The Win-Win-Win Results of Making a 'WaterMatch'

The Win-Win-Win Results of Making a 'WaterMatch'

Image courtesy of WaterMatch.

CH2M HILL just launched WaterMatch because we believe it is time for water action at the local level.

WaterMatch is a goodwill initiative to help municipalities, industries and agriculture find each other and collaborate to conserve fresh water and promote community and economic development.

WaterMatch employs the most powerful force in the world: the power of people connecting. This social networking force is behind the most amazing revolutions in the last 10 years and has driven 800 million users to FaceBook, 170 million to LinkedIn and millions more to eHarmony and Match.com.

The website uses social networking and geospatial mapping to connect water generators with water users. Once online, water users can use the WaterMatch Map to find wastewater treatment plants close to their current and potential future operations and then use the social networking function to connect with the utilities operating those plants. The website is designed to help communities and companies meet and then take action on water. When action is taken, progress is made.

We've created a global Matching Map and populated it with the locations of municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) around the world. Through a search of public information, we found the names and locations of 20,000 WWTPs in countries including the U.S., China, India, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Australia, Spain and Italy. This information was not simple to find and we're working to add more country lists. More importantly, we're hoping that water generators will add their sites to the Matching Map so that water users can find them.

Support of Global Business and Municipalities

When we came up with idea of WaterMatch a year ago, we wanted to make sure companies and municipalities would use it. We were mindful of what Mark Twain once said, "There's a book inside everyone ... and that's where it should stay."  If he had lived today, perhaps he would have said that about websites. So we went out to municipalities, industries, business groups, environmental NGOs and others with the idea and the invitation to join us in this goodwill initiative.

The response was strong and left no question that we had to make WaterMatch a reality. WaterMatch has the support of more than 200 global businesses through the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, IPIECA and numerous individual companies and municipalities.

Why a Water Revolution Is Needed

We all know the global statistics too well: More than 1 billion people lack access to improved water supply and more than 2 billion people are without access to sanitation. Water scarcity and real-life stories of impacts to people, ecosystems and businesses around the world, including developed and developing nations, regularly make headlines. Looking forward, population growth will increase the number of water-stressed areas around the world.

Awareness of water issues has been on the rise through many fact-filled websites, conferences and publications. Thousands of people have been working for hundreds of years to improve water supply and sanitation, yet we are still falling short on key performance results. New approaches are needed, which is why CH2M HILL has launched WaterMatch to start a grassroots revolution to promote progress. It takes projects on the ground to promote progress, just like it takes people in the streets to start a revolution.

While there are many hurdles to overcome in creating a multi-stakeholder water reuse program, the first hurdle is finding a potential match. WaterMatch can help the world clear that first hurdle. In supporting web-material, we've also posted case studies and included links to technical documents from external organizations to help users with the next steps of project development.

The Win-Win-Win Benefits of Water Reuse

Water reuse is a proven, effective way to conserve limited water resources with numerous benefits to communities, companies and the environment:

For the environment, when industrial and agricultural freshwater use is reduced, freshwater available for ecosystems is increased. 

For communities, in addition to the increased availability of freshwater, there are economic benefits. When industries use municipal effluent, they are typically willing to provide funding for advanced treatment and for the water itself. Reuse promotes the sustainability of cities and health of communities, particularly in developing countries.

And for industries and agriculture, municipal effluent offers a secure source of relatively good quality water. Even in the middle of a drought, people will get water and municipal effluent will flow. It is also good for a company's reputation and social license to operate since it satisfies stakeholder pressure to reduce freshwater use.

Yet reuse rates are low. According to Global Water Intelligence, municipal effluent reuse rates are: U.S. 14 percent, China 14 percent, Mexico 4 percent,  Spain 11 percent. WaterMatch will provide industry and agriculture with a way to connect with municipalities to use effluent in their operations, thus linking to secure water resources so they're not relying on fresh water supplies.

Worldwide Launch at WEFTEC

We held the global launch of WaterMatch on October 18 at the Water Environment Federation’s Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference, the world's largest water industry conference also known as WEFTEC. We heard from WaterMatch supporters who understand the importance of water reuse and are just as excited as we are that WaterMatch could promote local action around the world.

Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District (CMSD) Deputy Director Biju George, for example, hopes WaterMatch will help make matches happen for his community. In a brownfield redevelopment effort in the MetroWest Commerce Park, CMSD has a large area planned for industry with access to high-quality effluent for industrial use from the nearby water reclamation facility. All the site needs now is the industry to come.

"We have 50 million gallons per day of high-quality water available at this site. We invite industries to explore this opportunity," George said at the launch.

Other WaterMatch backers include GE Power and Water.

"We are convinced that water reuse is key to future sustainable water management," said Jon Freedman, GE Power and Water's global leader of government relations. "We support WaterMatch to help overcome informational barriers to creating public-private partnerships."

WaterMatch is not a commercial initiative for CH2M HILL. No fees will be required or requested for the use of the website. The privacy of municipality profiles and user account information will be protected.

Want to be part of the water revolution? Check out the WaterMatch video or the WaterMatch website. Our motive is simple: to promote beneficial water reuse around the world today. We hope that you will join us and help make matches happen, because no water should be wasted.