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Sustainability 2015, 7(9), 12071-12105; doi:10.3390/su70912071

Sustainable Water Systems for the City of Tomorrow—A Conceptual Framework

1
National Risk Management Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency, 26 W Martin Luther King Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45268, USA
2
Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Engineering (ORISE) Post Doctoral Research Participant, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency, 26 W Martin Luther King Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45268, USA
3
National Exposure Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency, 26 W Martin Luther King Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45268, USA
Current address: Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University at Albany, State University of New York, 1 University Place, Rensselaer, NY 12144, USA.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Marc A. Rosen
Received: 19 December 2014 / Revised: 15 August 2015 / Accepted: 24 August 2015 / Published: 1 September 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Urban Development)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1166 KB, uploaded 1 September 2015]   |  

Abstract

Urban water systems are an example of complex, dynamic human–environment coupled systems which exhibit emergent behaviors that transcend individual scientific disciplines. While previous siloed approaches to water services (i.e., water resources, drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater) have led to great improvements in public health protection, sustainable solutions for a growing global population facing increased resource constraints demand a paradigm shift based on holistic management to maximize the use and recovery of water, energy, nutrients, and materials. The objective of this review paper is to highlight the issues in traditional water systems including water demand and use, centralized configuration, sewer collection systems, characteristics of mixed wastewater, and to explore alternative solutions such as decentralized water systems, fit for purpose and water reuse, natural/green infrastructure, vacuum sewer collection systems, and nutrient/energy recovery. This review also emphasizes a system thinking approach for evaluating alternatives that should include sustainability indicators and metrics such as emergy to assess global system efficiency. An example paradigm shift design for urban water system is presented, not as the recommended solution for all environments, but to emphasize the framework of system-level analysis and the need to visualize water services as an organic whole. When water systems are designed to maximize the resources and optimum efficiency, they are more prevailing and sustainable than siloed management because a system is more than the sum of its parts. View Full-Text
Keywords: urban water systems; paradigm shift; system-based analysis; resource recovery; energy recovery; nutrient recovery; fit-for-purpose; dual water quality; system efficiency; emergy synthesis urban water systems; paradigm shift; system-based analysis; resource recovery; energy recovery; nutrient recovery; fit-for-purpose; dual water quality; system efficiency; emergy synthesis
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Ma, X.C.; Xue, X.; González-Mejía, A.; Garland, J.; Cashdollar, J. Sustainable Water Systems for the City of Tomorrow—A Conceptual Framework. Sustainability 2015, 7, 12071-12105.

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