Alternative water supply: Not just for droughts anymore

Dec. 1, 2017
The drivers for exploring alternative water supply resources are expanding.

Angela Godwin

Chief Editor, WaterWorld

The phrase alternative water supply is one we’re hearing with increasing frequency in our industry. Put quite simply, alternative water supply refers to water coming from any source that’s not traditional (such as a river, lake or aquifer), explained Bruce Cooley, a consulting engineer with Black & Veatch, during our interview at WEFTEC. Historically, it’s been associated with strategies to increase water availability in drought-affected regions — desalination and water reuse readily come to mind. But the drivers for exploring alternative water supply resources are expanding.

“From an environmental standpoint, we’re seeing increased pressure from weather pattern alterations,” Cooley noted. “And we’re seeing increased pressure on source water from increased populations.”

One might be surprised to learn, for instance, that a place like Indiana — with its hardwood forests and lush cornfields — has challenges with water supply. But, it’s not infrequent that the state wrestles with water scarcity at least a few months out of the year, Cooley said. “So we have to think about how [to] be more efficient with our systems that were built decades and decades ago. How do we [become] more efficient with those new systems we’re bringing on-line? How do we increase our capacity with things like additional reservoir supply … or perhaps even stream flow augmentation?”

Black & Veatch’s Bruce Cooley talks with Angela Godwin at WEFTEC.17.

For water utilities considering alternative water supply strategies, Cooley recommended a few useful resources. At the top of his list is The Water Reuse Roadmap Primer, a resource published by the Water Environment Federation (WEF). It’s the product of a two-day meeting sponsored by WEF, the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF), the National Water Research Institute (NWRI), and WateReuse in February 2016. “It’s really a fantastic roadmap of water reuse,” said Cooley. “Everyone from a layman to an academic can understand [its] context.”

Another useful resource is Black & Veatch’s annual Strategic Directions: Water Industry Report. “In that report, you can get a good understanding of what we mean by alternative water supply and water reuse.”

At the end of the day, it comes down to stewardship, said Cooley. “We’re each called to be a steward of the resources that we have, be they [limited] resources, for instance in California where we have a huge population that we’re trying to service with a finite amount of water, or be it stewardship of a place like Indiana where we need to focus a little bit more on drought resiliency and efficiencies of our distribution and treatment system.”

To watch the full interview with Bruce Cooley, please visit WaterWorld > WaterWorldTV. WW

About the Author

Angela Godwin | Editorial Director

Angela Godwin is the previous editorial director for Endeavor Business Media's Process/Water Group.