Pure Water Brew Challenge Brings Reclamation to the Forefront

A campaign put on by a coalition of water experts has breweries from around Arizona turning wastewater into beer. But the effort is really about education, according to the UA’s Channah Rock.

A coalition of water experts, including four scientists from the University of Arizona, wants to dispel fears surrounding the drinking of purified water made from treated reclaimed wastewater.

“I’m a water microbiologist. A large part of my role is to facilitate the public outreach component of this project,” said Channah Rock, UA Cooperative Extension associate water quality specialist and professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who is part of the Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge.

Water microbiologist Channah Rock of UA Cooperative Extension says it's important to get the message out about water issues. Image credit: University of Arizona

Water microbiologist Channah Rock of UA Cooperative Extension says it’s important to get the message out about water issues. Image credit: University of Arizona

On this day, Rock is standing inside a giant truck, which houses a mobile water purification plant that has been traveling the state. The truck has been stopping at municipal water plants to purify water — some of it going to the public to taste, some of it to two dozen Arizona breweries to be made into craft beer.

Water processed through the truck goes through advanced water purification, including ultrafiltation, reverse osmosis, advanced oxidation with UV and peroxide, granular activated carbon filtration and finally disinfection with chlorine.

The campaign — and the truck itself — is part of the challenge, put on by the Southwest Water Campus, a coalition of water experts. Along with the UA, the group includes the Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department, Tucson Water, the town of Marana, Carollo Engineers, CH2M, Clean Water Services and WateReuse.

In addition to Rock, the UA experts involved are Ian Pepper from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science; Charles Gerba, also from the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science; and Shane Snyder from the College of Engineering.

“We’re looking at this as a way to engage the community and start having conversations about water, where their water comes from, water quality and maybe this will not be so scary when communities need to look at potable re-use in five, 10, 15, 20 years,” Rock said.

The Southwest Water Campus won the Water Innovation Challenge, a $250,000 grant supported by the Arizona Community Foundation to purchase and equip the truck. So far, the truck has been to Yuma, Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff, and it will continue to travel the state.

Troy Troutman, a resident of Parks, Arizona, near Flagstaff, said the truck is a great education tool.

“You need (a second) truck,” Troutman said with a laugh. “It should be more than for beer. There should be one in every city. Especially in Arizona, where water is such a commodity.

“We take water for granted, as if we have enough to last forever,” he said. “This truck gives hope for the future. I think that was what made this project so interesting and important to me and my family. Without solutions for food and water, we are in trouble in the future.”

The opportunity to find solutions to pressing water issues appeals to Rock, who enjoys her role with Cooperative Extension.

“A large part of what I do in my job is to communicate with people throughout the state,” she said, “whether it’s a grower in Yuma or a homeowner up in Oak Creek, about where their water comes from, about water sustainability, about water quality. 

“As we start looking at all of the water resources we have available, potable re-use is one option. I see this project as really being able to address the public on a major topic. I’ve been at the University for 10 years (and) I’ve learned if people can feel and touch and taste something, it’s not in a scary black box. If people can taste the water and taste the beer, that’s one tool we can use to educate.”

By Faith Schwartz

*Source: The University of Arizona

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