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Water Quality: A long and winding road

No-one would deny there's still a long and winding road ahead to reach our water quality goals.


The EU's Water Framework Directive remains a juggernaut for change and whilst the initial target date is 2015, the longer objectives stretch into the 2020s, 30s and beyond. To get there we must continue to re-examine the original processes that produce pollution, both diffuse and point source, to reduce the overall load on our water.  


Increased population, more industry and more intensive agriculture will all continue to pose ongoing challenges.     So, we will need to continue to develop and apply robust technologies to enhance current control and containment. 


Diffuse and semi-diffuse sources of ammonia are a particular ongoing threat, most heavily from agriculture, as well as the ammonia loads imposed by identifiable ongoing processes, such as industry and sewage treatment. Agricultural pollution is undoubtedly improving through better practice and education, although atmospheric ammonia emissions remain a challenge.  


The good news is that UK water companies have earmarked AMP 5 investments to reduce the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate load they discharge, which will deliver significant improvements in the relatively short term. The challenge for them is to make the most of available budgets, design upgrades where space for new assets is severely limited, and minimize energy usage.


Sludge treatment, especially the dewatering processes turning sludge into combustible fossil energy substitutes, produces liquors with high ammonia content. The liquors must then be treated separately, which takes up valuable space and energy in waste water plants.


Additional capacity to offset future load can be made available at existing works through small footprint equipment such as aerated sand filter bed technology, for example the  DynaOxy sand filtration system from Hydro, with designs that pack acres of nitrifying biomass into vessels up to 10m tall, and run on minimal energy. Another major opportunity is to upgrade DynaSand filtration to DynaOxy for improved nitrification performance.


This pragmatic approach could be one way of lightening the pollution load on our waters while we tackle the longer term reforms needed in addressing agricultural pollution. 


In the journey towards better water quality, it's a question of making quicker wins where we can to balance longer term objectives and I believe the water industry, with the benefit of innovation and sound engineering design, can speed us towards our destination.

© Faversham House Group Ltd 2019. WWT and WET News news articles may be copied or forwarded for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.

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