Utility of the Future (UTOF) "Water Water where is it? There's not a drop to drink!"

A couple of months ago a report was issued entitled  “The Water Resources Utility of the Future: A Blueprint for Action.” was recently released by a coalition of organizations: The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF).

Article linked from Water Efficiency Blog. http://www.waterefficiency.net/WE/Blogs/1619.aspx

Some of you know from reading previous posts on this blog, I have contended that diversified water treatment is as important as the diversified renewable energy movement which has been afoot for about the last decade or more. In my mind, it is unfortunate we have not paid attention to the underlying infrastructure and social connection good drinking water has on our communities. 

The EPA is warning us that in less than a decade or so, there will be significantly more cities in dire straits to provide safe drinking water in their communities. This report echoes this call to actions. Our current state rules on water production and the often arcane water rights laws which change from state to state often cause difficulties for the emerging, smaller scale treatment options available. Greywater rules are one other point of confusion where it is actually illegal to use this water at all and in most other areas it is severely regulated as a resource. Here in the desert SW we have a more open mind to the value of water, but only slightly. We may have some of the more forward-looking legislation in Arizona, but the public is not educated about the significant impacts these laws could have on our severe drought conditions.  

Using some of the recent filtration and treatment technologies which began in the NASA science labs back over 25 years ago we are beginning to see commercially viable solutions which can take briny water and turn it into higher quality water than found in our local utility pipes.

Yet setting water quality aside it is often more of a quantity problem and here is where the leaky pipe syndrome is raising it's ugly head. Some local utilities have a leakage rate over 30% in some network areas which is a huge burden for the overall system. Fixing far-flung and aging networks is expensive and so are put off until they go beyond being a nuisance to a health hazard. 

How will a diversified water treatment and production effort change the UTOF? Instead of larger, hard to manage and maintain, should we be be looking at smaller, more diversified and dispersed treatment and production solutions? 

UTOF report indicates we need a significant change in thinking and implementation of both the treatment and production sides of water. With more and more communities facing difficult water supply and treatment issues, these questions aren't for the future, but for us to grapple with now. To be sure they are difficult, complex, wicked problems and take the efforts of entire regions and the stakeholders of multiple communities to arrive at possible strategies and solution paths. No one process or solution will be a "silver bullet" in any community. 

This is another part to the connections of thoughts about the Built Environment and the elements surrounding the efforts we take as humans to change and shape the environment we work in. A string of ideas, in this instance relating to clean water, the environment and sustaniability of our communities and a possible picture of the water utility of the future UTOF.

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