Sybil Sharvelle and Mazdak Arabi receive ASCE award for work on One Water and resource recovery systems

Photo depicting a healthy "river-urban interface"

Two CSU Civil and Environmental Engineering professors, along with two University of Michigan professors, have been awarded the 2021 Wesley W. Horner Award by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Environmental and Water Resources Institute for their work on urban water management systems. Sybil Sharvelle and Mazdak Arabi’s winning paper, “Progress and Promise Transitioning to the One Water/Resource Recovery Integrated Urban Water Management Systems,” outlines an integrated approach to managing resources to maximize efficiency.

As population growth, climate impacts and quality issues stress our water supplies, it is important to manage water resources in the most efficient way possible. Recovering water and recycling nutrients from waste materials would allow us to make the best use of our local water supplies and avoid the expense and energy wasted by importing water.

Especially in the arid West, a lot of resources are used to import water from other areas. Sharvelle said maximizing local water supplies is critical.

“Making use of local water sources results in system energy and cost efficiency. Further, making use of local water helps preserve our freshwater sources, which has beneficial environmental impacts,” Sharvelle said.

In the past, drinking water, wastewater and stormwater have been managed separately. Sharvelle and Arabi’s work shows the benefits of integrating these systems and maximizing recovery of resources from each water source.

“How we manage our drinking water has a lot of impact on stormwater and wastewater systems, but because of the way we have traditionally managed those systems in silos, there has been a lot of inefficiency,” Sharvelle said. “We need this holistic view of our water systems to make informed decisions on efficient resource management.”

Shifting paradigm

When Sharvelle started working in water reuse systems with a focus on graywater 14 years ago, there was a lot of resistance to the idea in the water-management industry. She credits Glen Daigger, lead author on the paper and a professor in the University of Michigan’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, for helping to change people’s minds.

“I have seen a major paradigm shift, particularly in the last five years, where there is a lot more acceptance of these innovative practices,” Sharvelle said. “Thought leaders like Glen Daigger have really played a role in that shift.”

Technologies and tools developed by the CSU One Water Solutions Institute, directed by Arabi, have further enabled this paradigm shift. The institute brings together researchers from across campus and leverages CSU’s world-class water expertise to solve real-world problems.

The Wesley W. Horner Award honors a paper concerning hydrology, urban drainage or sewage published in an ASCE journal that has made a valuable contribution to environmental engineering. The writing team, including University of Michigan Professor Nancy Love, will be presented with the award at the ASCE Environmental and Water Resources Institute 2021 World Environmental and Water Resources Congress in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in May.

Sybil Sharvelle
Sybil Sharvelle, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering
Mazdak Arabi, Borland Professor of Water Resources,
Mazdak Arabi, Borland Professor of Water Resources, One Water Solutions Institute at Colorado State University, April 20, 2018