A system dynamics approach for urban water reuse planning: a case study from the Great Lakes region

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Abstract

Water reclamation and reuse practices are recently receiving growing attention due to increasing water scarcity, concerns about the effect of wastewater discharges on receiving water, and availability of high-performing and cost-effective water reuse technologies. However, incorporation of water reuse schemes into water/wastewater infrastructure systems is a complex decision making process, involving various economical, technological, and environmental criteria. System dynamics (SD) allows modeling of complex systems and provides information about the temporal and feedback behavior of the system. In this sense, a SD model of the existing water/wastewater system in Kalamazoo-Michigan, an urban area in the Great Lakes region, was created with the hypothetical incorporation of water reuse. The model simulates and optimizes the overall water system cost (including water, wastewater and water reuse components), accounting for future scenarios of population, economic growth and climate change. Results indicate significant levels of water reuse after an infrastructure build delay. The model also indicates that a decision to implement water reuse yields remarkably lower water withdrawals and lower water treatment costs even in a location with a relatively abundant water supply like Kalamazoo. This study emphasizes the fact that a true understanding of the practice of water reuse cannot be achieved without taking regional and climatic parameters into account.