Integrated urban water management

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Comparing the natural and urban water cycle and streetscapes in conventional and Blue-Green Cities

Integrated urban water management (IUWM) is a philosophy of varying definitions and interpretations. According to the authors of the book entitled, "Integrated Urban Water Management: Humid Tropics", IUWM is described as the practice of managing freshwater, wastewater, and storm water as components of a basin-wide management plan. It builds on existing water supply and sanitation considerations within an urban settlement by incorporating urban water management within the scope of the entire river basin.[1] One of the early champions of IUWM, SWITCH is a research program funded by the European Union and seeks to shift urban water management away from ad hoc solutions to a more integrated approach. IUWM within an urban water system can also be conducted by performance assessment of any new intervention strategies by developing a holistic approach which encompasses various system elements and criteria including sustainability type ones in which integration of water system components including water supply, waste water and storm water subsystems would be advantageous.[2] Simulation of metabolism type flows in urban water system can also be useful for analysing processes in urban water cycle of IUWM.[2][3]

IUWM is commonly seen as a strategy for achieving the goals of Water Sensitive Urban Design. IUWM seeks to change the impact of urban development on the natural water cycle, based on the premise that by managing the urban water cycle as a whole; a more efficient use of resources can be achieved providing not only economic benefits but also improved social and environmental outcomes. One approach is to establish an inner, urban, water cycle loop through the implementation of reuse strategies. Developing this urban water cycle loop requires an understanding both of the natural, pre-development, water balance and the post-development water balance. Accounting for flows in the pre- and post-development systems is an important step toward limiting urban impacts on the natural water cycle.[4]


Activities under the IUWM include the following:[5]

According to Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), IUWM requires the management of the urban water cycle in coordination with the hydrological water cycle which are significantly altered by urban landscapes and its correlation to increasing demand. Under natural conditions the water inputs at any point in the system are precipitation and overland flows; while the outputs are via surface flows, evapo-transpiration and groundwater recharge. The large volumes of piped water introduced with the change to an urban setting and the introduction of vast impervious areas strongly impact the water balance, increasing in-flows and dramatically altering the out-flow components.[4]


  • The Agenda 21 (UN Department for Sustainable Development, 1992) has worked out the Dublin Principles for Integrated water resources management in more detail for urban areas. One of the objectives of Agenda 21 is to develop environmentally sound management of water resources for urban use.[6]
  • The Bellagio Statement formulated by the Environmental Sanitation Working Group of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council in 2000 include principals such as: Human dignity, quality of life, environmental security, an open stakeholder process, and many others.[6]
  • The UNEP 3 Step Strategic Approach developed in 2005 is based on the application of the "Cleaner Production approach" that has been successful in the industrial sector. The three steps are: Prevention, Treatment for reuse, and Planned discharge with stimulation of self-purification capacity.[6]
  • UNESCO's Institute for Water Education seeks to build on the progress made by the Bellagio Statement and UNEP's 3-step approach by developing the SWITCH approach to IUWM. Components include: the addition of a sustainability assessment, new methods of planning urban water systems, and modifications to planning and strategy development.[6]


An example of IUWM is the Catskill/ Delaware water system that provides 1.4 billion US gallons (5,300,000 m3) of water per day, including to all of New York City. The IUWM process included an extensive stakeholder engagement process, whereby the needs of all parties were included into the final management plan. A partnership was created between New York City, the agricultural community, and the federal government. The case has become a model for successful IUWM.[7]

Grey water systems[edit]

Grey water (also written; greywater, gray water, or graywater) is water used with appliances that do not involve or encounter human waste. It gets its name relative to black water which is heavily contaminated with human waste. Different resources suggest what equipment produce grey or black water. However, it is most commonly accepted that bathtubs, showers, washbasins, washing machines, and laundry tubs produce grey water, whereas toilets, sinks, and dishwashers are classified as black water sources.

In 1989 Santa Barbara became the first district in the United States to legalize the recycling and reuse of grey water. Since then, grey water has become a part of integrated urban water management. It addresses the practice of managing wastewater at the residential scale. The premise of grey water reuse is the concept that the average household uses most of its water indoors (roughly 60%), meaning much of that water can be reused to provide for the water required to support irrigation. Additionally, most domestic appliances automatically collect grey water in order for it to be disposed.

