As the examples below show, if a country or city wants to change how it uses and manages its water resources, it often needs to first change how people think about water. Both Singapore and Israel, in their ambitious water reuse projects, have focused on educating the public about water issues. In the case of the Netherlands and Stockholm, Sweden, sustainable solutions have been developed through innovative city designs and new ways of living. Here’s Impeller’s list of 5 leaders in smart water management.
1. Singapore – Creating NEWater
About 50 years ago, the island city-state of Singapore had only two sources of water: rainfall and importing water from Malaysia. The country’s national water agency, PUB, understood that it would need to take action to ensure a stable supply of water. Singapore invested in new technology and treatment plants, cleaned up its water resources and raised awareness of water issues throughout the country. Singapore today can meet up to 30 percent of its water needs with recycled water, which it calls NEWater, and up to 25 percent of its needs with desalinated water. Water usage per person has also been lowered from 165 liters per day in 2003 to 150 liters today.
2. The Netherlands – Letting the rivers in
With two-thirds of the country prone to flooding, the Netherlands has spent centuries building up a vast network of flood barriers. With climate change and rising sea levels, however, the country decided it needed to do something other than simply building the dikes higher. The Netherlands’ “Room for the River” project involves changing the course of more than 30 rivers so that they can flood more safely. The city of Nijmegen, for example, had to evacuate 250,000 residents twice in the 1990s due to flooding. Instead of trying to keep the water out, the new solution for the city was to move the barriers inland and dig a massive new channel for the river. The result: a wider floodplain and a new island and urban park in the middle of the city.
3. Stockholm – Turning wastewater into heat
To limit urban sprawl, planning regulations in Stockholm, Sweden, require that land be reused before new areas can be developed. The city decided in the mid-1990s that rebuilding a former industrial area would be a great opportunity to design a sustainable eco-district, Hammarby Sjöstad. The district aims to reduce water consumption by 60 percent per person, and reduce all waste produced by 40 percent. Today the district’s wastewater treatment process produces both biogases for cooking as well as energy for heating homes. All storm water is purified through sand fiber, basins and green roofs, which reduces the burden on the wastewater treatment plant and increases efficiency.
4. Israel – Managing water in the desert
Given that 60 percent of Israel is desert, the country has always been aware that smart water management was essential to its success. Declining rainfall and a rapidly growing population have placed additional strains on its water supply. For these reasons, Israel has built up over several decades a system that relies on water conservation, desalinated sea water, and using recycled water to irrigate its crops. Israel has also made efficient toilets mandatory and prices water to discourage waste. The country’s innovative irrigation method, called micro-irrigation, involves dripping small amounts of water directly on a plant’s roots, rather than flooding fields with water.
5. Silicon Valley – Water reuse in an innovation hub
Recently the water management of Silicon Valley, California, has become just as innovative as the famous IT companies located there. Currently in its fifth year of severe drought, California has needed to find lasting solutions to water scarcity. One solution was a new water recycling facility, the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center, which produces eight million gallons of recycled water per day, using microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light.