Different Ways To Sustainably Use & Manage Water Across Society

The sustainable use and management of water resources is an important issue across the world, especially with some forecasts indicating water demand is expected to continue to increase in the future.

In the guide below, we list and discuss the different ways water might be sustainably used and managed, and give some potential examples of how they might be implemented.


Summary – Different Ways To Sustainable Use & Manage Water Across Society

Different Ways To Sustainably Use & Manage Water Across Society

Some of the different ways that water might sustainably be used and managed might include:

Increasing Water Efficiency

Reducing Water Loss & Leaks 

Reducing Water Waste

Reducing Direct Water Consumption

Reducing Indirect Water Consumption

Managing Or Restricting Water Withdrawals

Reducing Water Pollution & Contamination, & Treating Polluted & Contaminated Water

Augmenting Freshwater Supplies, &/Or Increasing Freshwater Capacity

Substituting Fresh Water For An Alternative


These methods may be used on a society wide scale, but might also be used on a smaller individual scale.


Indirect Factors That Might Impact The Sustainable Management Of Water In The Future

We list some indirect factors that might impact the sustainable management of water in the future towards the bottom of this guide.


Water Forecasts For The Future

Some reports indicate that global demand for water will outstrip supply in the future.

We wrote a separate guide on whether we might have enough water in the future where we discuss water resource management in more detail


Increasing Water Efficiency

What It Is

Increased water efficiency involves either:

– Getting the same production a lesser amount of water

– Or, getting more production for the same amount of water


Potential Examples

– Water Efficient Irrigation Systems

Agriculture and irrigation is a major water user across society.

Increased water efficiency may come from more efficient and effective irrigation systems with features like new technology, timers, sensors, a drip system, and other features.

The result might be getting the same crop production with less water use.


– Water Efficient Household Appliances & Devices

Modern water efficient household appliances can perform the same household functions with less water use.

Examples of water efficient appliances or devices might include washing machines, dishwashers, shower heads, taps/faucets, and more. 

A dishwater for example might wash the same load of dishes using less water.


– Potential Use Of AI To Increase Water Efficiency In The Future

In the future, we may also consider the role and impact that Artificial Intelligence technology and systems can play in more sustainably or efficiently using water


Reducing Water Loss & Leaks

What It Is

Fixing sources of water leaks across society

Reducing water loss across different areas of society 


Potential Examples

– Fixing Public Water Supply Pipes

Public supply pipes can leak water, but, they can also burst in some instances and lose water too.

Fixing leaks and burst pipes may save some of this water.


– Fixing Leaks At Home

At home, water can leak from taps/faucets, pipes, toilet, showers, and hoses/sprinklers.

Fixing these appliances, devices, and household objects may save some of this water.


– Other Sources Of Leaks Across Society

Other sources of leaks across society can involve leaks in irrigation systems used in agriculture, leaks in industrial systems, and leaky sprinkler systems used for public services to water lawns, parks, reserves, sports pitches, etc.


Reducing Water Waste 

What It Is

Water waste can be a broad term.

Reducing water waste might generally involve being intentional about not wasting water, directly or indirectly, when it could otherwise be used for something else.


Potential Examples

– Reducing Food Waste

We’ve already identified that the water we eat has a water footprint

Not wasting or throwing out the food we buy may therefore cut down on the water we waste indirectly when we don’t eat it.


– Reducing Water Waste At Home

In this guide, we outline where we use the most water at home for more examples of areas where we could cut down on water waste.

One example might be not running a dishwasher or washing machine on only a partial load. Running on a full load might waste less water. 

Another example might be not running taps and faucets excessively (which can waste water)


– Substituting For Less Water Intensive Products & Services Where Possible

Substituting, or using alternate materials, products and services that have a smaller water footprint might help save water

One potential example of this might be substituting a water hungry cotton for another fibre


Reducing Total Direct Water Consumption

What It Is

Involves reducing water that is used directly by an individual or organisation


Potential Examples

– Reducing Water Use Where Possible In The Household

Examples might be using less water directly, and where safe and practical to do so, for watering gardens and lawn, for cooking, for cleaning, and so on.


Reducing Total Indirect Water Consumption

What It Is

Involves reducing the water that is used indirectly up the supply chain, but not seen by an individual or organisation that uses a product or service.


Potential Examples

– Decreasing Food Water Footprint

Water is used indirectly for food at the farm level to grow crops, and for livestock.

People can understand the water footprint of the food they eat, and consider which foods might be more water efficient than others.

Although, individuals should seek professional health advice before making any changes that could affect their health or well being.

Reducing food waste may be another option.


– Decreasing Electricity Water Footprint

Different energy sources we use for electricity can also use different amounts of water

We don’t see the water used to make electricity as it happen at the electricity generation stage

Choosing a more water efficient energy source may be one way to decrease an electricity water footprint indirectly


– Other Ways To Potentially Reduce Indirect Water Consumption

Another potential method to decrease an individual’s indirect water footprint might be reducing their rate of consumption (at least of new products, and buying pre-used more often where possible).

Two examples of this might be buying clothes that last, instead of buying cheap disposable clothes more frequently, and also, buying a car second hand instead of immediately buying a new one.


Managing Or Restricting Water Withdrawals

What It Is

Managing water withdrawals can involve imposing a limit on, or restricting water withdrawals to a certain amount for each water user across society.

Governments may impose a per person limit, or restriction programs may apply to certain sectors of society, such as to the agricultural sector.

Water scarce countries and cities, and regions whose water supplies are depleting in particular may do this to prevent them from running out.


