• Denise Engelbrecht

Is there a positive (+) in all this wastewater recovery SH!T…

Shattering the stigma around blackwater and how upcycling it, we can unlock abundant food and clean air, while achieving water security…


The problem with being ahead of the curve is that by the time the rest of the crowd catch up, what you have been talking about for a decade is already old news because you are already chasing the next innovation wave.


But for the sake of the masses, we will regress and paint a scenario that will shatter this scarcity mindset that relates to water. It is less about how much water is available and more about how efficiently we use that water.


Stepping back a little I want to reframe how we got to waterborne sewage. The way we design sanitation is not the way nature designs it. If we step into nature, we are not instantly overwhelmed by the reality that most of the wild is in fact one big toilet. This is a far cry from our experience of driving past the local wastewater treatment plant.


Unless you are unfortunate to literally step into a pile of dung, you would not really know it is there.



The question you need to be asking is… WHY is that?

The answer is because nature does not design the system to mix solids and liquids… at a more graphic level there are in fact two separate outlets on the human plumbing system. Seldom do these two outlets discharge simultaneously, except when humanly conditioned to do so while sitting on the throne.


Taking a lesson from nature we can further interrogate this beautifully designed system and we realise that it is really a nested system where water recovery and re-cycling happens through various organs before the final waste is intentionally discarded as two waste streams.


Taking this a step further, if you were to really heed the call of nature in the wilds, you would have observed how the liquids drain away into the soil and only the solids really remain. And if you were a cat, then you would have already learnt there is method in the madness of covering the pile, if only to prevent you from stepping in it again.


Early on in my career I spent a year in water and wastewater sanitation. These were the days before bio-treatment package plants, and I was a little mortified to learn that all we were really doing was mimicking nature when it came to designing a wastewater treatment plant.


Needless to say, the next question out my mouth as a young junior designer, was WHY not just let nature do it on its own. I was informed, with all the infinite wisdom of a senior water engineer, that we need to help nature because we are centralizing all that wastewater into one location, and it would not be able to treat that volume naturally… mostly because nature works with decentralized distributed systems… it processes large volumes in bite size pieces. In essence each human being is it's own little wastewater treatment plant.


It was only years later that I realized the problem really started with us putting the two together and adding water.

But in adding water we create the perfect breeding ground for some of the most dreaded diseases on the planet.

Fundamentally what we are trying to do at the wastewater treatment plant is separate the two again… back into solid and liquid so that nature can then carry on with its elegant design.


This is what a bio-treatment package plant does… it separates the liquids from the solids. But we have recently realized that all that liquid is nutrient rich liquid fertilizer… but let’s not forget the sludge which we can dehydrate into solid fertilizer.


Before we can use the water as nature intended, we need to add a few more treatment processes to neutralize the bacteria and viruses. There are various

methods, but most recommend a double disinfection step, the critical one being UV and the other being Ozone or Peroxide, and we will throw in a dash of chlorine to even out the playing field. But just to prove how far off the track we are, we need to remove the chlorine just before we water the plants because they don’t really thrive with chlorine in their water, but somehow we have convinced ourselves that humans do...


In all fairness, I do not believe that we will be abandoning our dignified sanitation system anytime soon in favor of composting toilets, even though that will make us all instantly net+ water with a 90% reduction in water demand.


We like to flush, as unnatural as that is, if only to prove to ourselves how civilized we have become. With this in mind, we will continue to find ways to ensure OUR future with clean air, water and food for future generations.


Upcycling wastewater is one of those ways, that will allow us to grow food while absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then discharging oxygen and water vapor back into the atmosphere to repeat the cycle of harvesting water to drink and then flush our toilets, as we spin and repeat…



In the video below you can witness firsthand how one "subsistence" farmer has created food abundance for his family by upcycling blackwater through a bio-treatment plant for irrigation purposes.



We love designing efficient systems, the way nature does… subscribe to our mailing list as I will be releasing the process flow diagram for net+ water in the next few weeks.


If you are inspired to embrace nature then email us on group@ensoearth.org to find out more about bio-treatment systems that create abundance.


love and hope for the future








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