20 April 2017 / Erin Bonney Casey
Looking Beyond Drought, States Invest in Water Reuse
Traditional water supplies are no longer a certainty for many municipal water utilities across the U.S., sparking a wave of investment into water reuse projects, exceeding $18 billion in announced reuse projects. Without a doubt, California’s five-year drought has been a catalyst for recent project development. Utilities as far away as Georgia are looking to reuse as a way to mitigate water risk.
With utility water rates rising an average of 7% per year across the U.S., water supply costs are at the top of the list of factors to consider when securing additional supplies. Reuse projects have experienced demonstrated cost declines and competitiveness with more traditional water supplies. Planned reuse projects can produce water for, on average, $3.60 per 1000 gallons. In comparison, long distance water transfers, the traditional go-to strategy for expanding water supplies in the arid West, produce water at an average cost of $3.90 per 1000 gallons.
California and Florida continue to lead reuse development, but planned capacity additions in Hawaii, Georgia, Wyoming, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee signal more widespread adoption.
In California, which represents 48% of planned reuse projects, there is also growing awareness that droughts are cyclical. Even with a strong start to the rainy season in Northern California’s Sierra, dry southern California remains the U.S. epicenter for reuse development and is showing no signs of letting up. The fact that project development is happening in states that are not arid shows that that water reuse is no longer just a drought mitigation strategy, but instead a viable option for utilities to boost water supplies.
The bottom line is that water supply concerns aren’t going away. Fortunately, a group of forward-looking utilities are serious about integrating water reuse into their water supply portfolio.