New Report Highlights Potential of Alternative Water Sources; More Research Needed on Safe Use of Graywater and Stormwater

WASHINGTON – (RealEstateRama) — The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released “Using Graywater and Stormwater to Enhance Local Water Supplies: An Assessment of Risks, Costs, and Benefits” (available for free download (link is external)).  The report acknowledges that greywater and stormwater can augment water supplies to improve reliability and extend the capacity of water systems in water-scarce or quickly growing cities, if proven safe.

The report also calls for more research to address risks, guidelines, and changes to infrastructure to facilitate safe use of these waters. The report addresses water availability and use of alternative sources, human health and environmental risks, system design, costs and benefits, legal and regulatory issues, and research needs.  Some of the potential uses of greywater and stormwater include non-potable water for landscaping irrigation, outdoor washing, or toilet flushing.  Communities can scale stormwater and greywater systems to household and neighborhood use, as well as, regional use.  (Although, obtaining water rights may be an impediment to large systems.)  However, the report also addresses some of the challenges to the integration of greywater and stormwater that communities face, such as potential public health risks from microbial or chemical contamination, and it recommends guidance and best practices on the capture and use the waters.

According to the report, developing guidance that addresses the risks and improves safety is an important next step.  “Graywater and stormwater reuse is being incorporated into law in a variety of respects at the federal, state, and local levels, but not quickly enough to keep up with advances in the technology and its use. Several legal and regulatory constraints remain, hindering the capacity for graywater and stormwater to significantly expand the nation’s water supplies.”  The report states that rigorous guidance could build public confidence and expand use.

To download a free copy of the pre-publication report, go to http://www.nap.edu/catalog/21866/using-graywater-and-stormwater-to-enhance-local-water-supplies-an (link is external). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, Water Research Foundation, Water Environment Research Foundation, and other organizations sponsored the study.

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