Infrastructure is non existent or too expensive and hard to maintain

Water and wastewater infrastructure is not universally available and further challenged by urbanization. In addition, infrastructure for centralized water reuse systems (the prevailing approach) is expensive, extensive, and requires constant maintenance by highly skilled workforce.

  • Do you agree this is a major barrier to water reuse?
  • Do you know of any specific innovations currently trying to address this problem?

Please first read what I have written in Decentralized water reuse.

To do according to these proposals is good for the environment and the economy. A win win opportunity.

For many years I have among other things calculated total costs for, among other things, water and sewerage systems. For many years I have also wanted to change how these facilities are designed.

I want to say that we have all the tools needed for the change. In my opinion, it is only necessary that we decide for a change.

XPRIZE contacts the right financiers. After or during the competition, when the right financier gets involved in this with advisers, they will, I think, realize that it helps the environment their image and becomes a good business.

It would be great if someone built an experimental suburb or village?

Each project is unique, but I realize that potential savings for the environment and the economy are huge.

I once again take the example of San Diego. What a great saving a city would make by not having to construct water drains, sewage systems or storm water systems. The city does not have the need to produce clean water or take care of wastewater for the property owner.

Any property that could provide for itself would be a great saving for the city. In the end, this means the city can spend money on other things or lower taxes.

The property owner receives a water and sewer system which in principle has very low operating costs. They also do not have to pay for water and sewage for the city. The biogas can be used.
In addition, property owners are more protected in the event of a social crisis or acts of terrorism that attempt to poison cities’ water. Then they have their own water and drains. Then we know that water quality is not always the best in old municipal networks.

Great if combined with passive houses with their own electricity production!


I would rather not think of individual reuse systems in my opinion. It could not be (talking Latinamerica for example) a very good idea.

Each project is unique and must be adapted. New building or renovation suburb, village, city center or a farm.In an existing city center it is difficult to do everything directly. It is advisable to start by changing the toilet and showers in connection with renovation. At the same time, modern dishwashers and washing machines are installed.
Only these measures will significantly reduce water consumption. At the same time, the need to reduce wastewater treatment needs is reduced.
In conjunction with remodeling, one should also consider rebuilding so that there are separate pipes for bath shower water faeces and urine.
To be able to recycle this.
Perhaps due to space scarcity, there is still the need to place recycling facilities outside the city center.
Rainwater can if it is not a very polluted city be collect from roofs and be purified.
All water recycled does not have to be of drinking water quality. There is always the need for watering lawns and plants. Hopefully we do not have internal combustion cars in cities in the near future.
The storm water should be able to be rebuilt in order to be used.
I hope I do not bore you all with my writings.
Have a great weekend!

Boring? It is interesting to hear and write about opinions and exchange of ideas. That is XPRIZE made for…i think.
What if reuse is not viewed due to rebuilding and redigning projects but for industry. Reuse of water for their own processes could sginificantly increase other water for consumption. Nice weekend…

Thank you @Vesa for your interesting and detailed comments. I’m very curious to learn from your experience about cost that enables the adoption of a system. When looking at decentralized systems, there are immediate savings just by the very nature of avoiding lengthy, complex, rigid centralized structures. This is also one of the consideration for why we chose to explore a focus on potable water reuse (health&safety needs will require additional infrastructure for non-potable reuse).

But, through our research, we came across an opinion that such savings (and complex approach to costs) won’t be necessarily taken into account in procurement processes – but rather the cost of the system or the cost of water to end-user will be the determining factor. Can you share some thoughts on that?

Thank you @Vesa and @GREENLY for a very interesting conversation about infrastructure and scale of various water reclamation systems.

I first want to confirm that this exchange is indeed exactly why we set up these online communities of experts like yourselves to debate important questions that help us design the best competition.

@vesa I have read through your ideas on this post and the Decentralized water reuse ones. Extremely interesting!

One thing you both bring up is the ‘size of the system’ and how closely connected that is to infrastructure challenges.

What we are interested in is a ‘community-scale’ system that serves around 300 people. Any thoughts around infrastructure given that specific community size?