Potential Examples

– Cape Town

Cape Town was an example of a city that imposed water restrictions during it’s drought and water shortage ‘crisis’, and may still control withdrawals to an extent


– Other Cities & Regions Across The World

But, other cities across the world may also have different levels restrictions in place.


Reducing Water Pollution & Contamination, & Treating Polluted & Contaminated Water

What It Is

We put together a guide outlining what water pollution and contamination is, along with other important aspects of the issue.

In that guide, we mention how water pollution and contamination impact water quality, and also the amount of available water to use for different uses across society (because water needs to be of a certain quality to drink, or use for non potable uses)

Reducing water pollution and contamination may reduce the amount of water deteriorating in water quality across society


Potential Examples

We put together this guide where we list some of the potential solutions to water pollution and contamination.

Preventing water pollution in the first place, and treating water that’s already polluted or contaminated, may be the two core solutions.


Augmenting Freshwater Supplies, &/Or Increasing Freshwater Capacity

What It Is

Augmenting freshwater supplies means to increase the total available water supplies, and increasing capacity means to increase storage capacity, or increase total freshwater generation capacity.

There are a range of ways augmentation and increasing capacity can occur.


Potential Examples

– Water Recycling & Reuse

Water recycling and reuse involves treating wastewater, and reusing it for the same, or a different end use.

Water recycling means that the use of water is more circular with water being reused, instead of having to withdraw from the main water supply all the time

Water recycling has pros and cons to consider though, and some of these pros and cons may bring into question how sustainable it can really be across some aspects


– Desalination

Desalination involves removing salt and other unwanted substances from saline water/salt water, and sometimes brackish water

It enables us to use saltwater as a water source, instead of just freshwater sources 

Like water recycling, desalination has it’s own set of pros and cons to consider, and some of the drawbacks may bring into question how sustainable it can really be. 

The energy intensity and also the cost of desalination are two potential drawbacks that are sometimes identified


– Harvesting Rainwater & Rainwater Collection

Rainwater harvesting and collection involves the collection and storage of rainwater for private supply i.e. separate to, and additional to the public water supply.

Rainwater harvesting and rainwater collection can be carried out at largest commercial and industrial levels, or a household level at smaller scales.

There’s potential pros and cons to consider with the harvesting and collection of rainwater


– Water-From-Air Technology (& Atmospheric Water Generation)

As the name suggest, this is the harvesting of water from the air/atmosphere.

Passive water-from-air devices, and more active machines like Atmospheric Water Generators can be used.

This is yet another water generation method that doesn’t rely on withdrawing straight from freshwater sources 

There are some potential pros and cons of water from air technology and AWGs to consider, and like some of the other methods mentioned in this guide, there may be some unsustainable features to their use


– Building Additional Water Storage Capacity

One example of this is building a new dam to increase water storage capacity for a city i.e. the amount of storage area for freshwater, so there’s a greater volume to withdraw from


– Adding To, Or Modifying Existing Water Catchment Areas

Water catchment areas channel and filter water into surface water sources, and also help percolate water into groundwater.

Adding new water catchment areas, or making existing areas more effective, might help add water to existing water sources and water storage areas.


– Groundwater Replenishment & Recharge Schemes

In some instances, it may be possible to set up systems to recharge or replenish groundwater storage sources and aquifers.

Using excess rainwater runoff may be one way to do this.

Aquifer recharge initiatives and projects are something that Perth in Western Australia has explored, with both rainwater runoff and treated water.

There’s also sometimes the potential to artificially recharge aquifers with rainwater runoff whereby civil structures facilitate this activity


Per qz.com: ‘Farmers are [also] partnering with scientists and conservationists to recharge groundwater by inundating farm fields with wintertime floodwater, which then seeps through the soil to the aquifer below’


Substituting Fresh Water For An Alternative

What It Is

This involves substituting fresh water for an alternative resource for some type of activity or use.


Potential Examples

– CO2 Cleaning

Using dry CO2 cleaning vs the alternative of wet water cleaning


– Substituting Freshwater For Saltwater At Thermal Power Plants

Consider the practicality of using salt water instead of freshwater for cooling at thermal power plants. 


Indirect Factors That Might Impact The Sustainable Use Of Water

Indirect or external factors to consider when trying to sustainably manage water across society might be:

– Population sizes and population growth


– Rate of consumption

More demand and consumption generally means more water use (especially of water intensive resources like beef and fossil fuels like coal)


– Economic growth

More growth might mean more water consumption for production and consumption


– A changing climate


– Overall Water management strategies and planning for cities as a whole


How Cities Can Sustainably Manage Water Supplies & Resources Into The Future

Aside from the potential solutions mentioned in the guide above, some guides that might contain other relevant solutions on a society wide scale might be:

Biggest Global Fresh Water Problems, & Solutions 

Global ‘Quantity’ Related Water Problems & Solutions

Global ‘Quality’ Related Water Problems & Solutions

How We Might Ensure We Have Enough Water For Society For The Future

How We Might Use Water More Efficiently & Sustainably In Agriculture, Industry, & For Municipal Use

How To Save Water As A Society/In The Community

How Individuals Can Save Water In Daily Life

How To Save Water At Work

How To Save Water At School

How To Save Water For Kids




1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides

2. https://www.power-eng.com/2013/10/22/converting-once-through-cooling-to-closed-loop/#gref

3. https://www.watercalculator.org/footprint/what-is-a-water-footprint/

4. https://waterfootprint.org/en/water-footprint/what-is-water-footprint/

5. https://qz.com/1184486/we-must-fix-the-water-cycle-it-before-it-dooms-civilization-again/


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