FCE Distinguished Lecture on "Charting a Path to a More Secure Urban Water Future"
Over the past 2,500 years, three technological revolutions have made it possible to quench the thirst of cities, control waterborne diseases and eliminate the pollutants that fouled urban waterways. Water-stressed cities are currently making large investments in new, centralized approaches for obtaining drinking water that can be considered as a fourth water revolution. For example, cities in California, Texas and Colorado are turning to the reuse of municipal wastewater, harvesting of urban runoff and desalination of seawater to substitute for increasingly unreliable imported water sources. But this may not be good enough. Challenges associated with climate change, sea-level rise, emerging contaminants and competition for water resources may require us to develop new strategies that involve active management of natural systems as well as use of distributed water treatment systems. The changes required to enhance urban water security will also require institutional reforms and increased engagement with the public. Ultimately, the right approach for enhancing water security will depend upon local factors including geography, geology, culture and leadership.