Thank you very much for your inputs. A system should adapt form our point of view to the necessities and manily now that the people do not live precisely where the facilities for services reach. That for any system (Greenly by the way) should adapt between units of 1 person to cities or even countries. Nevertheless, I would also mention that this adaption should also consider not only size but also energy and space availability to be ideal.

Thanks for your feedback.
It is always difficult to change incorporated ways of thinking. According to my opinion, one should always do and overall assessment. But, depending on the size of the project, I would dare to say that a decentralized system always provides a very low price for water and sewage for the affected property owner.
Sometimes new thinking is counteracted by cities. They oblige the property owner to pay connection fees for the city’s network, even if the property owner arranges water and sewage himself in an environmental and economic way.
In addition, the property owner is allowed to pay the other costs via the tax once again. Each country and city has its own local rules that are extremely difficult to influence. How many decision-makers have comprehensive knowledge in all the areas concerned?
A very difficult task without skilled advisers.
I can present suggestions of technically and environmentally sound solutions according to my experience.
But changing the way procurement is compared must come from those involved.
I would suggest that decision makers when new areas such as suburbs are to be built at least have in mind the savings for society. Sometimes a new suburb can be miles from existing infrastructure. Sometimes existing villages want and demand that they start to enjoy the benefits that others in society have. Even these existing villages can be very far from existing infrastructure. Then provide a decentralized water and sewerage system combined with regenerative agriculture etc. gives the opportunity to build new societies in principle anywhere.
At least that’s my personal opinion.
Thanks again for listening to my arguments and I hope I have explained in a good way.

Thank you for the feedback.
In my opinion, a new community of 300 people is good for applying these proposals.
Each apartment or house has showers that recycle water.
Install new environmentally friendly dish and washing machines. Use only certified laundry and detergent.
Water from the bath and shower passes through a biofilter before stored in an on-site villa cistern. For multi-family houses a central cistern.
The water can be used for watering.
Install modern Nordic toilets with two discharges urine is purified via bio charcoal urine is stored on a site or centrally located. Used as fertilizer for plants and lawns.
Feces are led to a bio-chamber and biogas is produced locally as before either in smaller chambers in villas or a central. The residual product is fine food soil.
The gas is used for gas stoves and heat but probably not enough for cars.
Rain water is collected from roofs; roofs are made of non-toxic material, containers of non-toxic material. Which is buried and protected from heat and possible flooding? Surface water can contaminate. Containers must also be protected against insects, etc. and as before, proper purification circulation and aeration.
To be extremely careful, you can also have a multi-stage filter under the sink. It doesn’t cost much and it just needs clean the water for drinks and food.
Storm-water is led to a common pond or lake.
First through oil separators; then through a smaller pond where contaminants can be sediment-ed.
From the smaller pond to a larger one that can withstand a year of normal rain. An artificial waterfall should be used to also purify water. The water should be clean enough to plant fish, etc.
In extreme years there is another outlet that leads the water down to the groundwater or a sand reservoir where plants thrive.
Combine with passive houses with solar panels and storage.
And hopefully some regenerative gardens or farms.
OK, excuse I often write spontaneously, so I’ve probably missed some details but something like this is possible.
All the technique exists.

Sorry I ment to write fine soil. I would not use it for food. Only for lawns and non eatable plants. Just in case.

@Caroline, One more detail. In case of heavy rain and the cisterns are already filled, the surplus should be directed to the stormwater storage and dam system.

@Eti @Caroline
This example has mainly standardized components. No chemicals needed. Natural processes. Quite low tech besides the space showers. No energy needed for purification. Ok some small amount for a circulation pump etcetera. Instead it is energy and water saving. Showers gas oven etcetera. Pipes and cisterns are needed in all standardized construction.
The Orbital shower system hopes to lower the cost to aproximately 750 dollar or less if I remember correctly.
A normal shower system of good quality with water heater and installation costs at least the same or more. The biochamber and water cistern cost some money but you get gas and water for many years. With the right components they might last the economical life time of the property. Just some small examples.


