On Tuesday, MESERB attorneys Elizabeth Wefel and Gretel Lee attended a lecture on wastewater management by Dr. Jeremy Guest, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. In his lecture, titled “Returning Nutrients to Agriculture: The Role of Cities in a Circular Economy,” Dr. Guest recommends using distilled wastewater nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium, to help fertilize crops. An MPR article on the presentation and proposition can be read here.
While this idea requires some technological advancements, policy and law changes, and social buy-in (as well as monetary investments), Dr. Guest states that the technological advancements and economic growth needed for the success of this proposition are progressing, and that the operating costs of such technology, once implemented, are good. It was nice to hear an expert in this field express concern over what we in MESERB already know: that nutrient limits are disproportionately placed on the backs of wastewater treatment facilities, and as these limits become more strict, compliance with them becomes more expensive – many times with a minimal positive impact on the quality of the respective water body.
While the agriculture-to-wastewater reuse cycle presents its own concerns and unknowns, it is an interesting approach to wastewater management; one that has the potential to be very beneficial to wastewater treatment facilities, the agriculture industry and water sources. We encourage you to take a look at the article linked above and learn a bit about this process; it’s quite fascinating, and in some places, happening in some form.