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Most people think as little as possible about the wastewater that is produced daily from their showers, bathtubs, sinks, dishwashers and toilets. But with the right techniques, it can become a valuable resource.
On average, every Americans uses about 60 gallons of water per day (PDF) for purposes that include flushing toilets, showering and doing laundry. This figure can easily double if outdoor uses, such as watering lawns and filling swimming pools, are also included.
Most of the used water eventually will become wastewater that must be treated before it can be discharged into nature. And that treatment uses a lot of energy. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, water and wastewater facilities account for more than a third of municipal energy budgets (PDF).
My research focuses on recovering resources from wastewater. This process is difficult because wastewater contains many types of contaminants. But researchers in our fields are exploring many creative ways to make valuable products from them.