Innovative greywater project begins pilot plant testing
Researcher Stephanie Young in the greywater treatment lab. -Photo by U of R Photography Dept.

Watering swirling down the drain has long been a concern of researcher Stephanie Young.

"Do you know that 50 per cent of the population in the world is facing a serious water shortage in the very near future?'' says Young. "As an environmental engineer, I asked myself what I could do."

This concern for community resources motivated Young and her research team to develop greywater reclamation technology over the past eight years.

The technology removes bacteria and solids from wastewater sources such as sinks, showers and bathtubs and makes it useable for non-potable purposes. Young hopes that by recycling this otherwise wasted water, communities can reduce their domestic drinking water consumption, increase the longevity of their water treatment facilities and decrease the wastewater that finds its way into sewage collection systems.

Young worked with the University during the design and construction of the Research and Innovation Centre so the building could serve as a test site for the technology. Thanks to this foresight, the building now has a dual piping system so greywater from the washroom sinks can be treated in her lab.

Five new systems have been installed in the building and are being studied to determine which one is best for creating a commercial-scale water reclamation plant. The systems, which are unmanned and cost-effective, are compact and portable and were developed with funding in 2008 of $349,000 from the Canada-Saskatchewan Western Economic Partnership Agreement (WEPA). In April, Young received a new investment of $202,400 from WEPA to further pilot test her greywater reclamation technology. Communities of Tomorrow is contributing an additional $75,000 to the project.

"We can purify the water to a quality that we can re-circulate it into bathroom sinks, use it for toilet flushing, and even use it to water the lawns," says Young.

Young's project reflects the University's commitment to improve the sustainability of its operations - an important aspect outlined in the strategic plan.

"It's a small step for us right now - in one of our buildings - but it's potentially a very large one," says President Vianne Timmons. "If this technology proves viable, installation in our other buildings would fit nicely with our strategic plan and continue to make the University of Regina an environmental leader. And this is something that may go beyond the University of Regina through commercialization and job creation."

Young's team is testing designs for treatment plants as a step towards launching the technology in the marketplace.

"These plants are small," says Young. "They are easily installed, easy to operate, and are ideal for large buildings, even airports and hospitals, and are also ideal for farms, acreages, and small rural communities."

Young's work on greywater reclamation technology was recently recognized with the 2010 Award for Innovation, presented at the Regina Chamber of Commerce Paragon Awards. The Award recognizes faculty, staff or students of the University of Regina for research characterized by intellectual achievement, uniqueness and originality.

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