Modern infrastructure is based on a system that the Romans came up with close to two thousand years ago.
While arguably this system has worked well over the course of history when employed, pumping fresh water into cities from water sources and pumping wastewater out, rural solutions may be the best example for moving forward in the future.
Rural water solutions rely on rainwater collection and wells for supply and on a combination of septic tanks and leech fields for wastewater disposal – which have been proven not to be so effective in densely populated areas.
However, these are more sustainable and have less impact on the environment than mass water and wastewater systems.
What if there was a way to create household water systems that treated themselves and lowered household water use dramatically?
Quartz suggests that this may in fact be possible in the not-too-distant future:
“With a little tinkering, a household unit consisting of a treatment device the size of a refrigerator and a similar-size storage tank could create the means of reusing the same water over and over. Instead of an expensive sewer network, the salts and nutrients in wastewater that cannot be converted to carbon dioxide and water during treatment would be dried and left at the curb for recycling. Any water lost from the system would be replenished with water from human waste.”
This kind of water treatment system would reduce human impact on the ecosystem and may be the future of water infrastructure development.
It would be hard to convince cities with existing working systems to adopt this kind of infrastructure, but developing areas may benefit from exploring alternative options to the age-old Roman design.
As we move forward to more sustainable solutions, infrastructure asset management practitioners need to examine what transitions to more use of site treatment and reuse systems might look like and the impacts on existing network systems.