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Sustainability Assessments to Evaluate the Impact of Water Reuse in Urban Water Resource Management
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This research develops planning-level sustainability assessment approaches for integrated urban water management (IUWM). The research focuses on the IUWM considerations that are most relevant to inland, water stressed cities; specifically using the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area to explore the wastewater management challenges that arise from growth in water demand due to urbanization. This region is hydrologically unique, with rapid growth occurring in hydrologically closed basins, and even the larger Truckee River watershed ends at a terminal lake. These characteristics enforce a close coupling of water and wastewater management as well as unique insights into how growth in water demand results in costs, or impacts, associated with wastewater production that are external to the water utility. In this basin, growth in wastewater production can have acute effects due to the close geographical relationship between the urban growth areas and the “downstream” communities and environments impacted by effluent discharge. Thus, the hydrological conditions of closed basins provide a valuable model for how these externalities around wastewater management can be incorporated into decision making for water resource management. This analysis is also meaningful for demonstrating the importance of taking an IUWM approach in other inland urbanizing regions, where the external effects of population growth on water resources impact communities further downstream.First, a composite index is developed based on the concept of using the water-economy nexus as a strategy to characterize the sustainability of urban water use and reuse, particularly across non-residential water users. Triple bottom line analysis is used as a planning level approach to qualitatively compare the internal and external benefits of alternative urban IUWM scenarios. A microeconomic study then examines the economic efficiency of potable reuse based on the total costs of jointly managing water and wastewater resources for a region. Together, this research highlights the use of sustainability assessment approaches for examining goals such as evaluating regional water policy and comparing the economic, social and environmental impacts alternative resource management scenarios. This research uniquely demonstrates the application of sustainability assessment and the importance of considering water and wastewater resources jointly in urban water management.