—-By Shiqiang Zou, PhD student of Water INTERface IGEP and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
This semester marks the fourth semester since I joined Water IGEP program, and I was fortunate to have the chance to take this interdisciplinary course “Water for Health Seminar.” Though every week I was swamped by all kinds of graduation-related stuff, I always find it to be peaceful to sit down every Friday and have 1-hour time to talk to my peers with a different (academic) background. Each week, we tend to have a new topic for discussion, and most of the time the discussion topic is quite interdisciplinary. I believe Dr. Huang’s seminar regarding water consumption during the food production process impressed me the most. As an Environmental Engineer and also an instructor to a junior-level environmental course, I have some basic knowledge about water consumption during food production/processing. Still, I’m astonished about the fact that a huge amount of water was consumed for making a cup of tea, letting along the meat product.
Figure Reference: https://isoilonline.com/2016/08/the-water-energy-and-food-nexus/
At the same time, the water consumed during food production tends to inevitably end up as the wastewater, containing lots of pollutants, pathogens, and nutrients that need to be thoroughly treated. During this treatment process, we need to consume electricity to drive all the equipment and operations at the wastewater treatment plant. Generation of electricity (a form of energy) will also need water, either for cooling down purpose in the thermoelectric power plant or nuclear plant or for driving the turbine in the form of water vapor. In this sense, food production, water, and energy are closely linked to each other, and the food-energy-water nexus has obtained quite a lot of attention. In recent years, these three parts have gradually become corresponding challenges in our modern world (i.e., food shortage, water crisis, and energy demand) due to our rapid population growth, our desire for higher living standard, and urbanization. For us Environmental Engineers, we need to tackle the food-energy-water nexus properly, with consideration of global climate change factor as well. One way to sustainably address the food-energy-water nexus is to transform the current wastewater treatment plant into a nutrient-energy-water recovery hub. Through this way, we can recover high-quality nutrient, energy, water from wastewater for reuse purpose and help promote a sustainable lifestyle and a greener world.