Cultivating alternative water resources can extend access to clean drinking water
According to the United Nations World Water Development Report 2023, approximately 2 billion people — 26% of the world’s population — do not have access to safe drinking water. This crisis is not limited to developing nations.
Many of us take clean water for granted, but even for some residents of the United States, ready access to clean water is a luxury. Imagine a Day Without Water is a national educational initiative and day of action on October 19 that will bring a wide range of participants together to emphasize the important and invaluable role water plays in our daily lives, and why we need to invest in equitable water systems.
While limited freshwater sources can often be a stumbling block to providing communities with access to clean water, we can improve the situation by advocating for ongoing, sustainable investments in water infrastructure for under-resourced communities, and by tapping into alternative water sources that are often overlooked. Some sustainable options are outlined below.
In areas unaffected by drought, rainwater harvesting is the simplest and cheapest way to extend access to clean water. It involves collecting and storing rainwater that falls on rooftops and other surfaces for later use. A rainwater harvesting system typically includes a catchment surface, gutters and downspouts, a storage tank, a filtration system and/or first flush diverter, and a distribution system (pump and water pipes).
Harvested rainwater can be used for various purposes in both residential and commercial settings. It can help conserve traditional sources of fresh water by providing an alternative water supply for nonpotable uses such as irrigation and flushing toilets. With additional treatment (filtering or disinfection to remove bacteria and other potential contaminants), collected rainwater can be used as a source of drinking water, and can be valuable as an emergency water source in areas prone to water-supply disruptions.
Brackish Groundwater Desalination
While there are vast reserves of water held in underground aquifers, many of these sources have a high saline content, making them unfit for consumption without further treatment. In these cases, brackish water reverse osmosis (BWRO) desalination technologies can remove salt and other impurities to make the water suitable for drinking, irrigation, and industrial use.
In BWRO, brackish water is forced through a semipermeable membrane to remove salts and impurities. The purified water is collected on one side of the membrane, while the concentrated brine is disposed. BWRO is a valuable and cost-effective solution for addressing water scarcity and ensuring a sustainable and reliable supply of fresh water in regions where sources are limited or contaminated.
Reclaimed wastewater, also known as treated sewage effluent (TSE) or recycled water, is wastewater that has undergone advanced treatment and purification processes, allowing it to be safely recycled for reuse for nonpotable applications. Processes involved in water reuse include filtration, disinfection, and often additional purification steps.
While reclaimed wastewater is typically not intended for drinking, it can significantly reduce the demand for limited supplies of fresh water. It is important to note that with the appropriate wastewater treatment technologies, recycled wastewater can be used as a source of safe drinking water, and many arid regions are exploring this as an alternative source of drinking water.
Sewage is not the only type of water that can be recycled. Water rejected from the processing of ultrapure water is a good candidate. Ultrapure water is used in many industries, including power generation, microchip manufacture, and the manufacture of pharmaceuticals.
Decentralized Wastewater Treatment
In on-site wastewater treatment, also known as decentralized wastewater treatment, wastewater is treated and managed at or near its point of generation and not piped to a distant centralized plant. This approach is particularly useful in remote locations, as well as in situations where connecting to a central sewage system is impractical or cost-prohibitive.
Incorporating advanced treatment technologies allows wastewater to be recycled for reuse on-site, providing an alternative source of water that can significantly benefit remote communities with limited freshwater sources, such as island resorts. When designed and operated correctly, these systems contribute to water conservation, reduced environmental impact, and a more resilient and sustainable water supply.
Equalizing Access to Clean Water
With the global population continuing to rise and freshwater resources rapidly declining, providing equitable access to clean and safe water is a growing challenge. Investing in water infrastructure that taps into sustainable alternative water sources can help narrow the gap between those that have access to water and those that don’t. Now more than ever, we need to invest in sustainable water sources. Diversifying water sources will not only enhance water security but can also help improve access to clean and safe drinking water.
Contact Seven Seas Water Group for information regarding our water treatment innovations and how our Water-as-a-Service® approach helps our customers access alternative water sources without an initial investment in costly water infrastructure.
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