Water may seem like a limitless resource, but the fact is that the same quantity of water exists today as it did 100 Million Years ago. However, the demands on water are much more intense as our world is getting more crowded. The world’s population tripled during the 20th century with the use of water growing 6 times. With more than 50% of our current population living in cities, municipalities have been forced to rethink water. This growing strain on the municipality has driven up water rates, and forced regions across the world to rethink their water strategies.
Reasons water is under significant pressure
Increasing world demand and declining water supply are severely impacting the world’s limited water resources. To begin with, only 2.5% of all water is fresh water and with about 2/3rds of water on earth being frozen, we are left with less than 1% to grow the food, cool the power plants, and supply the drinking and bath water of our planet. There are 7 billion people inhabiting earth with an addition 2 billion expected by 2050. Most will be born in areas already experiencing water issues. Therefore, as population and wealth increase so does the demand for water and the services it provide. Aquifers are being consumed at a rate faster than nature can resupply them, lakes are at their lowest levels in history, and water basins are being diverted to support regions that have limited access to water. These problems are often compounded by critical regional city water infrastructure realities where current water delivery and treatment infrastructure is inefficient and often at capacity. Taken together, these issues are reducing our access to water, impacting our ecosystems, creating water disputes and driving up the cost of water.
The Municipality Issues – Aging infrastructure and Capacity Limitations
What is meant by water infrastructure? It refers to the water treatment plants that purify water, water mains in the ground that transport water, towers and reservoirs that store water, sewer pipes that carry away wastewater, and sewage treatment plants that treat wastewater. Although many municipalities are blessed with an abundance of fresh water, many are financially strained by infrastructure costs associated with providing water and sewer services to homes, commercial buildings and industry. It is estimated that the cost to the old and failing water infrastructure in the US will be approximately $1 trillion dollars over 10 years. Canada is expected to spend $90 billion over the same time frame.
With roughly 20% of all water lost due to leaking pipes and with many municipal water treatment facilities incapable of handling the added pressures of new developments without costly infrastructure addons, municipalities are now focussing on managing the demand for water more effectively. The adoption of water efficient technology is seen as an important step to getting more service out of existing systems and delaying the construction of new ones. Developers are working with their regional officials to build water efficient communities that includes greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting which can often reduce the quantity of water treated and delivered to newly developed communities by 30-40%.