Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019NE163B

Sustainability assessment of small Nebraska wastewater treatment systems

Institute: Nebraska
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2019-06-01 End Date: 2020-05-31
Total Federal Funds: $19,652 Total Non-Federal Funds: $39,761

Principal Investigators: Phil Barutha

Abstract: Many small, rural communities serving less than 10,000 people in Nebraska and surrounding regions struggle with aging or inadequate wastewater resource recovery facilities (WRRFs). Additionally, small communities face challenges in constructing and operating the systems due to limited financial resources, geographically dispersed populations, land availability, climate variation, and difficulty hiring and retaining system operators. Although the literature has provided some insight into the environmental sustainability profiles of large wastewater treatment systems, studies have not explicitly examined small systems in adequate depth or breadth. The proposed study aims to develop environmental sustainability profiles using life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology for 20 plants including the three most common types of small mechanical WRRF systems (Oxidation Ditch, Extended Aeration, and Sequencing Batch Reactors) and three common lagoon system technologies (Facultative, Complete Retention, and non-discharging lagoons used for irrigation of local cropland). An in-depth analysis of the Irrigation lagoon system will then be conducted from the food-energy-water (FEW) system perspective to evaluate the benefit of irrigating local cropland used for bio-fuel production and animal feed. Further analysis will evaluate key factors impacting the sustainability of these systems including precipitation and evaporation rates, proximity of the systems to local farmland, potential impacts to local receiving water, the lagoons size, availability of local groundwater for irrigation, and the value of nutrients and water for crop production.