Each day our Knowledge Management Team screens, filters and categorizes the various news feeds we subscribe to and summarises key elements into a weekly update.

Some of this week’s highlights include an impactful water film sponsored by Grundfos, exciting news about biogas generation from agricultural waste – with some stats from Sir David Attenborough – and a European first for Irish Water.

Grundfos sponsors water film
We were fascinated to learn the Grundfos Foundation has supported production of the film INTO DUST, now streaming on Amazon Prime, that focuses on equitable access to water. The drama-documentary tells the important story of Perween Rahman, a woman who sacrificed everything to provide Karachi’s poorest communities with clean, safe water. We look forward to seeing it.

Generating biogas from agriculture
There were two very similar biogas stories this week. BP and CleanBay Renewables announced a 15-year agreement where bp will purchase renewable natural gas processed from poultry litter – a mixture of manure, feathers and bedding – and sell it as fuel for the US transportation sector. Chicken is set to be the dominant protein we consume, so this feedstock is available on a grand scale.

The second story was from energy company, Chevron, partnering with global waste solutions company Brightmark to generate biogas/biomethane from waste from the dairy sector. Note the scale of the ambition – Chevron has made a commitment to increase renewable natural gas volumes tenfold by 2025 over 2020 volumes.

This is interesting because of the potential. Fossil fuel companies such as Chevron, BP, Shell, Exon Mobil are still among the largest and most profitable companies in the world, so they can pack a punch when they set their minds to something.

To get some sense of the size and scale of the opportunity when dealing with farmed animal wastes, just consider these statistics from the new Sir David Attenborough book, A Life on Our Planet:

“Seventy percent of the mass of the birds on the planet are domestic birds- mostly chickens. Humans account for over one-third of the weight of mammals on Earth. A further 60% of animals are those that are raised for us to eat. The rest – from mice to whales – make up just 4%. Domestic animals require vast swathes of land and half of the fertile land on the planet is now farmland,” – Earth.org

Further analysis on the potential for methane digesters to produce biogas to reduce carbon emissions is covered here in climate solutions resource Drawdown.

Irish Water deploys Europe’s first OneBox
This technology from Australian company Iota enables users to monitor and control low-pressure sewer systems remotely, in near-real time. I found this interesting because, firstly, Melbourne’s Iota and Irish Water met for the first time at BlueTech Forum – it’s always nice to see connections made that have an outcome.

Secondly, this type of low-pressure system is ideal for remote communities and also for decentralised housing developments. It doesn’t rely on gravity, so you can conserve water without the fear of fugitive emissions which can occur when residence times increase and the sewer becomes a bioreactor. Also, its nicely separate from stormwater ingress, so the dry weather flow (DWF) issue goes away.

Earth Observation Science
Two stories cover this fascinating area – the first in Australia, based on a study at the University of New South Wales and will inform the Australian Space Agency’s programme for AquaWatch Australia.

The other was from Brazil, concerning the demise of wetlands. Note who was involved – Google, WWF and the Nature Conservancy. The demise of wetlands is a major issue and should concern all water professionals as our industry is predicated upon the availability of water and that the water is manageable.

Climate change poses a very real and existential threat to both of those fundamental premises. Wetlands help attenuate storms, reducing the risk of flooding and also the risk that we end up overflowing our sewers. They also provide a cooling effect and they hang on to the water and help purify it.

You can’t patent a wetland, sell an operational concession contract for one, or bundle it up with a membrane bioreactor (MBR) unit but their absence makes it much more difficult to do any of the downstream stuff. Having said that, there is a role for data here.

Take this session from Stockholm International Water Week – Impacting Society through Smart, Data Enabled, Water Eco-systems – featuring our friend Helge Daebel of Emerald Technology Ventures, ABInBev, Starbucks, Facebook and Paul Fleming, recently water program leader at Microsoft, now a fellow with the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation. All these sessions can be streamed back for free.

Finally, I put pen to paper in the summer while traveling on various trains and wrote this article – Seeing the world through water: transformative change and social tipping points which I hope you will find insightful.