Water Innovation Challenge

Grundfos’ commitment to sustainability helps Pima County, Arizona team win prize for Water Innovation Challenge and build mobile treatment facility designed to change public perception about water reuse

Once you know Grundfos, you realize the company’s commitment to promoting sustainability is genuine. The global leader in pumps spearheads programs worldwide to help promote the efficient and sustainable use of water and energy. 

So, when presented with an opportunity to help a community in Southern Arizona compete in the state’s Water Innovation Challenge, to identify and develop strategies to meet the expected increase in demand for water supplies, Grundfos was all-in.

“Many Southern Arizona communities rely heavily on groundwater, with others relying heavily on the contentious Colorado River as water sources,” said Jeff Prevatt, Deputy Director of Pima County RWRD. “Climate change, population growth and continued drought stress these water supplies. The Water Innovation Challenge was launched to help communities like ours explore alternative sources of water.” 

The greatest challenge to gaining public acceptance for consuming reused water is perception, or “getting over the yuck factor.” On a flight from Chicago following a WEFTEC conference, Prevatt sat next to Stan Coon, Grundfos district sales manager, and the idea for a project entry for the Water Innovation Challenge was born: help change public perception for water reuse by bringing together water treatment and craft brewers in communities across Arizona to deliver reused water in the perfectly acceptable, consumable platform: ice-cold beer.

Prevatt gathered several partners, including vendors and experts in water treatment such as Grundfos, as well as local utilities. The team worked together over a five-month period to design and build a mobile trailer outfitted with a complete treatment system that would transform effluent into highly treated, potable water on site. Local craft brewers could then brew the clean water into beer. 

“Our idea was to allow communities across the state to participate in high profile, public relations and educational events to help overcome public perception and increase the acceptance of reuse water for consumption,” said Prevatt. The group’s entry won the highly competitive Water Innovation Challenge top prize, and the team used the $250,000 award along with in-kind donations from its project partners to build the portable system.

Grundfos brought to the table its expertise and product experience in water and wastewater applications, including dosing pumps from its work with municipalities and industries. The company provided a total of five pumps used in the advanced wastewater treatment system, including three donated pumps.  

“The real budget to build the trailer was just shy of $1 million, so Grundfos’ contribution of its time, knowledge and pumps to complete the system really helped us to bring the project to fruition,” said Prevatt.  

“Grundfos is pioneering solutions to the world’s water and climate challenges, and we take this responsibility seriously,” said Rob Montenegro, Grundfos executive vice president of Water Utility. “One of the ways we address these challenges is by helping our customers become more energy and water efficient. We were very excited to be part of this team that reached people directly and helped promote water sustainability.”

The mobile water treatment system with Grundfos pumps working efficiently was widely successful. Thirty-two craft breweries participated in the program, as it traveled from community to community and brought together local water treatment with brewers. Its popularity in Arizona led to a tour through Texas, Colorado and Idaho, and culminated in a popular presentation by the project team at WEFTEC.    

The project’s impact has been far-reaching. This was the first direct potable water reuse (DPR) facility in the states of Arizona and Idaho. The effort led to the abolition of a prohibition in Arizona on direct potable water reuse, and the enactment of rules and regulations authorizing DPR as a viable alternative for augmenting water supplies. 

“It is highly rewarding for us to see Grundfos pumps at work, making a difference in communities,” said Montenegro. “It’s also truly inspiring to see the change in public perception of reused water, and the growth of sustainable brewing practices among craft brewers, including brewers using reused water for processing.” 

Today the mobile water treatment system is being relocated to the WEST Center, a collaborative research facility between the University of Arizona and Pima County, to further DPR technology development. 

Grundfos is committed to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals 6 and 13 to take action to effectively impact the world’s water and climate challenges. Grundfos won the prestigious United Nations’ Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activity Award for Lifelink water solutions, providing reliable and sustainable water supply in developing countries.