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Reduce and Reuse: Surprising insights from UC Berkeley Professor Sedlak on what makes a city more water resilient

Lauren Nicole Core's picture

Cities are becoming thirstier  a 50 percent increase in urban water demands is anticipated within the next 30 years. Rapid urban population growth, economic expansion, and competing demands are increasing thirst and tightening the availability of water in areas where water scarcity is already a reality.
 
In a bid to develop concrete solutions for a water scarce future, the World Bank launched the Water Scarce Cities Initiative (WSC), to bolster awareness of integrated and innovative approaches to managing water resources and service delivery.     

Professor David Sedlak

Managing water better is central to attaining our development goals

Jonas Jägermeyr's picture
Rainwater harvesting for drip irrigation, Lake Victoria, Tanzania.
Photo credit: Wisions.net
Everybody depends on it; there is no substitute for it if we run out; in some places, it’s more valuable than oil. Freshwater is at the very core of human development: it is inextricably linked to food security, economic growth, and poverty reduction.

At face value, water use for food production today largely occurs at the expense of ecosystems, which is the number one reason for their rapid degradation. Already, a quarter of the world’s major rivers no longer reach the ocean.

According to a new study published by Nature Communications, about 40% of global irrigation water is used unsustainably and violates life-supporting environmental flows of rivers. To achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, these water volumes need to be re-allocated to the ecosystem, which puts a heavy strain on current agricultural water use: food production would drop by at least 10% on half of all irrigated land, with losses of 20-30% at the country level, especially in Central and South Asia.

Las Vegas, Marrakech, Malta, Casablanca – managing dwindling resources in water scarce cities

Richard Abdulnour's picture
Las Vegas via Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock.com

What do casinos in the Las Vegas desert, beachside cultural sites in Malta, and palm groves around centuries-old markets in Marrakech have in common? The answer lies beneath a veneer of seemingly disparate societies and geographies: this improbable urban trio shares the same story of dwindling water resources and associated crisis management. The good news is that these fast growing, tourist-invaded, and arid urban areas are constantly writing new chapters of their water stories. We believe that these chapters, featuring a world of possibilities for innovation and learning, are worth sharing with water scarce cities around the world.
 
The Water Scarce Cities Initiative (WSC) is a pioneering World Bank global program that connects diverse stakeholders to share their experiences in bolstering integrated approaches for water security and climate resilience. With its sights set on collective progress, WSC partnered with the 5 + 5 group for the Water Strategy in the Western Mediterranean (WSWM) to hold a Regional Water Scarce Cities Workshop in Casablanca, Morocco from May 22-23, 2017. From Cyprus to Barcelona (Spain), the workshop inspired and motivated over 40 diverse participants from the Western Mediterranean region and beyond to explore the connections between their water security and urban resilience experiences.

Orange County tries new pathways for water resilience; model for other water-stressed regions

Stephane Dahan's picture
The impact of drought in California since 2014:
Lake Oroville State Recreation Area's dramatically receding water line
Photo: Ray Bouknight via Flickr

In the face of the Southern California’s semi-arid Mediterranean climate, compounded by several years of drought throughout the state, the region has developed local resilience through state-of-the-art groundwater management. 

The State has long faced water security challenges, marked by physical water scarcity, increasing economic expansion, and reliance on imported water. Traditionally water-strapped regions such as Orange County are faced with the difficult task of delivering safe and sustainable water to more than 3 million inhabitants. Situated on the coast of Southern California, Orange County includes many economically successful cities and draws the majority of its water resources from the large groundwater basin that underlies Northern and Central Orange County.

 
Now, Orange County authorities must venture beyond conventional water management solutions towards integrated and long-term water strategies to resolve their water insecurity.

Ahead of World Water Day: Let’s Talk about … Energy?

William Rex's picture

For the last six years, a power plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico has bought water from a nearby wastewater treatment plant to use in its cooling towers (instead of using freshwater). This operation, Project Tenorio, a public-private partnership, continues today and has already resulted in the reduction of groundwater extraction of at least 48 million cubic meters (equivalent to 19,000 Olympic size pools) and increased aquifer sustainability.
 
This is a good example of the water and energy nexus in practice: the wastewater treatment plant covers almost all of its operating costs from this additional revenue stream and the power plant gets a more reliable water source that is also 33% cheaper than groundwater in that area.  

Treated wastewater has been used to reduce the water requirements of power plants in several other countries as well, as water supply becomes more variable or disappears. In the US, for example, around 50 power plants are using treated wastewater for cooling in order to adapt to water shortages. However, innovative integrated approaches like these are still more of an exception than the norm.

Managing Drought in California: A Non-Zero Sum Approach

Shafiqul Islam's picture

While recently touring drought-stricken California, President Obama remarked: "We can't think of this simply as a zero-sum game. It can't just be a matter of there's going to be less and less water so I'm going to grab more and more..."
 
In his State of the State address, California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, declared a drought emergency. He suggested: “Among all our uncertainties, weather is one of the most basic. We can’t control it. We can only live with it…We can take this drought as a stark warning of things to come.”
 
He further emphasized the need to conserve water, expand storage, rethink water rules, invest in drinking water protection, and rethink the amount of state water each sector receives.
 
But, how can California move away from existing rules, expectations, and legacies that include multi-layered federal subsidies and senior water rights to a non-zero sum approach to resolve competing and conflicting water realties?