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Methodology for a Comprehensive Analysis (Triple Bottom Line) of Alternative Water Supply Projects Compared to Direct Potable Reuse

Project: 14-03
Estimated Release: 2016
Type: Decision Making Tool

Program: Principal
Funding Partner: Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence
Total Investment: $457,774 (Cash: $250,000, In-Kind cash and service: $207,774)

Principal Investigator: Ben Stanford, Ph.D., Hazen and Sawyer


Elected officials, water and wastewater agency officials, regulators, as well as other interested parties with the responsibility to plan and implement optimal water supply solutions need to understand the holistic differences between direct potable reuse (DPR) and other various water supply options. In many cases, only the financial impacts are evaluated and compared. However, to provide a true comparison, a fully objective and comprehensive assessment and analysis is warranted. Thus, this study, which will build off of prior Foundation research, will employ an approach that considers more than financial effects on the implementing organization. It will provide decision makers with a triple bottom line (TBL) assessment methodology and tool to evaluate the financial, environmental, and social factors of various water supply options being considered compared to DPR.

Goals and Objectives

This project will develop and demonstrate an assessment method to provide information to decision makers in considering the full economic, social, and environmental impacts of a DPR water supply system versus various other alternative supplies.

Research Approach

Various DPR treatment options developed under project WRRF-11-02 (and deemed to be protective of public health) will be compared with the other water supply options including, but not limited to:

  • Seawater desalination
  • Indirect potable reuse
  • Surface or ground water importation
  • Title 22 reclamation
  • Increased groundwater production
  • Demand-side management (Water Use Efficiency)
  • Supply-side efficiency (Distribution system loss control)

A triple bottom line analysis will be employed to develop a methodology that enables a comprehensive evaluation of the various water supply options. The analysis should also include any other benefits and costs that cannot be evaluated in a traditional TBL analysis. A Base Case for comparison is a “no project” option which assesses the impacts of not developing any additional supply including: value of a redundant/back-up supply (or opportunity cost of not having it), costs of avoiding the economic development associated with a new supply, costs associated with water supply constraints, etc.

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