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This story features in Unearthed: Water Security

Water security has traditionally been challenged by factors such as degradation in quality and decline in availability. But it is in areas of growing urbanisation that concerns are now advancing, leading to four emerging trends.

1) Better Governance

Factors such as urbanisation and climate change are increasingly challenging the way water is governed.

A case in point would be California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act that aims to prevent excessive groundwater extraction causing “overdraft, failed wells, deteriorated water quality, environmental damage, and irreversible land subsidence that damages infrastructure and diminishes the capacity of aquifers to store water for the future.”

2) Reuse and Recycle

Zero Liquid Discharge is becoming common in industry and society. At the industry level, it means water in a factory is kept in the factory and re-used via cleaning and treatment. In potable water situations it means once you have used the water, you use it again.

Currently, sewage (used potable water) is recycled for another use such as irrigation and infiltration ponds. But that will likely change.

3) Conservation

Certainly, one of the best ways to improve water security is to make sure that water is used efficiently and not lost. This has been a focus in many parts of the world for a long time, but there are still places it has not been implemented well.

On top of that, there are constantly new technological advances that improve water efficiencies such as waterless toilets and urinals.

4) Water Harvesting

Urbanisation means grassland, lawns or fields are now an urban landscape. Hard roofs, roads and sidewalks impede the recharge of aquifers whereas the previous surfaces allowed rainfall to percolate down.

There are practices to ensure all water falling on those roofs, etc, is recharged as close as possible to where it fell. In addition, open landscapes could be used to capture runoff to serve as temporary storage or increase aquifer recharge.

Constructing infiltration systems to capture roof water can also mitigate the flooding seen in modern urban landscapes.