NSU’s Wastewater Treatment and Reuse Playbook: A Winning ESG Strategy
“Keeping water local” is becoming widely embraced as a mainstream design approach by municipalities, businesses, institutions, and developers turning to privately managed water treatment infrastructure as an alternative to centralized services delivered by large-scale treatment networks.
“The industry is recognizing that discharging local wastewater into a river for somebody else to manage downstream is not a sustainable solution,” says Zach Gallagher, Executive VP of Natural Systems Utilities. “Keeping water local using onsite recovery and reuse systems delivers proven economic, environmental, and energy-saving benefits, while ensuring local water resources are available for future generations.”
Natural Systems Utilities (NSU), a leader in innovative onsite wastewater treatment and reuse solutions, has developed a successful approach for designing, building, financing, and managing decentralized treatment systems, and is currently operating more than 400 onsite treatment systems across North America.
Decentralized treatment systems, designed for keeping local water in local communities and reducing the amount of fresh water drawn, are becoming increasingly necessary. Privately managed decentralized systems are in use at business campuses, resorts, industrial parks, shopping complexes, and high-density residential buildings and developments.
“We provide the full solution customized for project specific conditions, ensure that it operates as designed, and take responsibility for performance through the entire life cycle,” Gallagher adds.
Award-winning showcase projects
Receiving more than 100 wastewater operations awards and national project recognition for sustainable design, NSU’s turnkey platform provides a range of Design-Build (DB) to Design-Build-Own-Operate-Maintain (DBOOM) approaches. NSU’s platform has enjoyed many high-profile project successes, ranging from the famous Gillette Stadium-Patriot Place complex in Massachusetts to the exclusive high-rise communities of Battery Park City in New York City.
“The Gillette Stadium-Patriot Place project came to us for the same reasons as many of our customers – their nearby centralized systems either lack adequate supply and discharge capacity or their facilities are located too far away to access centralized water treatment services,” says Gallagher.
NSU designed, built, and operates the water reuse system for Gillette Stadium – home of the New England Patriots football team –and the adjacent Patriot Place which includes restaurants, retail spaces and a convention centre. The system creates a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution to produce high-quality reuse water for toilet flushing within the 68,000-seat stadium along with the surrounding Patriot Place. Treated water is also used to recharge the local groundwater aquifer and the system has recently been upgraded to provide reclaimed water for landscape irrigation.
“In contrast to Gillette Stadium,” says Gallagher, “the Battery Park City project involved a New York City area where the centralized treatment systems offered adequate wastewater capacity; however, the local governing authority had set-out a long-term strategy to introduce a new standard of environmentally responsible solutions that required using less material, lower energy expenditure and less water.”
The high-rise buildings within the planned community of Battery Park City in Manhattan are served by NSU-designed, built, and operated water recycling systems. NSU’s approach – also adopted by several other high-profile buildings in Manhattan – cut water consumption by more than 50% and reduced wastewater discharge by greater than 60% compared to similar residential buildings in NYC. Today, the Battery Park City project is among the largest neighbourhood-scale sustainability initiatives in the United States.
Driving growth and ROI
“We are seeing multiple factors coming together to drive growth in our business sector,” says Gallagher. “Twenty years ago, developers had no choice but to install decentralized systems as it was the only option. The market evolved over time, and new projects emerged that were driven by Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) factors. Today, we’ve reached a threshold where our customers not only benefit from ESG but there is also a proven return on investment as the cost of water and sewer in many urban areas has doubled.”
Operators of centralized treatment networks are also recognizing the benefits of partnering with private on-site treatment operators, according to Gallagher. Decentralized treatment systems and facilities are now playing a larger role with easing the strain on centralized treatment plants grappling with aging infrastructure issues. Adding decentralized treatment capacity can help centralized treatment networks delay capital improvements while enhancing system resiliency.
New government mandates to maximize water reuse, minimize the “water footprint,” and return water to the community for purposes not requiring potable water can create daunting infrastructure challenges for centralized treatment networks, but not for decentralized systems. Gallagher says these mandates are creating a competition between tech campuses, academic campuses, and large employers to enhance their ESG programs and compete for the distinction of being the most “green.”
Leveraging the XPV portfolio
“There is a perception that private equity investors are simply providing money – but that’s not the case with XPV Water Partners,” says Gallagher. “XPV deeply understands the water industry and that’s a huge asset. They have thousands of industry relationships, and they have arranged multiple introductions that enabled us to pursue and win new projects.”
NSU recently partnered with fellow XPV portfolio company, LuminUltra, creating an online microbiological monitoring system with the ability to remotely and automatically conduct regulatory equivalent reporting. The development of this online microbiological capability, initially believed to be 5-10 years out, was significantly accelerated due to the companies joining forces and is expected to be “a game-changer,” according to Gallagher. Automated sampling opens up an entirely new market segment that did not previously pursue water reuse initiatives due to the high volume of manual samples that were required. Additionally, NSU’s long-standing partnership with Newterra (recently acquired from XPV by the Frontenac Company) drove significant synergies by combining Newterra’s wastewater treatment technology with NSU’s delivery approach, creating a complementary, differentiated, and high-value solution.
Gallagher adds “Communities lacking access to centralized infrastructure or seeking to maximize their ESG score have always been our bread-and-butter clients and will continue to be. We will bring them innovative, reliable and safe solutions that source all water locally, and reuse or return high quality water to the environment from which it came – that’s our job, that’s our vision, and that’s our passion. We will continue to reimagine what can be done with water.”