Urban Drinking Water Innovation Series Innovations in WasteWater Technology Like MABR Can Help Transform Cities With Water Shortages Guest Post by Wayne Byrne, CEO of OxyMem (IH2O ‘15) Cape Town is set in an amazing location nestled on the coast sitting under Table Mountain. With a population of 4 million, it is a popular tourist […]
Transforming the Future of Water for Buildings
Across the country, city councils are passing legislation to promote onsite water reuse, with San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Austin leading the way. As real estate owners and utilities face these new regulations, Epic’s success proves that the future of water and wastewater infrastructure is already being rebuilt — and it’s resilient, efficient, and pretty epic!
Here, in San Francisco, even during a drought, people don’t need to think about their water supply running out. Thanks to efficient centralized water utilities, households have had 24×7 access to water since 1958 — be it in their sinks, toilets, showers, or faucets.
The Urban Future
As cities continue to grow, it is estimated that 68% of the world’s population will move to urban areas by 2060. To put that into perspective, the rate at which we are adding new buildings to our cities globally is like adding a new Manhattan every month.
This boom in urban population growth is putting pressure on water and wastewater utilities across the world. Most cities in developed countries have a centralized water distribution and management system, which provides households with all their water needs. But, as populations increase, more water needs to move to and from a greater number of households. Coupled with outdated infrastructure and unpredictable weather, utilities are facing the challenge to meet current and future water supply needs.
A Decentralized Approach
Epic Cleantec believes that cities will only become truly sustainable and resilient when decentralized water solutions exist in tandem with the existing centralized system (read their Fast Company feature). Aaron Tartakovsky, Co-founder and CEO, and his team have developed a decentralized wastewater treatment solution that treats both blackwater and greywater in buildings or at the district scale. By placing the solution in the building itself, Epic works hand-in-hand with real estate developers, architects, engineers, and contractors to design the cities of the future.
So how does their approach work? Let’s dive deeper into their blackwater system and how they clean and reuse your bathroom shower water, poop and pee. When you flush the toilet, the water goes directly to their treatment system where:
- All wastewater is passed through a compact filter to separate solids and water.
- The solids are transported offsite and treated via Epic’s proprietary chemical oxidation process, where they are then transformed into high quality soil blends.
- The water then undergoes a high-level of treatment that combines filtration, ultrafiltration, biology, and final polishing steps — a treatment process that they can tailor depending on the final use of the reclaimed water.
- Epic Water: The treated water is continuously monitored to ensure it is safe and then reused for non-potable purposes like toilet flushing, irrigation, cooling towers, and laundry. The Epic approach can help buildings offset up to 95% of their potable water demands — in other words, that is 95% less potable city water that these projects will be using
- Epic Soil: The recovered solids are transformed into high-quality, natural soil amendments that are rich in carbon and are an excellent alternative to fossil-fuel based fertilizers. Working with soil blending partners, Epic develops bespoke soil products for landscaping, nurseries, parks, and home gardens.
- Epic Energy: By incorporating wastewater heat recovery into their approach, Epic is able to channel recovered heat into the building’s domestic hot water supply, supporting clients in their goal of achieving net-zero energy.
- Epic Service: Throughout this process, the Epic team provides 24/7 real-time water quality monitoring and has a team of certified water and wastewater operators servicing Epic installations.
- Epic Resilience: Epic’s systems reduce wastewater flows and solid accumulation into municipal sewers, decreasing the impact of combined sewer discharges. Partnered utilities become more resilient and can better meet increasing water demands.
- Epic Savings: Building owners save on their water and sewer bills and their upfront impact fees by incorporating water reuse, ensuring greater returns on their investments.
The Epic Advantage
With co-founders spanning business, science, engineering, and politics, Epic Cleantec is bringing a new and fresh perspective to solving wastewater issues. From the get-go, they recognized that they needed buy-in from technology innovators, government regulators, and infrastructure specialists, in addition to professionals in the water space. The team has grown significantly and now consists of a multi-faceted group of experts
IH2O’s Urban Water Challenge x Epic Cleantec
Epic is now operating a system in a newly constructed 40-story San Francisco high-rise from Related California, one of the largest private developers in the United States. Funded by the Urban Water Challenge, this system recycles 7,500 gallons of water a day (or 1.8M gallons per year). This means that over 1M gallons (approx. 25,000 baths) of the building’s toilet flushes use recycled water, freeing building owners and tenants from depending on utilities and reducing their costs.
A goal of the Urban Water Challenge is to showcase that in wastewater, there’s not really any waste at all, and Epic is a great example of this! As Aaron and the team move forward, they’ve secured and grown a pipeline of projects in California and throughout the United States. In 2021, they were named a Fast Company World Changing Ideas honoree in two categories — Urban Design and Spaces, Places, and Cities. Having closed a $2.6M seed round in early 2020, they will soon be raising again and look forward to finding the right partners to grow with.