Sustainable Innovation: SWBEC and Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility Partnership

May 28, 2024

The Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility (CVWRF), the largest wastewater treatment facility in Utah, treats the wastewater of approximately 500,000 residents daily. Situated in the heart of the Salt Lake Valley, CVWRF is committed to resource recovery, including water, solids, energy, and nutrients. This dedication to sustainable practices aligns perfectly with the mission of the Sustainable Waste-to-Bioproducts Engineering Center (SWBEC) at Utah State University.

A Vision for Nutrient Recovery

Currently, CVWRF is undergoing a significant upgrade to its treatment processes to enhance nutrient removal. This project seeks to recover valuable resources from the wastewater, transforming potential waste into usable products. One of the most promising initiatives in this upgrade is an innovative algae project, developed in collaboration with SWBEC.

Algae Project

Algae, renowned for its nutrient absorption capabilities, is central to this pioneering project. CVWRF hosts the pilot equipment for the algae project at their treatment facility. The facility is not only providing the space but also operational assistance and laboratory work for analyzing the various nutrients and components within the system. This symbiotic relationship between CVWRF and SWBEC exemplifies how academic and municipal partnerships can drive forward environmental sustainability.

Energy and Nutrient Cycles

One of the critical interests of CVWRF in this project is the potential energy value of algae. Currently, the facility generates about 50% of its energy needs from biomethane produced on-site. Integrating algae into their digesters offers an exciting opportunity to enhance this energy production further. Additionally, the biosolids recovered during the treatment process are composted. Incorporating algae into the composting process could produce a nutrient-rich product that can be safely returned to the environment, closing the nutrient loop.

Partnership Making a Difference

The collaboration between SWBEC and CVWRF is a testament to the impactful change that can arise from partnerships between academic institutions and municipal facilities. SWBEC's expertise in sustainable bioproducts engineering, combined with CVWRF's commitment to resource recovery, is paving the way for innovative solutions to wastewater treatment challenges. By leveraging algae's potential, this project not only enhances nutrient recovery but also contributes to energy production and environmental sustainability.

The partnership between Utah State University's SWBEC and the Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility is a beacon of innovation and sustainability. Together, they are transforming how we view and handle wastewater, turning potential waste into valuable resources and setting a precedent for future environmental initiatives. This collaboration is a significant step towards a more sustainable and resource-efficient future.


Writer: Henry Silva