ENR Art Dept.
Social Media: A Special Report

Developers of a new website are hoping to use the power of social networking to launch what they call a “grassroots water revolution.”

Englewood, Colo.-based CH2M Hill created the site WaterMatch and formally launched it at the Water Environment Federation’s annual conference on Oct. 18 in Los Angeles. The website is designed to help promote the beneficial re-use of municipal effluent at the local level.

According to Jan Dell, vice president of CH2M Hill and the creator of the website, agricultural and industrial users—particularly those in developing countries—often don’t know where to find municipal effluent for their water needs and, as a result, will use fresh water.

The WaterMatch website attempts to address existing silos by using geospatial mapping and social networking to match agricultural and industrial users seeking water with municipal wastewater treatment facilities.

Once online, water users access the WaterMatch map to find wastewater treatment plants close to their current and potential future operations  and then use the social networking function to connect with the utilities operating those plants.

Dell says she hopes the website leads to beneficial re-use projects around the world. She says the problems with water scarcity are well known—1.2 billion people lack access to improved water supply, and 2.4 billion lack access to sanitation, she says. "[Through the website] we are trying to make progress by making projects happen,” Dell says.

Open to Everyone

CH2M Hill says the website is non-commercial and open to everyone, including engineering firms that might want to help industrial clients find sources of municipal effluent for future facilities.

It’s a “win-win-win,” Dell says. She says, the website, if successful, would be good for the environment because it would promote beneficial re-use of water rather than drawing from limited freshwater supplies.

Further, it would help municipalities because industrial and agricultural users frequently pay for use of the effluent and thus provide cash-strapped municipalities with a source of income.

It also would help industrial and agricultural users find a source of water close to current or future sites or facilities as well as help contractors and engineers because pipelines and conveyance systems would have to be built to transfer the water.

A number of powerful organizations have lined up to support WaterMatch, including the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and IPIECA, the global organization of oil and gas companies.

“Initiatives like WaterMatch are a step forward in responsible water management and partnerships between industries and municipalities,” says Jon Freedman, global government relations leader for Schenectady, N.Y.-based GE Power & Water, Water & Process Technologies. “We’re excited to be a part of this program.”