There are three types of grey water systems each of which has different requirements, codes, and sizing specifications. However, they share standards to meet health and safety regulations:

The Arizona R18-9-711. Type 1 Reclaimed water General Permit for Gray Water,[8] stands as the model for grey water system regulation

  1. Human contact with gray water and soil irrigated by gray water is avoided;
  2. Gray water originating from the residence is used and contained within the property boundary for household gardening, composting, lawn watering, or landscape irrigation;
  3. Surface application of gray water is not used for irrigation of food plants, except for citrus and nut trees;
  4. The gray water does not contain hazardous chemicals derived from activities such as cleaning car parts, washing greasy or oily rags, or disposing of waste solutions from home photo labs or similar hobbyist or home occupational activities;
  5. The application of gray water is managed to minimize standing water on the surface;
  6. The gray water system is constructed so that if blockage, plugging, or backup of the system occurs, gray water can be directed into the sewage collection system or onsite wastewater treatment and disposal system, as applicable. The gray water system may include a means of filtration to reduce plugging and extend system lifetime;
  7. Any gray water storage tank is covered to restrict access and to eliminate habitat for mosquitoes or other vectors;
  8. The gray water system is sited outside of a floodway;
  9. The gray water system is operated to maintain a minimum vertical separation distance of at least five feet from the point of gray water application to the top of the seasonally high groundwater table;
  10. For residences using an onsite wastewater treatment facility for black water treatment and disposal, the use of a gray water system does not change the design, capacity, or reserve area requirements for the onsite wastewater treatment facility at the residence, and ensures that the facility can handle the combined black water and gray water flow if the gray water system fails or is not fully used;
  11. Any pressure piping used in a gray water system that may be susceptible to cross connection with a potable water system clearly indicates that the piping does not carry potable water;
  12. Gray water applied by surface irrigation does not contain water used to wash diapers or similarly soiled or infectious garments unless the gray water is disinfected before irrigation; and
  13. Surface irrigation by gray water is only by flood or drip irrigation.

A complex grey water system provides for a development with a substantial discharge (greater than 250 gallons) per day. It requires a written construction permit submitted to the enforcing agency.

A simple grey water system is sized to serve a one or two family home with a medium level water discharge (maximum 250 gallons) per day. It too, requires a written construction permit submitted to the Enforcing Agency.

A clothes washer grey water system is sized to recycle the grey water of a one or two family home using the reclaimed water of a washing machine (produces 15 gallons per person per day).[9] It relies on either the pump from the washing machine or gravity to irrigate. This particular system is the most common and least restricted system. In most states, this system does not require construction permits. This system is often characterized as Laundry to Landscape (L2L). The system relies on valves, draining to a mulch basin, or the area of irrigation for certain landscape features (a mulch basin for a tree requires 12.6 ft2). The drip system must be calibrated to avoid uneven distribution of grey water or overloading.[10]

Delivery methods[edit]

  • Above Grade Gravity-Fed Irrigation

Often used for washing machine or tub with gravity-fed irrigation systems[11]

  1. Grey water leaves source and passes through three-way diversion valve
  2. Water enters either gully trap or surge tank
  3. Tank water enters filter bag
  4. Filtered water falls to irrigation system
  • Submersible Pump Diversion to Irrigation

Often used for low level of contamination in water, providing that unsuitable water enters sewer[11]

  1. Grey Water discharges over a screen filter which can be diverted to a gully with a valve leading to the sewer
  2. Screen filtered water enters a submersed pump
  3. Pump sends water to irrigation system
  • Above Grade Gravity-Fed Pumped Irrigation

Often used for laundry or bathroom grey water systems with pumped irrigation[11]

  1. Grey water leaves through three-way diversion valve
  2. Enters surge tank
  3. Tank water enters filter bag
  4. Filtered water enters submersible pump
  5. Pump supplies water to irrigation system

Indoor reuse[edit]

Recycled grey water from domestic appliances also can be used to flush toilet.[12] It application is based on standards set by plumbing codes. Indoor grey water reuse requires an efficient cleaning tank for insoluble waste, as well as a well regulated control mechanism.

The Uniform Plumbing Code, adopted in some U.S. jurisdictions, prohibits greywater use indoors.

Construction of grey water systems[edit]

A written construction permit is required prior to building, fixing, relocating, or altering any system that requires a permit. Permits require usage data, member sizing, and soil conditions (to reduce pooling of grey water). Different states and regions are subject to different requirements of plans and system specifications. Standards set by state dictate codes for grey water systems based on definition of grey water, system type, and permit requirement. In many cases, construction can be done without contracting a professional.

