re-use within a living community. This award recognizes the technological advances, research breakthroughs and innovative practices of the Net-Zero Water Project that have advanced the adoption, implementation and public acceptance of recycled water.

WateReuse is an internationally-recognized thought-leader on alternative water supply development. It is the go-to organization for policy guidance and educational tools on water reuse as well as the principal influencer of public opinion, lawmakers and policymakers on policy and projects related to water reuse. Since its founding in 1990, WateReuse has advocated for policies, laws and funding at the state and federal level to increase the practice of recycling water.

To learn more about the Net-Zero Water Project, please click here.

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