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wastewater treatment

Investing in wastewater in Latin America can pay off

Diego Juan Rodriguez's picture
We are all too familiar with these figures: on average, only 50% of the population in Latin America is connected to sewerage and 30% of those households receive any treatment. These figures are not new. The region has been lagging in the levels of wastewater treatment for decades, which is unacceptable considering its high levels of urbanization and income levels.

The region is also not homogenous. There is a large disparity in the levels of treatment per country: we see countries like Chile, which treats 90% of its wastewater, and countries like Costa Rica, which treats approximately 4% of its wastewater.
The Deodoro wastewater treatment plant in Rio the Janeiro, Brazil.
Credit: http://www.waterwastewaterasia.com/

Ahead of World Water Day: Let’s Talk about … Energy?

William Rex's picture

For the last six years, a power plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico has bought water from a nearby wastewater treatment plant to use in its cooling towers (instead of using freshwater). This operation, Project Tenorio, a public-private partnership, continues today and has already resulted in the reduction of groundwater extraction of at least 48 million cubic meters (equivalent to 19,000 Olympic size pools) and increased aquifer sustainability.
 
This is a good example of the water and energy nexus in practice: the wastewater treatment plant covers almost all of its operating costs from this additional revenue stream and the power plant gets a more reliable water source that is also 33% cheaper than groundwater in that area.  

Treated wastewater has been used to reduce the water requirements of power plants in several other countries as well, as water supply becomes more variable or disappears. In the US, for example, around 50 power plants are using treated wastewater for cooling in order to adapt to water shortages. However, innovative integrated approaches like these are still more of an exception than the norm.