Supplying safe clean water and sanitation for urban residents and industry has always been a challenge. Many improvements have been achieved since the 1850s. as water treatment technology, understanding of public health and the role of pathogens; however population growth, rising consumption, urbanization and continuing poverty make it a constant battle.
As climate change begins to create changed and more erratic patterns of droughts and storms, new challenges will be added.
The traditional linear infrastructure that transports clean water into urban neighborhoods, and wastewater out again, is inherently inefficient in spite of the benefits of scale. It uses significant energy, and disrupts waterways and ecosystems.
Ecocity urbanism will require a style of water management more in tune with natural cycles and patterns, and local geography and climate. This will tend to be on a smaller scale, on a repeating but flexible pattern, allowing water to follow more natural pathways. Aspects include reuse of highly treated effluents and urban stormwater for various purposes where there is no direct human contact such as non-food irrigation and aquifer replenishment (groundwater recharge and nutrient and energy recoveries from wastewater (humanure is a valuable resource, for soil enrichment and as energy - flushing it away is wasteful).
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- In 1854 John SnowW identified a water pump in London as the source of a cholera epidemic - identifying contaminated water as the source of cholera (though the contaminant was not yet known) was a major step forward in public health. The London sewerage system was completed several years later, drastically reducing the source of contamination.
- This is for public health and risk management reasons - although the water should be safe for human contact, the separation provides a safety net in case of pathogen breakthrough due to unusual loads on the treatment system.