Decision Support Framework for Water Reuse in Water-Scarce Regions Involving Risk and Sustainability Assessments

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    Andrea Müller Pavez

    Water is indispensable for all human activities. When the population increases, so does the demand for water. With high population growth and urbanisation in the 21st century, pressure on available water resources is increasing. As highlighted by the World Water Development Report 2017 [1] already more than four billion people face water scarcity in the world. Therefore, a critical challenge for growing cities is the sustainable management of water resources while confronting the compounded effects of urbanisation and climate change. Focus should be placed on how to manage water resources when faced with the risk of water scarcity. Water reuse has risen as one important strategy for moving towards more efficient and sustainable water management. 

    In Latin America, there is significant demographic growth and a high urbanisation rate. Currently, around 80% of the population lives in urban areas [2]. The region has many areas affected by water scarcity. Wastewater has been recognised already as a valuable resource in some countries undergoing this situation. However, issues within the wastewater management sector reflect the need for new water resources management strategies. This means that decision-support mechanisms can be of great importance. The ability to jointly assess the risk of water scarcity and the sustainability of water reuse measures for a particular area would be of great support for decision makers. Such an assessment would allow the decision-maker to know if and how water reuse can help to lower the risk of water scarcity and how the sustainability of this system is related to this risk reduction. 

    The overall objective of this research project is to develop and test a decision support framework for the evaluation of the sustainability of water reuse as a measure to reduce water scarcity risk.

    The framework will consider the interrelation of current risk and sustainability assessment concepts, methodologies, and indicators. First, a conceptual framework will integrate knowledge on risk and sustainability assessment of the reuse of water in a societal decision-making context. The conceptual framework will then be operationalised through a methodological framework specifying key indicators, underlying methods, and thresholds, including their adaptation to site-specific conditions. Finally, the two-level decision support framework will be tested in a case study in Latin America.

    This project is funded by a postgraduate scholarship of the Chilean National Agency for Research and Development (ANID).

    [1] WWAP, United Nations World Water Assessment Programme. 2017. Wastewater: The Untapped Resource. Edited by UNESCO. The United Nations World Water Development Report 2017. Paris, France: UNESCO. 

    [2] Mateo-Sagasta, Javier. 2017. ‘Reutilización de aguas para agricultura en América Latina y el Caribe: estado, principios y necesidades’. Santiago, Chile: FAO.

  • Müller, Andrea, Tamara Avellán, and Jochen Schanze. 2021. “Translating the ‘water scarcity – water reuse’ situation into an information system for decision-making.” Sustainability Science.

    Müller, Andrea, Tamara Avellán, and Jochen Schanze. 2020. “Risk and sustainability assessment framework for decision support in ‘water scarcity – water reuse’ situations. Journal of Hydrology, 591, 1-15.