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Closing the loop: advancing natural water circularity for sustainability

About the blog

Abdul Aala Khurram
Technical Director, Water Care Services, Pakistan
  • Closing the loop: advancing natural water circularity for sustainability
    Credit: Pablo González Cebrián

Water is essential to life, yet the global water crisis presents a critical challenge, impacting millions globally. It poses a direct threat to aquatic life, animals, plants, and human populations. But why is there a water crisis when there is 70% water on earth? The fact is that unfortunately, 97% of Earth’s water is too salty to be used. Out of 3% freshwater, only 0.3% water is accessible. Even this small fraction of freshwater faces pollution challenges. Addressing water crises requires a holistic approach that focuses on natural resource management followed by adaptation.

Nature acts as a blueprint for the circular management of resources

In nature, sustainable cyclic resource management is a common phenomenon. As we frequently notice, materials, energy, and nutrients are constantly cycling through living things and their surroundings in normal natural ecosystems, which function as circular systems. This piece is in favour of applying analogous concepts to achieve resource efficiency and environmental sustainability. Natural capital functions in circular systems that recycle and regenerate resources.

Figure 1. Nature’s model for circular resource management

Why isn't water regenerating itself through its inherent circularity? The fact is the generation of substantial quantities of wastewater poses a threat to water's inherent circularity. In order to restore natural circularity, wastewater treatment can be quite important. We can safeguard the integrity and health of ecosystems, increase resource efficiency, and support environmental sustainability by including wastewater treatment in a circular framework.

Restoring natural water circularity through wastewater treatment can be addressed through the application of integrated strategies that prioritize resource recovery, water reuse, and ecosystem restoration. Using cutting-edge wastewater treatment methods can eliminate a variety of pollutants, such as pathogens, organic debris, nutrients, and other pollutants. Advanced oxidation processes, membrane filtration, UV disinfection, advanced natural nanoparticles contamination treatment, activated carbon adsorption, biological nutrient removal and other technologies can achieve high treatment efficiency and provide high-quality effluent that can be released back into the environment or reused. Applying nutrient recovery technologies can extract nitrogen and phosphorus from treated wastewater for use as soil amendments or fertilizers in agriculture. Anaerobic digestion and biogas collection systems can be used to turn wastewater's organic matter into renewable energy.

Restoring natural water circularity through wastewater treatment can be addressed through the application of integrated strategies that prioritize resource recovery, water reuse, and ecosystem restoration

Restoring natural water circularity can be achieved by combining wastewater treatment with ecosystem restoration programs to replenish groundwater, improve streamflow, and maintain thriving aquatic ecosystems.

Let’s take water to multiple later infinite cycles

Implement water reuse strategies to recycle treated wastewater for non-potable purposes like irrigation, industrial processes, toilet flushing, and landscape irrigation. Examples of these strategies include dual plumbing systems, decentralized treatment systems, and greywater recycling systems. By putting treated wastewater returned to beneficial use in the adjacent water cycle, water reuse projects can assist in finishing the water loop and restoring natural water circularity.

Promote the perks of wastewater treatment and the significance of reestablishing natural water circularity by educating the public and involving stakeholders. Educate the public on the benefits of treated wastewater as a source of energy, nutrients, and water. We should also promote community involvement in water conservation, pollution avoidance, and sustainable wastewater management techniques. We can strengthen support for wastewater treatment programs and advance the restoration of natural water circularity by cultivating a culture of environmental responsibility and resource conservation.

Educate the public on the benefits of treated wastewater as a source of energy, nutrients, and water

By optimizing water storage, flood control, and distribution, upgrading water management infrastructure — such as dams, reservoirs, levees, and drainage systems — can aid in the restoration of natural water circularity. Implementing green infrastructure solutions, such as green roofs, rain gardens, and permeate pavements, can help to reduce runoff and recharge groundwater reserves, capturing and infiltrating stormwater. Natural water cycle processes can be fostered, and water systems' resilience can be increased by incorporating nature-based solutions into water management initiatives.

In an era of escalating environmental challenges, it is more important than ever to embrace water circularity. Water circularity emphasizes the value of conserving, reusing, and replacing water in a cyclical manner and provides a comprehensive strategy for managing this valuable resource. The crux of water science is, to use water, in an infinite loop, and make it still available in its original form.

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