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Water and Sanitation

Water Reuse Can Help Mitigate Our Extreme Weather Woes


As we face increasingly extreme weather conditions from droughts to flooding, proven water reuse technologies can help protect both our infrastructure and our health.

Patricia L. Sinicropi, J.D.

Executive Director, WateReuse Association

Across the United States, many communities are facing extreme weather conditions. The western United States has entered into increasingly frequent and dire cycles of drought. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified an increase in extreme single-day rainstorms in the lower 48 states, especially along the East Coast and in the Midwest.

These problems may seem very different from one another, but they both threaten our aging water infrastructure. While dry weather can cause water scarcity and increase the cost of our drinking water, big storms can overload the underground systems that collect runoff and other wastewater, causing flooding, damage, and pollution.

The benefits of water reuse

Luckily, the solutions we have to these two problems share something in common as well. Water reuse, also known as water recycling, is the process of intentionally capturing wastewater, rainwater, or saltwater and cleaning it for specific freshwater purposes.

Depending on the level of treatment and purification, recycled water can be used to run factories, irrigate crops, replenish groundwater, restore watersheds, and can even be used for drinking. Water reuse offers the unique benefit of providing a new water source in times of drought, while also helping to control and clean excess water when our cities are hit with heavy precipitation.

These benefits are part of the reason that the U.S. government has begun to take a special interest in water reuse. In 2022, the EPA announced a new federal Water Reuse Interagency Working Group to help advance the Water Reuse Action Plan in communities across the country.

Advancing water reuse often requires educating communities about the safety and benefits of water reuse, and revisiting state and local water regulations. It also requires significant investment.

The historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 is now-directing tens of billions of dollars towards programs that support water recycling, offering us the chance to reenvision the often-invisible systems that manage our daily water needs. We’re going to make the most of this opportunity because our water is too precious to use just once.

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