Research and Development Biannual Project Update

By R&D Director Megan Plumlee, P.E., Ph.D.

In April, the Research & Development (R&D) Department released its biannual R&D Project Update Report to OCWD senior management and Board of Directors. The purpose of the report is to summarize the findings and status of current R&D projects and programs at the District, as well as to note any conference presentations and scientific publications by R&D staff in the last reporting period.

Currently, R&D staff are conducting 28 different projects and programs. These cover topics spanning the water quality of potable reuse (five projects), pilot-scale treatment testing of new products that could be implemented in the GWRS plant (three programs), pilot-scale treatment testing of research innovations (six projects), method development for measuring N-nitrosodimethylamine (one project), research on aspects of the GWRS advanced treatment process such as demonstrating virus removal and optimizing the ultraviolet-advanced oxidation process (10 projects), and groundwater recharge optimization and monitoring (three projects). Virtually all of these projects are collaborative in nature, with R&D staff working with technology companies, engineering consultants, universities, and funding agencies. The R&D staff include research scientists and engineers, postdoctoral research associates, a pilot operator, and interns.

The summary report allows OCWD managers and directors to stay up to date on the latest R&D activities and learn who are the current partners. Equally important to communicating these R&D outcomes to OCWD management, R&D staff also strive to share their findings with the broader water industry through conferences and scientific publications. In the last six-month reporting period, R&D staff published two articles in scientific journals (Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology and Journal of Membrane Science) and gave nine presentations (or were co-authors) at conferences. This includes four presentation by R&D staff at the WateReuse California Annual Conference in March.

Furthering the District’s impact, R&D and other OCWD staff contribute data or act as a host site for research carried out by others. In this role, OCWD is referred to as a “participating utility,” with District staff meeting with project representatives, providing water samples or allowing site access, providing data and operating history, serving on committees (e.g., for Water Research Foundation and National Water Research Institute), and other support. This requires a lot of staff time and coordination; but having such an “open door” when it comes to research makes even more industry progress possible. Current projects are led by partners such as the Colorado School of Mines, University of Illinois, UC Riverside, University of South Carolina, University of Colorado at Boulder, UC Berkeley; engineering firms Kennedy Jenks, Stantec, Carollo, Black & Veatch; as well as other utilities and governmental agencies.

Overall, the suite of projects and supporting projects is consistent with the R&D Department’s historical focus for the past 10+ years: advanced purification for water reuse, and groundwater recharge. A recent R&D Department update was presented at the May 1 Board of Directors meeting.