2016 Water Prize Winners: Where are They Now?

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2016 Water Prize Winners -  Where are They Now?

The US Water Alliance created the US Water Prize in 2011 to recognize organizations tackling our nation’s water challenges and implementing One Water solutions. This award showcases the best of the best among public, private, and community leaders paving the way in innovative and holistic water management.

With the nomination process underway for the 2017 US Water Prize, it’s a good time to take a look back at our impressive 2016 winners: DC Water, DOW and Emory University. These three pioneering organizations are a good source of inspiration, and have not stopped pushing forward with their ambitious projects. 


DC Water

DC Water’s selection for a 2016 US Water Prize was in recognition of the Authority’s ground breaking resource recovery program. Using discretionary funds—under the bold leadership of its Board of Directors—DC Water built the largest thermal hydrolysis facility in the world. The Bailey Bioenergy Facility is capable of producing 10 megawatts of clean, green electricity from the wastewater treatment process, enough energy to power a third of the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant in Washington, DC.

That’s one of our strengths. We have the size and capability to test new processes and to innovate, and we want to share our experience and knowledge with others—for their benefit, and for the benefit of our ratepayers.

George S. Hawkins, CEO and General Manager, DC Water

Where Are They Now?

DSC_0192.jpgThe Bailey Bioenergy Facility has fast proven the value of thermal hydrolysis, saving DC Water millions in energy and biosolids hauling costs, and leading more utilities to invest in this technology that DC Water pioneered in North America.

“It’s not surprising to me that our peers took a wait and see approach before following us in this direction. We ourselves did years of research and piloting to ensure it would be successful,” said DC Water CEO and General Manager George S. Hawkins. “That’s one of our strengths. We have the size and capability to test new processes and to innovate, and we want to share our experience and knowledge with others—for their benefit, and for the benefit of our ratepayers.”

Since winning the US Water Prize, DC Water has launched a nonprofit affiliate called Blue Drop. Blue Drop will market products and services on DC Water’s behalf, using the revenue to benefit retail and wholesale ratepayers. Initial service offerings will be peer-to-peer utility consulting and the sale of Bloom, DC Water’s Class A biosolids soil amendment product. Bloom is another benefit of the Bailey Bioenergy Facility.

“We are recovering water, generating power and now recycling nutrient-rich biosolids,” added George Hawkins. “Generating new sources of revenue is the logical next step and will make us even more sustainable with no wasted resources.”

DC Water’s pioneering approach is not limited to plant processes either. This past September, the Authority issued the nation’s first Environmental Impact Bond. The $25 million, tax-exempt bond will fund the initial green infrastructure project in the massive DC Clean Rivers Project, a program to control stormwater runoff and improve water quality in the District’s rivers and creeks. The Environmental Impact Bond employs an innovative financing technique whereby the costs of installing the green infrastructure are paid for by DC Water, but the performance risk of the green infrastructure in managing stormwater runoff is shared amongst DC Water and the investors. 

Dow Water & Process Solutions

To help industry and businesses improve their water footprints and move toward a circular model where water use is reduced and then reused and reclaimed, Dow introduced the concept of the Minimal Liquid Discharge (MLD) wastewater management approach in 2015. MLD has proven to be a more cost-effective and energy-efficient method than a direct to Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) approach, which is costly, carries a higher energy burden, and is difficult to achieve. In an MLD system, wastewater is used, treated, and reused at up to a 95 percent water recovery rate and as much as half the cost of a ZLD system.

The most important thing here is that we’re making progress to reuse and renew every drop.

Snehal Desai, Global Business Director, ow Water & Process Solutions

Where Are They Now?

Since starting the discussion about MLD, Dow has seen progress in validation and implementation. A coal-to-chemical plant in China was recently the first to validate a new process combining ion exchange and reverse osmosis technologies to improve water-usage efficiency and reduce discharge for MLD applications.

“MLD is all about evaluating the customers’ needs—identifying sources and types of wastewater, and matching various technology solutions to the waste stream to enable it for reuse,” said Snehal Desai, Global Business Director for Dow Water & Process Solutions. “The most important thing here is that we’re making progress to reuse and renew every drop.”

Dow 1.jpgImprovements in water efficiency as a response to increasing pressure on global water supplies will continue to drive the water sector. Product and technology innovation is providing a light at the end of the tunnel by advancing and improving many of the factors that go into water treatment—cost, energy, chemical use, and maintenance. For example, Dow’s newest family of products in its reverse osmosis portfolio is designed to treat highly challenging water. These elements are enabling facilities to treat, reuse, and recycle highly fouled water, so operators can move toward MLD. 

Dow is also working with customers and other industry leaders to deliver leading-edge, yet functional solutions that conserve water while also reducing cost. For example, a new ion exchange solution can offer up to 10 percent greater productivity from raw water, helping reduce operating costs and delivering lower total cost of water to industrial operators. Innovations like these are filling critical gaps in cost-performance in a variety of industrial wastewater treatment and reuse applications, including oilfield water, food and beverage, heavy industry, cooling towers, mobile applications, and more.

By leading efforts to improve water management strategies, continuing to bring innovative technologies to market, and entering into strong, likeminded collaborations, Dow has developed a next-step mindset to champion water efficiency now and in the future. 

Emory University

Emory University’s WaterHub is a campus-scale water reclamation system; the first system of its kind in the United States. The WaterHub utilizes an eco-engineered treatment process to recycle nearly two-thirds of campus wastewater production—reducing the use of potable water by up to 40 percent. Moving the field of water reclamation forward by recycling 400,000 gallons of water per day, the WaterHub project serves as a model for sustainable water management for bulk water consumers and is helping train students as the next generation of water stewards.

Where Are They Now?

As a pioneer of water management innovation, the WaterHub at Emory continues to improve the University’s water resiliency and overall environmental footprint. In just 18 months of operation, the WaterHub has treated over 150 million gallons of water—reducing the campus wastewater footprint by approximately 50 percent. The system has offset 92 percent of cooling tower makeup water demands at the University’s three main chiller plants in 2016.

Emory 2.jpg

Over the last year of commercial operation, nearly 1,000 visitors toured the facility. Representatives from federal agencies, businesses, and large institutions all showed interest in the innovative ecological treatment system. It is a good indication that the system “will shine as a model for other universities, other governments, and commercial campuses to replicate,” said Douglas Hooker, Executive Director of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

The WaterHub at Emory University is a fantastic model for innovation in water and the benefits of resource recovery and best practices to communities of all sizes.

Eileen O’Neill, Executive Director, WEF

As a true living-learning laboratory, the WaterHub has been incorporated into core University curriculum as a centerpiece for water quality testing and graduate thesis studies. The facility has also inspired research and student engagement in a variety of disciplines. Emory recently created the Student Docent Program as an innovative way to combine student success with community engagement, and offers students the opportunity to lead tours of the WaterHub for the local community and beyond.

Eileen O’Neill, executive director of WEF, stated, “The WaterHub at Emory University is a fantastic model for innovation in water and the benefits of resource recovery and best practices to communities of all sizes.”


Each of our 2016 US Water Prize winners continue to move the needle and inspire similar organizations to invest in innovative one water solutions. The US Water Alliance is proud of not only the work these organizations achieved to win the US Water Prize, but of their persistence to make an impact in the water world. 

If you are inspired by the work around you and interested in nominating an organization for the 2017 US Water Prize, visit http://uswateralliance.org/one-water/us-water-prize.  Applications are due Wednesday, March 8th.