Integrated water management and environmental justice – public acceptability and fairness in adopting water innovations

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Innovations to manage freshwater resources and avert shortages – including conservation through use of reclaimed wastewater, desalination, and demand-side management measures such as increasing block rate structures offer practical, effective remedies for meeting future water demands. We examine the challenges confronting adoption of these innovations that revolve around perceptions of fairness and public acceptability. A major obstacle to these approaches' adoption is environmental justice – that the risk and burden of resource solutions, as well as their benefits – should be borne equitably, despite differences of income or race. We first consider how debates regarding water supply are often disputes over different notions of environmental justice. We then examine general equity debates over adopting various innovations in one US state at the nexus of water demand and supply innovation: California. We contend that fairly adopting these innovations requires embracing open, inclusive, and transparent decision-making processes in which no important constituency is excluded from decisions, and in which different notions of environmental justice are embraced.

Keywords: environmental justice, demand-side management, desalination, waste water reuse

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