Recycling water is a key strategy to reaching United Nations’ Goals
Robust adoption of water reuse plays a key role in sustainable development as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 6, “access to water and sanitation for all,” is frequently considered one of the most important because many other SDGs depend on it. A close look at the SDG 6 targets explains the importance of water reuse, also known as water recycling.
SDG 6.1 targets “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.” With climate change, growing populations, and environmental pollution, water fit for drinking is increasingly scarce. It seems senseless to use it where nonpotable water would suffice for landscaping irrigation, industrial processes, and other applications.
Frequently, business, industry, and agriculture must compete for scarce drinking water when they could safely use highly treated wastewater instead. Reuse increases access to drinking water and lowers costs for agriculture, business, and industry.
SDG 6.2 targets sanitation for all. Toilets need water, and recycled water can supply it cheaply. Partnership with wastewater treatment systems and investment in purple pipe systems for nonpotable water offer affordable water for toilet flushing while lowering the cost of sanitation.
SDG 6.3 targets water quality, addressing pollution that contaminates precious drinking water. It seeks to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater, and seeks to increase recycling and safe reuse around the world.
SDG 6.4 targets more efficient use of water to cut water withdrawals to sustainable levels, preventing crises before they start. In this step, water reuse increases water efficiency so dramatically that it is frequently not grouped under the rubric of efficiency but is considered a new water source in its own right. Reuse is one of the most important strategies for efficient water use.
SDG 6.5 is a complex target of water management across all boundaries, so it does not relate directly to specific strategies like reuse. However, SDG 6.5 efforts would need to address water recycling to get the most dramatic results from better water management cooperation.
SDG 6.6 seeks to restore and protect ecosystems at the watershed level, from mountaintops to aquifers. By nature, safe water reuse systems eliminate environmental discharges of untreated polluted water. The treated effluent can recharge aquifers and surface water bodies and support ecosystems.
SDG 6A seeks to expand international cooperation to extend water recycling and reuse to the developing world, along with other initiatives such as water harvesting and desalination.
SDG 6B seeks to promote local community participation in water and sanitation improvements. In this goal it is important to acknowledge a significant impediment to water reuse: pipe cost. Pipeline construction to distant treatment plants frequently costs more than the plants themselves, and for a local community to reuse its wastewater, a second pipeline must be constructed to bring the effluent home. That means higher pumping costs as well.
Newer, modular equipment makes decentralized treatment doable. In decentralized approach, smaller plants can be commissioned more easily in local service areas so that long pipelines are not required, dramatically slashing costs. Even more important to SDG 6B, constructing a local plant can increase community control and participation.
Water reuse is the greatest missed opportunity for many water systems. Contact Seven Seas Water Group to explore the world of sustainable development with our large-scale systems and small, modular plants. And with Water-as-a-Service®, many areas can get the reuse infrastructure they need with no upfront cost.
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