How much energy exists in wastewater?

May 13, 2020

Depending on the source, enough energy can be recovered from wastewater to power the process, often with some left over

Humankind creates about 380 billion liters of wastewater annually, with Asia the largest contributor and North America and Europe producing large amounts as well. That’s five times more water than goes over Niagara Falls each year, and the volume is expected to increase 24% by 2030 and 51% by 2050.

Conventional treatment of wastewater requires a great deal of energy, but fortunately, wastewater contains approximately five times more energy than it takes to treat it, and the technology to do so is readily available.This energy is enough to generate electricity for about 160 mln households.

In addition to producing clean water and energy, adding waste-to-energy technologies to wastewater treatment plants creates other benefits for the environment, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting carbon sequestration. It also could create new jobs.

The energy potential within wastewater is waiting to be fully exploited using proven technologies such as anaerobic digestion. Adopting them can help organizations create reliable, renewable energy and become net-zero energy consumers. There also is the potential to create a new revenue stream from selling surplus energy.