Testing and inspection[edit]

A grey water system that requires a permit must accurately determine the absorptive capacity of soils. Certain tests may be required for irregular soils, or undocumented areas.

A permitted system is required to be inspected. During construction the system is to be left uncovered. Additionally, implementation of certain devices can be prescribed in codes and requirements. A Reduced Pressure (RP) backflow device at property entry makes it easier to assess any amounts of crossover between grey water and a potentially potable water supply.


The biggest concern in Integrated Urban Water Management systems, specifically grey water reuse is the introduction of untreated water into a landscape. It is important that grey water systems maximize natural purification through healthy topsoil, avoiding contact between greywater before and after filtration. Untreated grey water has the capacity to meet runoff and ultimately pollute water systems.[13]

Research suggests that evaporated grey water can leave microorganisms that can be harmful if breathed or consumed.[14] It is best practice to not use greywater in a sprinkler system, for this reason. Direct application of grey water can leave the aforementioned microorganisms on foliage. Grey water should not be used on fruits or vegetables (unless applied very carefully and specifically to the roots – although most state codes won't allow this).

Excess grey water which may not percolate into the soil could become runoff often leading the untreated water to waterways. Grey water should not be applied to saturated soil, and should be used conservatively.

Many household cleaners contain ingredients which can't be removed by a typical grey water filtration system. This requires an assessment of which substances will alter the quality of the grey water. Additionally, not all household appliances should be used for grey water recycling. Some should be diverted separately to sewage.

Grey water filtration systems are not equipped to handle the highest levels contaminants. Discretion is required as to when to use the grey water system. This includes consideration of what appliances to connect, as well as how much water is being processed at any given time.

One of the most significant challenges for IUWM could be securing a consensus on the definition of IUWM and the implementation of stated objectives at operational stages of projects. In the developing world there is still a significant fraction of the population that has no access to proper water supply and sanitation. At the same time, population growth, urbanization and industrialization continue to cause pollution and depletion of water sources. In the developed world, pollution of water sources is threatening the sustainability of urban water systems. Climate change is likely to affect all urban centers, either with increasingly heavy storms or with prolonged droughts, or perhaps both. To address the challenges facing IUWM it is crucial to develop good approaches, so that policy development and planning are directed towards addressing these global change pressures, and to achieving truly sustainable urban water systems.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tucci, C., Goldenfum, J.A., Parkinson J.N. (2009). 978-92-3-104065-8 "Integrated Urban Water Management: Humid Tropics". CRC Press. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-09-18. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b Behzadian, K; Kapelan, Z (2015). "Advantages of integrated and sustainability based assessment for metabolism based strategic planning of urban water systems" (PDF). Science of the Total Environment. 527–528: 220–231. Bibcode:2015ScTEn.527..220B. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.04.097. hdl:10871/17351. PMID 25965035.
  3. ^ Behzadian, k; Kapelan, Z (2015). "Modelling metabolism based performance of an urban water system using WaterMet2" (PDF). Resources, Conservation and Recycling. 99: 84–99. doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2015.03.015. hdl:10871/17108.
  4. ^ a b Barton, A.B. (2009). "Advancing IUWM through an understanding of the urban water balance". Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Retrieved 2009-09-14.
  5. ^ "Integrated urban water management" (PDF). United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 2009. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Sustainable Water Management in the City of the Future: Report providing an inventory of conventional and of innovative approaches for Urban water Management". SWITCH authors. 2006. pp. 3–17. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
  7. ^ "New York: New York City and Seven Upstate New York Counties - Effective Watershed Management Earns Filtration Waiver for New York". EPA. 2009. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2009-09-15.
  8. ^ "ADEQ: Water Quality Division: Permits". Retrieved 2016-04-21.
  9. ^ "Laundry to Landscape Original Complete Information Hub". Retrieved 2016-04-21.
  10. ^ Times, Los Angeles (16 September 2014). "Gray water: from the washer to the garden". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
  11. ^ a b c Ltd, BRANZ. "How does a greywater system work?". Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  12. ^ "Gray Water Indoor Reuse, Cascading, Rainwater Harvesting". Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  13. ^ "Integrated Stormwater Management". SPUR. 11 December 2008. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
  14. ^ "Greywater". Retrieved 2016-04-21.