Urban water utilities must embrace a new circular future as the traditional “linear” approach to providing drinking water and treating and disposing of wastewater is now unviable.
The Water Services Association of Australia says this is particularly true in the Australian and New Zealand context, where most urban centres are vulnerable to variable and declining water resources, and the disposal of biosolids to landfill or the oceans is no longer acceptable.
In a new paper written to help the water sector better understand the challenges and transformation required to implement a circular economy approach, the WSAA says many of the fundamentals of urban living – nitrogen, phosphorus, hydrogen, cellulose, plastic, organic waste and biosolids – pass “through the hands” of utility managers.
“Skilled urban water managers have the ability to transform the way these nutrients and waste products are used and used again.”
The paper says transitioning to a circular economy will not be without challenges.
“Too often, the separate water services are planned independently and are not undertaken in conjunction with land-use and development growth planning. This approach has hampered greater adoption of systems thinking and new innovative practices.”
Increasing energy generation through network micro-hydro and biogas generation is seen as a key step towards sustainable solutions.
The Transitioning the Water Industry with the Circular Economy paper was produced for the WSAA by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney.