Psychologists define perception as the process of attaining awareness or understanding of sensory information. The adage “perception is the truth” may not be completely accurate, but when it comes to the public’s perception of Water And Waste Processing Magazine, the public doesn’t really want to think about it. They are darned sure, however, that they don’t want to drink it, no matter how well it is cleaned.
Despite the fact that NASA astronauts routinely drink “recycled” water, the rest of us won’t do it…at least for now. As one who has helped to develop a system capable of transforming Water And Waste Processing Magazine into completely potable water, two issues within this realm of perception have made my job of commercializing the technology more of a challenge.
The first is the commoditization of water, and the second is the hardheadedness of engineers. In this country at least, water is considered a commodity—free and abundant, and especially cheap. The disposal of household wastewater, both black and gray, is perceived as more of a nuisance.
Wastewater is an exceedingly unglamorous subject and most people don want to think about where it goes once they push down on the lever of the toilet. There is little thought about the cost of disposing of Water And Waste Processing Magazine and hardly notice for the price of clean water. This blissful ignorance is going to be short-lived, as readers of this magazine already know. Water And Waste Processing MagazineWe all know of the coming shortages
Las Vegas; all of California; New Mexico; South Texas; and most of the Southeast are all under duress right now. In the past few years, the green-blessed Southeastern region of the U.S. (I am thinking of Atlanta specifically) has been regularly hit hard by droughts of serious proportion.
The Midwest and Great Lakes themselves have shown that they are not immune to droughts. This is the reason that it is imperative to start changing the industry and consumer perceptions of the cost of quality drinking water and the impending necessity to get serious about “water recycling.”While I am not sanguine about our ability to get ahead of the curve on this issue in the U.S.
it can be done. A great example of breaking through perceptions is Singapore. Despite some negative perceptions, Singapore is one of the most progressive countries in the realm of wastewater recycling and reuse. The reason for Singapore’sinsight and aggressive approach to water is fairly obvious—they have had to face the fact that they are going to run out of the water and are being forced to be progressive and proactive about this limited resource.
Singapore currently imports 52-percent of its water from Malaysia, of which two agreements with the Malaysians are slated to expire in 2011 and 2016. Singapore understands that to move forward, they must work to make sure that their citizens and businesses have the water required to survive and thrive. For the U.S., the natural abundance of cheap water has allowed us to ignore this coming problem,
and until the crisis deepens few of us will be willing to look past the “yuck factor” and realize we don’t have much of an alternative to deal with the notion of recycling. The other impediment to the adoption of innovation has been the naturally conservative nature of wastewater engineers. In the past few years in the business of wastewater, there has been an upswing in product and technology innovation.
From sensing, control systems, and energy-efficient pumping, to enhancements in processing techniques, the explosion of solutions for the various problems of water processing has been staggering. The development of an entirely bacterially-based wastewater treatment solutions that can produce absolutely potable water from black water has been met with suspicion.
As one who has helped to develop this innovative technology, I was quite surprised by the initial lack of interest in what I perceived as a significant innovation. Frankly, I thought that with this upsurge in innovation, the water processing world would be buzzing. From my lonely perch, I don’t think that buzzing is exactly how I would characterize the current state of wastewater technology.
Why is this? It all comes down to perception. No engineer, possibly because they are not properly immersed in biology, seems to believe that bioremediation can be a complete solution. They trust pumps, aerators, and chemical, but not in other Nature.
I will give credit to a select few, on the other hand, who are ready to embrace the future when they see it. To quote a senior Ph.D., PE wastewater guru after he saw our system (and coincidentally after we were recognized by theWall Street Journal Technical Innovation awards this year),
he said, “I would never have believed that a purely bacteria-based system could remove chlorides and nitrogen compounds as well as all of the organic materials, had I not seen it with my own eyes.” I am happy to report that while most engineers swear by the tried-and-true, a new generation of bacterially-based, alternative systems have begun to attract confused interest from the engineering community.
So we are left with this: Americans believe that their drinking water comes from a bubbling spring of purity that runs from the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas or some such place, which is a far cry from the reality of where it originates from—the stream five miles from the paper mills, wastewater treatment plants, oil refineries, etc. When we finally all come to this epiphany,
we will begin to make serious progress on our impending water shortages. Americans, in general, are scared: Scared of the unknown; scared of the known; scared to try new things, and scared of change. Let’s honest with ourselves and realize that we know what will happen if we don’t innovate the state of the wastewater industry. Our way of life will literally dry-up.
That means no crops, no recreation, no lawns, and no golf courses. Well, maybe golf courses. Mike Rainone is president and founder of ActiveWater SciencesInc., makers of an innovative new Water And Waste Processing Magazine treatment system, and vice president and founder of sister company, PCDworks, Inc., a technology development firm specializing in breakthrough product innovation.
While initially majoring in physics, Rainone received a B.S.and M.S. in Clinical Psychology and a Masters of Architecture from the University of Texas. He served as a graduate fellow in clinical psychology at the University of North Texas and held doctoral Research Fellowship in Cognitive Psychology at TexasChristian University.
Early in his career, Rainone taught subjects as diverse as management and organizational behavior, research methods, and architectural design. While practicing architecture in the Detroit area, Rainone was invited to teach industrial design at the college for Creative Studies and soon moved into the field of new product development. With strong expertise in the process of product development, a wide range of technical knowledge,
and training in the cognitive deconstruction of problems during development processes, Rainone has been a creative force in the development of new products for leading companies in the U.S. and in Europe, including Sunbeam; Kellogg’s; Avery Denison; Ingersoll-Rand; Kimberly Clark; Stanley Tools; BakerOil Tools and the U.S. Navy.