Summer 2015

Urban Water-Supply Reinvention

Richard G. Luthy and David L. Sedlak

Cities in drought-prone regions of the American West and Australia provide examples of innovative approaches to utilizing local water resources to achieve more resilient water supplies. Geographical realities, population growth, and favorable economic conditions can create the impetus for investments in new technologies, while support by activist groups and NGOs can encourage more sustainable approaches using locally sourced water. New approaches–whether desalination, stormwater use, water recycling, or potable reuse–share a common path to mass adoption. After a period of piloting and demonstration-scale projects, water providers with few options become early adopters of new technologies. And after the early adopters have gained experience and have used it to support the new approaches, the costs and risks of failure decrease for other providers. Thus, a wider cross section can adopt the new approach. The pioneering projects described herein are the first stage of the reinvention of our urban water systems.

RICHARD G. LUTHY is the Silas H. Palmer Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. He is also the Director of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Re-inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt) and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

DAVID L. SEDLAK is the Malozemoff Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Codirector of the Berkeley Water Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and Deputy Director of ReNUWIt. He is also the author of Water 4.0: The Past, Present and Future of the World's Most Vital Resource.

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