Extremes are increasingly defining different types of water work underway around the world. For example, London is looking to protect its city and the Thames estuary from tidal flooding; Qatar is building the world’s largest reservoirs to provide more water to the desert nation; and Singapore and Scotland are building massive tunnels to hold sewerage and stormwater, partly to prevent flooding.
“More frequent and more intense events continue to shape the overall water market,” says Peter Nicol, global market director for water for CH2M, which is working on the projects in London, Singapore and Scotland. Countries are realizing they can’t eliminate the impact of extreme events, so they are looking to mitigate them, Nicol adds.
In London, that means CH2M is working with the U.K. Environment Agency to design a $400-million flood-management program that will use floodgates and fortifications, as well as improvements to the natural environment, to help reduce flooding at the most vulnerable and important spots within London and along the Thames.
Singapore is looking to capture more water to become “more water-independent,” Nicol says. CH2M is providing professional engineering services for phase two of a 10-year project to build a sewerage system, including a 120-kilometer-deep tunnel that will employ gravity to move water to plants for reuse.
Similarly, CH2M provided the reference design and technical assistance for Scotland’s Shieldhall tunnel project, which will provide 90,000 cu meters of stormwater storage. The largest wastewater tunnel in Scotland when finished next year, it not only will increase the capacity of the wastewater system but also reduce the risk of flooding.
On the supply side, Arcadis is providing design and site-supervision services on the Kahramaa Mega Reservoirs, a series of five reservoirs that will have the capacity to hold 2,300 million gallons of potable water. Sited in Qatar, they will be the largest man-made reservoirs of their kind in the world. About 70% complete, the $4.67-billion project will provide the growing nation with seven days of fresh water; currently, the nation has only about two days of water. The five reservoirs will be linked by 480 kilometers of buried iron pipelines, connected to the country’s desalination plants.
But desalination is more out of reach for most other countries.
“Desalination is a very costly way of treating water supply. The good news is that technologies are advancing, and desalination is becoming less energy-intensive,” says Hampik Dekermenjian, water-services group manager for CDM Smith.
Instead, much of world is turning to reuse as a more affordable and efficient option. “Reusing what you can is really the shortest circle in terms of how you can get drinking water,” says Joseph A. Husband, director of wastewater treatment technology for Arcadis.
“We should judge water by its quality, not its history.”
In another global trend, utilities are looking at water as a limited resource and wastewater as a resource that can be used for energy and nutrients.
“When it comes to the global picture, the things that are driving the water market are really about using resources properly,” says Dekermenjian.
For example, bacteria can make nitrogen gas for power out of the ammonium and nitrite found in wastewater, and other processes can turn that waste into fertilizer.
Flood prevention and managing wastewater can provide opportunity to developing nations, Nicol observes. “Water can be a part of that change,” he adds, noting developing nations’ growing engagement and activity on such issues. “They need to take an active role,” Nicol says. “It impacts their ability to grow and the health of their population.”