The water industry has historically been risk averse to implementing new technologies and altering existing processes. In order to address the challenges facing the water industry, it is important for utilities to actively seek new technologies and approaches that can help improve their treatment processes and save costs. The Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) created the Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology (LIFT) to bring new water technology to the field quickly and efficiently. Playing on organizational strengths, WE&RF and WEF each take the lead in managing LIFT’s different components.
LIFT is an initiative to help bring innovation into practice and facilitate early adoption of technologies that will help utilities improve their performance and reduce costs. LIFT provides a network of people and resources to help utilities identify new technologies, communicate with peer utilities, and collaborate on implementation. LIFT has four main components covering technological, social, regulatory, and educational aspects that each play a key role in moving innovation into practice. It can help water facility personnel learn firsthand about the latest technologies, how they can use them in their own facility, and ways to share solutions with peers. It provides an opportunity for collaboration among facilities for evaluation and testing of new technology, as well as mitigate the risks and costs associated with pilots and demonstrations through partnerships. LIFT includes numerous programs and resources to help advance its mission including Technology Scans and LIFT Link.
LIFT Technology Scans identify and evaluate innovative water technologies to inform facility owners and other interested parties in order to promote early adoption of technologies. Technology Scans are a way to introduce municipal and industrial facility owners and others to innovative and potentially game-changing technologies that can help them transition into “utilities of the future.” Innovators submit an application detailing their technology and they are reviewed and screened by industry experts and potential end users. Evaluations focus on understanding the underlying engineering and projected value, to the point that a reviewer would feel comfortable recommending it to a colleague. The technologies included in LIFT Technology Scans may be in varying stages of development, from emerging to pre-commercial to newly commercialized. This allows technology providers a platform to introduce their technology directly to end users and reach a broader audience of interested parties.
LIFT also benefits water utilities by helping them identify new technologies that may be specific to their needs. LIFT Link is an online interactive platform that serves as a clearinghouse for information on innovative water technologies that have been accepted into the program through the Technology Scan process. It provides water facility owners a direct line of communication with technology providers, peer facilities, and other industry stakeholders regarding new technologies, as well as industry needs. Utilities can learn directly from innovators how the technology functions and how it can be incorporated into their operations and treatment process. Water utilities can reach out to peer facilities with the same needs and interests, and share the cost and risk associated with piloting a new technology. In this way, LIFT helps utilities fill knowledge gaps related to new technologies and gives them a platform to share solutions to new or ongoing challenges. LIFT also gives utilities the guidance, tools, and resources they need to develop and implement new technology and foster a culture of innovation.
LIFT has identified 12 priority technology focus areas based on industry needs and interests, including biological nutrient removal, phosphorus recovery, energy from biosolids, intelligent water systems, and water reuse. Participants in these focus areas—collectively called the LIFT Utility Working Group—meet regularly to speak with other utility personnel on the topics of mutual interest. Each focus area group consists of 50 to 100 utility participants. Focus areas facilitate a variety of activities to help move technologies forward and allow for engaged discussion among facility owners to share information, expertise, and experiences regarding these priority areas.
Water Reuse is one of the newest LIFT focus areas. As existing water resources become more strained and hard to come by, new sources of water must be developed. The Water Reuse Focus Area discusses new membrane technologies, innovative non-membrane treatment processes, and real-time monitoring of contaminants in order to cost effectively produce safe and reliable water from non-traditional sources. One such source is municipal and industrial wastewater, which can be treated to a variety of standards based on its intended use. These different uses can include irrigation and industrial uses that may not require potable water. Fit-for-purpose water is intended to ensure that the right treatment process is applied for the intended use without expending unnecessary funds, energy, and other resources. Municipal wastewater can also be treated to potable standards using a selection of advanced treatment processes for either direct or indirect potable reuse.
The Pasteurization Technology Group (PTG), Inc., is an example of one company whose technology was approved into LIFT through the Technology Scans process, that has significant potential in water reuse. PTG has designed and patented disinfection systems that channel exhaust heat to disinfect wastewater to meet California Title 22 indirect potable reuse (IDR) standards, saving O&M expenses, such as chemical purchases, labor, and power consumption. Simultaneously, the systems generate low-cost electricity onsite to save energy costs by tapping available biogas, natural gas, or both. The combined savings generate cash flows that pay for investment in PTG systems. The technology is intended for use in municipal or industrial wastewater treatment systems to replace traditional chemical-based or energy consumptive disinfection systems. Using LIFT, PTG sees an opportunity to identify interested municipal and industrial end users for technology adoption. PTG will also be featured in a LIFT Technology Scan Presentation to explain and illustrate their technology directly to potential end users.
By productively engaging the water community in the innovation discussion, LIFT helps those interested be better stewards of the water environment. It is designed to help utilities understand the value and benefits of implementing new technologies, and provides a platform to share solutions. There are many opportunities to be involved with LIFT. PTG’s COO/ CFO, Tim Kingsbury says, “Members of the LIFT team reached out to us, based on their research of new technologies in the water and wastewater space. We are hoping to communicate directly with interested parties through the program. As a small company, PTG relies on networking in professional organizations, such as WE&RF, in order to meet people who we can help, and who can help us.”
Technologies providers that have an innovative water technology can submit a Technology Scan application through LIFT Link at no charge. The LIFT FAST Water Test Bed Network provides an interactive map of available testbed facilities in North America and abroad so new water technologies can find a suitable location for a pilot or demonstration.
LIFT encourages technology providers to seek support from federal, state, and local government programs, foundations, financing and investing agencies, and others to get funding to support a pilot or demonstration of a technology. WE&RF provides funding support on a competitive basis for research and technology through several of its research programs including the Unsolicited Research Program, Subscriber Priority Research Program, and the Targeted Collaborative Research Program. For more information on LIFT and how to get involved, visit http://www.werf.org/lift.