Can we save our urban water systems?

Aug 23, 2013
©2013, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers

Existing urban water systems are at the end of their design lifetimes. New, innovative solutions are needed, and these must combine technology and engineering with an understanding of social systems and institutions. The current issue of Environmental Engineering Science, the Official Journal of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, focuses on Re-inventing Urban Water Systems. Of particular note is an insightful article that presents the challenges and opportunities facing urban water system innovation.

The article, entitled "The Innovation Deficit in Urban Water: The Need for an Integrated Perspective on Institutions, Organizations, and Technology," contends that for new innovations to be implemented successfully, engineers must understand the social, economic, institutional, and political mechanisms that underlie the human-technology interface. Coauthors Michael Kiparsky, David Sedlak, Barton Thompson, and Bernhard Truffer (University of California at Berkeley School of Law; University of California at Berkeley School of Engineering; Stanford Law School and Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford, CA; and Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Dübendorf, Switzerland, respectively) are all members of a U.S. National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center focused on developing new approaches to urban - ReNUWIt (Reinventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure).

"The Kiparsky paper and the EES special issue are timely and are destined to be among the most influential and important contributions to the field of in recent times," says Domenico Grasso, PhD, Editor-in-Chief and Provost, University of Delaware. "The holistic approaches outlined are not only well suited for addressing the complex problems of the urban infrastructure but may serve as a template for addressing many other sociotechnological challenges of the 21st century."

Guest Editors of this special issue of Environmental Engineering Science on Re-inventing Urban Water Systems, David Sedlak, Jörg Drewes, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, and Richard Luthy, Stanford University, compiled a series of articles that focus on topics including innovation in complex systems; active management of natural systems to enhance the performance of urban water infrastructure; and management of concentrates from water treatment processes.

"Our modern urban water infrastructure is one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century," says Jennifer Becker, President of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors. "This important issue of EES highlights a paradigm shift in our systems and that technological innovations are urgently needed if the growing demands for water and other resources are to be sustainably met."

Explore further: Meeting the 'grand challenge' of a sustainable water supply

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Urban metabolism for the urban century

Jan 24, 2013

Like organisms, cities need energy, water, and nutrients, and they need to dispose of wastes and byproducts in ways that are viable and sustainable over the long run. This notion of "urban metabolism" is a model for looking ...

Study suggests expanded concept of 'urban watershed'

Jun 14, 2012

Within two decades, 60 percent of the world's population will live in cities, and coping with the resulting urban drinking water and sanitation issues will be one of the greatest challenges of this century. A U.S. Forest ...

Meeting the 'grand challenge' of a sustainable water supply

May 22, 2013

Scientists and engineers must join together in a major new effort to educate the public and decision makers on a crisis in providing Earth's people with clean water that looms ahead in the 21st century. That's the focus of ...

Plants help lower temperatures

Feb 19, 2013

(Phys.org)—As Melbourne swelters through another heat wave, scientists are using thermal imaging to work out how plants can be used to reduce the severe temperatures in our cities.

Recommended for you

European climate at the +2 C global warming threshold

4 hours ago

A global warming of 2 C relative to pre-industrial climate has been considered as a threshold which society should endeavor to remain below, in order to limit the dangerous effects of anthropogenic climate change.

Australia's dirty secret: who's breathing toxic air?

6 hours ago

Australians living in poorer communities, with lower employment and education levels, as well as communities with a high proportion of Indigenous people, are significantly more likely to be exposed to high ...

Predicting bioavailable cadmium levels in soils

Apr 15, 2014

New Zealand's pastoral landscapes are some of the loveliest in the world, but they also contain a hidden threat. Many of the country's pasture soils have become enriched in cadmium. Grasses take up this toxic heavy metal, ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Melting during cooling period

(Phys.org) —A University of Maine research team says stratification of the North Atlantic Ocean contributed to summer warming and glacial melting in Scotland during the period recognized for abrupt cooling ...

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...