Water Conservation and Unintended Consequences
The United Nations ( UN ) lists water as an essential resource that is core to continued sustainable development of human society . In fact , the UN associates water as one of the key factors in managing risks such as famine , epidemics , inequalities , and political instability ( 1 ).
The conservation of water has become a major point of focus for many countries including the United States . The U . S . Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ), for instance , recently implemented a range of water conservation initiatives throughout its operations to reduce its own water usage footprint .
One of the most significant sources of waste when it comes to water conservation is water loss through leakage . However , there are many areas that can be improved . The EPA offers the following water conservation planning goals for municipalities ( 2 ):
• Eliminating , downsizing , or postponing the need for capital projects .
• Improving the utilization and extending the life of existing facilities .
• Lowering variable operating costs .
• Avoiding new source development costs .
• Improving drought or emergency preparedness .
• Educating customers about the value of water .
• Improving reliability and margins of safe and dependable yields .
• Protecting and preserving environmental resources .
The emboldened items in the list indicate goals that are associated with water or wastewater infrastructure . However , some water conservation efforts carry unintended consequences .
Take , for instance , low-flow fixtures . These showerheads , faucets , and toilets not only reduce water waste from overconsumption , but also — unintentionally — increase the concentration of corrosives in wastewater . The increased concentration of corrosive substances can greatly reduce the service life of existing infrastructure . Fortunately , many of the same solutions that can be used to solve leakage in water infrastructure can also be used to improve wastewater infrastructure to better resist microbial-induced corrosion ( MIC ).