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The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) supports a water utility’s ability to develop a diversified portfolio of water resource options that includes alternative water resources such as: desalination; water reuse, including direct and indirect potable reuse; prudent conservation measures; stormwater capture; and innovative programs developed through research. Selecting from options that are most appropriate for the local utility’s unique resource options and acceptable to the public will allow more flexibility in operations and a greater ability to manage future risk due to uncertainties in demand, source availability and climatological conditions.

AMWA believes the establishment of reliable funding mechanisms that facilitate and encourage innovation and the development and improvement of alternative water resources is critical. Federal and state governments should partner with the drinking water community to conduct research and develop technologies to produce alternative water resources, reduce water consumption and resolve challenges associated with the use of alternative sources of water. In particular, the federal government should fund research to review the public health implications of indirect and direct potable reuse. Based on these findings, the government should consider ways to facilitate the adoption of sustainable water supply strategies that carry no human health risks beyond current standards,and develop guidance on treatment technologies and systems needed to ensure  this level of safety.

Rationale:

  1. In many communities, demands from business, agriculture, the environment and a growing populations have placed a tremendous strain on existing sources of both groundwater and surface water, jeopardizing its long-term sustainability.
  2. In addition to encouraging and promoting water conservation measures and demand management, water utilities have to diversify their portfolio of source options to continually meet the water needs of the communities served, especially during extended periods of low rainfall or water quality challenges that impact traditional water supplies.
  3. Having a reliable water supply portfolio is critical to developing and maintaining a vibrant community and local economy, and the socio-economic and environmental impacts of a prolonged drought and compromised quality are severe and far-reaching. There is a need to develop renewable resources that enhance utility sustainability to mitigate the damaging effects of both long-term and cyclical droughts.
  4. Direct and indirect potable water reuse technology has the potential to augment traditional water supplies. Approaches to potable water reuse may involve diverting a portion of return flows either into an existing supply reservoir or directly into a water treatment facility. Water utilities must be diligent while implementing these new technologies to ensure continued protection of public health.This new supply may serve both human consumption and emergency response purposes.
  5. While some utilities may choose to employ direct and indirect reuse methods and treat water to varying degrees, not all communities may wish to take advantage of water reuse for potable uses. Communities and local stakeholders should therefore carefully evaluate potable water reuse proposals and have the flexibility to only select and implement the approaches most suitable for their community. For example, some utilities may choose to reserve water reuse for non-potable purposes thus saving traditional water supplies for human consumption.