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By Robert C. Brears

The effects of climate change are beginning to impact water quantity and water quality across the globe. However, there is no single action or strategy that any government can implement to ensure a community is resilient to climate change-related extreme weather events while also protecting the natural system. Instead, climate resilient water resources management requires integrated, forward-thinking policies that are not only adaptable to changing climatic conditions but also seek to maximize economic and social welfare in an equitable manner while ensuring the continued health of their ecosystems. A range of leading locations around the world ensuring their water resources are resilient to future challenges are New York City, Singapore, and the East and England.

New York City Embracing Future Water Challenges
To be proactive in meeting future water challenges, New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has implemented a variety of programs to reduce citywide water consumption including an On-Site Water Reuse Grant Pilot Program to provide commercial, mixed-use, and multi-family residential property owners with incentives to install water reuse systems.

Grants are available for water reuse system at the individual building and district level, with district-scale projects involving two or more parcels of land such as a housing development, where the project reduces demand in the shared distribution system. Individual building-scale projects can receive up to USD 250,000 in reimbursement for a system designed to save at least 32,000 gallons per day (GPD), and district-scale projects are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in reimbursement for a system designed to save at least 94,000 GPD.

The NYC Construction Code regulates two types of on-site water reuse systems that can be installed, as follows:

1) Wastewater reuse system (blackwater, greywater, rainwater for, flushing of toilets and urinals, cooling tower makeup, washing of sidewalks, streets or buildings, laundry, and subsurface of drip irrigation system, and
2) Rainwater reuse systems used solely for cooling tower makeup, subsurface irrigation, and drip irrigation.

In addition to reducing demand for potable water, some of the additional benefits enjoyed by the citywide installation of water reuse systems include deferred capital costs of large-scale water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure; reduced loadings to sewers and water bodies; improved environmental stewardship; and increased capability to manage demand on the water supply system.

Singapore’s Marina Barrage Turns 10!
This year the Singapore Public Utilities Board’s (PUB) multi-purpose Marina Barrage is celebrating its 10th anniversary. PUB’s Marina Barrage operates nine hydraulically-operated steel crest gates spanning across the 350-meter-wide Marina Channel. Each gate is 26.5m-wide and 5m-high. These gates help keep freshwater in from a 10,000-ha catchment zone and keep seawater out, providing the city with a ready source of water supply.

The opening of the Marina Barrage helps reduce the risks of severe flooding in low-lying areas of the city. During periods of heavy rainfall and low-tide, the steel crest gates are sequentially opened to release excess stormwater into the sea. When heavy rainfall occurs during high tide the gates remain closed and excess water from the reservoir is pumped into the sea. In total there are seven pumps that are each 7.8m in height. Each pump can drain 40 cubic meters of water per second, the equivalent of draining an Olympic-sized swimming pool in a minute.

With the dam’s gates and pumps keeping the reservoir’s water levels constant, the freshwater lake is utilized for a variety of water sports including kayaking and dragon boating. The Marina Barrage has a green roof that is about the size of four football fields offering visitors a recreational space for kite flyers, picnickers, and those seeking a view of Singapore’s skyline. A pedestrian bridge also sits on top of the steel crest gates enabling walking, jogging or cycling around the Marina Bay. Throughout the year the Marina Reservoir also plays host to large sporting and cultural events.

Innovative Solutions to Water Scarcity in England
The East of England’s water resources are challenged by a variety of mega-trends including climate change and population growth. In response, Anglian Water has formed the Water Resources East (WRE) initiative to bring stakeholders together to manage shared water resources wisely.

WRE is a multi-sector water resource planning strategy that promotes the sharing of ideas, expertise, and best practices between sectors with a focus on managing water demand and protecting the environment. The priority areas WRE is encouraging innovative thinking on are:

Reducing Water-Energy Nexus Pressures:
The coastline of the region stretches for around 1,000 miles making energy efficient desalination a possibility to meet future water demand.

Industrial Water Recycling:
Water used in industrial processes can be reclaimed for storage and reuse for the same purpose, for agricultural irrigation, or even domestic purposes (flushing toilets, outdoor taps, etc.).

Water Trading:
WRE is exploring the possibility of developing transfer pipelines to share and transfer surplus water resources between companies and across sectors.

Uniting Flood Control and Water Supply:
There is a possibility of working with drainage authorities and boards to change procedures from pumping away excess water to capturing it for use in the public water supply system.

Natural Infrastructure:
WRE will explore the feasibility of directing excess flood water and overflow from new and existing dams and reservoirs to aquifers for use in times of high demand or drought.

Managing Demand:
WRE will focus on how to effectively engage customers on the need to conserve water, maximizing the potential outcomes of water demand approaches that include water conservation, using grey water, and installation of water-saving equipment.

Some of the key best practices from the case studies are: water utilities can proactively meet future challenges by exploring ways of reducing demand for potable water while capitalizing on the multiple benefits alternative supplies provide, 21st Century infrastructure needs to be designed in a way so multiple benefits can accrue from one infrastructure asset, and new partnerships that promote innovative solutions to water scarcity need to become the norm.

Robert Brears is the author of Urban Water Security, Founder of Mitidaption, and Our Future Water.

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