The change of actual uses would be the case for cultural matters. How to encourage to invest in separate pies for different kinds of water or any other adjustments would be the challenge

A rough cost estimate for a detached villa USA:
Orbital shower: 750 USD
Bio filter: 1200 USD
Collecting system with pump for watering (Bio filter): 1000 USD
Nordic toilet: 700 USD
Collecting system with filter for urine including pump: 1500 USD
Bio chamber: 1000-5000 USD
Rain water harvesting system for an average home: 10 000 USD
5 stage filter under sink: 500 USD
Excavator, truck, labor: 3500 USD
Plumber: 2000 USD
A total of approximately 25 000 USD
Maintenance and energy per year: approximately 100 USD
The cost can be reduced when using Indian or Chinese products.
The price can also be reduced by making the bio gas chamber and rainwater collector of locally produced and manufactured concrete.
25 000 USD in investment gives water with no added movable cost. Only the maintenance cost.
The connection fee to city water and sewage system here is approximately 15 000 USD.
The annual cost for the service is approximately 1200-1300 USD
If we assume that the economic life span for the system I presented varies from 20-50 years.
Depending on If you use plastic or concrete products.
With 20-21 years the cost per year is approximately 1200 USD.
The system pays it back just by not having to pay the annual cost for services.
If you take in consideration not having to pay the connection fee the numbers seems even better.
I do not know the service cost in USA but I know that in some areas they use desalinated water etcetera so I image that the service fees are higher.
The household in USA that normally uses around 500 000 liter of water and loads the sewage system with 500 000 liters of waste water. I suppose the cost is quite high.
The system I presented has a total cost per year of around 1200 USD or less including the investment.
In comparison a normal system also have an investment cost, shower toilets, pipes, heater, plumbing, excavator, truck, labor etcetera.
A smaller investment but the system I presented saves besides water also energy costs.
It is a bit harder to do an estimate for another country, I used USA because it is easy to relate.
For systems in India, china, Africa the costs are lower, but also the income.
Everything is relative like Einstein said.

I hope we can start a change here from XPRIZE

The Einstein quote was merely a joke. He never said that.

I wrote earlier that I have long wanted to change today’s water and sewerage system.
You have received some explanations.
But this is how bad it can function now:
The water is taken from a fresh water lake or groundwater.
Households have outdated technology and use far too much water. All wastewater is contaminated by a small amount of feces urine and toxic hygiene products.
Sometimes the wastewater is not purified via sewage treatment plants.
The polluted water is led to rivers of lakes or the sea which become polluted. Even a good modern wastewater treatment plant is unable to purify from medicines and hormones.
There will be an imbalance when water from fresh water lakes and the groundwater is diverted to the sea, for example.
There will be a shortage of groundwater and freshwater lakes will be emptied so then desalination plants are made.
And we call this engineering?
You start to understand why I am upset.
If you instead follow the cycle of nature as I have suggested, then the shower and bath water are led down to the groundwater. The balance is maintained and feces and urine becomes an asset.
Water from households where you keep away dangerous chemicals found in laundry and hygiene products is usually cleaned very well from the soil as it has always been.
The need for wastewater treatment plants almost gets eliminated in the future.
You don’t need as many desalination plants.
I have long had a theory that humans always have been polluting the waters.
They came to a fantastic environment; washed themselves in the lakes and and used it as a toilet meanwhile. Real practical at first but you poison a small lake quickly so the water gets hazardous for man and wildlife.
So they had to find a new place and a new and a new…
Some hundred years ago the water almost everywhere where you could find people was hazardous.
That’s why they drank alcoholic beverages; alcohol kills bacteria. In other regions they drank tea and the boiling killed the water.
So in my opinion we are the wicked of Mother Nature’s children and to call us intelligent is a lack of self-awareness.

I agree that there is a need for additional infrastructure, specifically an innovative approach to the design and construction of infrastructure to radically lower capital costs - something XPRIZEs are good at! :slight_smile:

I’ve added a post about this here:
Infrastructure to balance floods and droughts

It is also worth pointing out that natural low cost solutions can be adopted to help balance the challenges from flood and drought. Most of these are widely known now (but rarely practised). For example, the use of trees, and other natural features to slow and capture water (dams, ponds, and wetlands).

A smart combination of natural and innovative approaches should help us to deliver a more sustainable approach to water usage.

The natural flow of water i very important. But what to do with the already contamminated ones?. Both ideas should be taken into the circle. Very important opinions @Vesa and @akb