The demand for clean water, especially in urban areas, is growing. Along with this demand comes a need for cities to evaluate water use to ensure that residents have access to clean, safe water.
Cities around the world have undertaken strategies to help address this issue by looking at alternative water sourcing, management, and conservation tactics. They have identified ways to combine infrastructure changes with public education and awareness campaigns to alter the way their residents treat water. The best approaches to effective water management involve a holistic view of the water supply, not only looking at the use of fresh, potable water, but also involving rain, storm, and wastewater management.
Balancing Water Supply and Demand
In many cities around the world, the supply of clean, safe drinking water is limited due to geographic location, local climate, or other factors. This is the case for the Canary Islands and Fukuoka, Japan.
In the Canaries, seawater desalination plants, combined with resident education about potable and non-potable water use, have helped the Islands balance water supply and demand. In Fukuoka, Japan, desalination plants and pumped storage dams have helped address water supply issues, while at the same time, the city encourages its residents to use water more sustainably through its Ordinance on the Promotion of Water Conservation.
Public Education Campaigns
In many cities, public education campaigns have been used to help reduce water demand by providing consumers with water-saving techniques and incentives. In Melbourne, following the Millennium drought of 1997-2010 which dropped water reservoir levels to 25.9%, a public campaign was launched to introduce residents to water-saving practices. Through a combination of advertising, rebates for water-saving devices, and limits on outdoor water use, the program cut water consumption almost in half. As a result, by 2012, water reservoir levels had returned to 80%.
Reevaluating Water Value
In Philadelphia, residents are now responsible for their contributions to urban runoff. After heavy rains, the city’s older sewer systems are often incapable of handling the combination of sewage and storm runoff. The overflow, consisting of untreated sewage and storm water, pollutes area rivers and poses safety and environmental concerns.
In response to this problem, the city introduced a program that charges a storm-water treatment fee based on an area’s square footage. This program also offers incentives to those who install better stormwater infrastructure. By making property owners responsible for urban runoff, this program aims to encourage them to deal with this problem in a more sustainable way.
Sustainable Water Management
All of the aforementioned strategies are a step forward for sustainable urban water management. By evaluating water sources, management, and conservation tactics, these cities have made a conscious effort to reduce water consumption and/or reevaluate water use overall. This is an essential step in ensuring that urban residents continue to have access to clean, safe water for many years to come.
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