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Transforming Community Infrastructure for Water Conservation

Sustainable energy is used in environmental conservancy. A wastewater treatment plant powered by wind turbines and solar panels near Atlantic City in New Jersey, USA.
Sustainable energy is used in environmental conservancy. A wastewater treatment plant powered by wind turbines and solar panels near Atlantic City in New Jersey, USA. Aerial elevated view at the sunset.
Alex Potemkin/Getty Images

Local governments can drastically improve water conservation with a comprehensive approach to water management.

As we navigate an era of increasing water scarcity, the role of local governments in spearheading water conservation efforts becomes paramount. By zeroing in on municipal facilities, government leaders can create significant savings, both in terms of water and finances. Advancements in water metering and wastewater treatment technologies are also revolutionizing the way communities manage their water resources.


Climate change and population growth is bringing long-standing water scarcity issues into the headlines, and it's now imperative for local governments to prioritize water conservation. Fortunately, there are several modern and simple methods they can employ.

At parks and recreation facilities – Parks and recreation facilities are often the biggest source of water usage in a municipality’s portfolio. High-impact solutions to reduce water usage in these environments may include:

  • Park landscaping – Water-efficient landscape design, also known as xeriscaping, combined with smart, weather-based irrigation controllers that adjust watering schedules based on real-time weather data has been found to reduce water usage by 26 percent.
  • Community sports fields – Switching to efficient irrigation systems for sports fields, or even swapping grass for artificial turf, is another impactful method to reduce water usage in outdoor environments.
  • Pools and natatoriums – An effective method of water conservation in these facilities is the use of pool covers. When a pool is not in use, especially overnight or during off-peak seasons, a cover can reduce water loss due to evaporation by up to 50 percent. Modern filtration systems that use significantly less water are also great options to reduce water use in indoor pools.

In city buildings – Comprehensive upgrades to water systems in city buildings can also contribute to water conservation.

  • Retrofitting plumbing – Implementing high-efficiency plumbing fixtures (e.g., low-flow faucets, aerators or laminar flow devices, dual-flush toilets, and waterless urinals) can reduce water usage by up to 60 percent. Communities can quickly swap these fixtures for immediate water saving or do it gradually as older equipment wears out.
  • Reducing potable water usage – Water recycling and rainwater harvesting are other avenues to explore. Rainwater harvesting systems can be installed to collect and store rainwater for non-potable uses such as flushing toilets and subsurface irrigation. Recycled water and graywater systems can also be used in these contexts. 

In jails – When it comes to upgrading water systems in correctional facilities, many local governments often find themselves caught in a deferred maintenance cycle due to tight budgets and limited funding options.

  • Simple plumbing retrofits – Similar to other community buildings, high-efficiency plumbing fixtures will help save significant water as these facilities are often equipped with restrooms, showers, kitchens and laundries.
  • Advanced water savings – More sophisticated, automated plumbing fixtures have the added benefit of protecting against accidental or intentional water overuse. Other options for water conservation in detention facilities may include installing advanced building automation and adding on-site sewage or water recycling systems.

Capital recovery and reinvestment partnerships have helped many communities rethink how they consume water and in turn save millions of gallons of water every year.


For cities that operate their own water utilities, improved water metering can be a huge asset for water conservation. Studies show that between 14 percent % and 18 percent of treated water is lost per day due to water pipeline leaks. Traditional meters often fail to detect low flow rates, leading to significant water loss from unaddressed leaks. But by adopting advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), local governments and citizens can obtain real-time data about their water use, helping to identify leaks early and promote water-saving behaviors among residents. Smart water meters have also been shown to measure water usage more accurately, by as much as 20 percent, allowing communities to have a better understanding of water expenditure.


Wastewater treatment facilities are a critical component of municipal water management strategy. However, cities continue to make headlines for major water system failures caused by aging infrastructure and vulnerability to extreme weather events. Fortunately, there are numerous options to modernize these facilities and make them more sustainable and resilient.

The urban water cycle
The urban water cycle: water abstraction, treatment, distribution and wastewater management infographic
elenabs/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Conservation-focused water treatment technologies – Many modern water treatment technologies not only improve water quality but can also conserve water. For instance, advanced membrane bioreactors (MBRs) combine microfiltration with biological treatment, reducing water loss and producing high-quality effluent suitable for reuse. Similarly, advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) can treat contaminated water, making it a safe resource to restore wetlands, recharge groundwater supplies, and increase flows in rivers and streams.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy integration – Water and wastewater facilities are typically energy-intensive, but implementing energy-efficient equipment and practices can significantly reduce their footprint. For example, variable frequency drives (VFDs) can adjust pump speed to match demand, saving both energy and water. Upgrades to the sludge mixing, pumping and conditioning systems significantly reduce energy consumption. Furthermore, integrating on-site renewable energy sources and battery storage can offset energy use and make facilities more resilient to power disruptions.

Climate-resilient wastewater infrastructure – Water treatment operations have been shown to be highly prone to disruption from extreme weather events — which are only becoming more and more common due to climate change. If cities are to maintain operations, it is crucial to build climate-resilient infrastructure that can help to protect these facilities. Integrating a microgrid into wastewater treatment facilities is an excellent option to keep the plant operational during grid outages. Combined heat and power (CHP) plants have been utilized as the foundation of these microgrid systems at wastewater facilities. CHPs utilize cleaned and filtered methane gas produced by the plant’s processes, combined with solar energy and battery storage, to supply co-generated power to the microgrid.


Bottom line, water conservation is about ensuring equitable access to clean water for all citizens — now and in the future. Local governments have numerous options available to modernize their water systems and conserve water at the same time. Implementing these strategies will ensure reliable and sustainable water services for communities while contributing to global water conservation efforts.

Communities across the U.S. have turned to Schneider Electric for expert support in modernizing their water and wastewater systems. Our integrated solutions have helped communities save up to 30 percent in energy and design costs. And our comprehensive and collaborative approach ensures a project that works for you and your community. To learn more, visit

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