Construction is underway for a unique Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) at Emory University. The facility, housed in a greenhouse structure near Emory’s baseball fields, utilizes a unique biological treatment method involving a series of interconnected, sequentially operated, cascading reactors. Water is circulated through both aerobic and anaerobic chambers in which suspended plant roots serve as a natural habitat for 2,000-3,000 different microorganisms that form a unique ecosystem specially engineered to break down waste. The recycled water will then replace potable water that is currently being used to heat and cool Emory’s buildings as well as flush toilets. Emory uses nearly 1 million gallons of water each day and this facility will help Emory reduce potable water use by over 30% by reclaiming wastewater that can then be re-used for non-potable applications with the co-benefit of significantly decreasing the energy demands of moving clean water to campus and wastewater off-campus for treatment. The resulting system will represent a revolutionary approach to water treatment in the United States, creating relief for stressed water systems and mitigating the increased effects of climate change caused by traditional energy production and water treatment.
The Water Reclamation Facility not only reduces Emory’s impact on Atlanta’s already limited water resources but also provides incredible research and educational opportunities. Faculty and students will have an opportunity to conduct research, which will also serve as an educational tool for many students. Students at Rollins School of Public Health have already begun conducting water quality tests as a part of Dr. Christine Moe’s “Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries” class and Center for Global Safe Water.
For more information regarding sustainability, contact Steve O’Day.