The construction of centralized wastewater collection systems and treatment plants in the United States was one of the great public health success stories of the millennium. Today, however, many question the ability of the current model to meet the challenges of climate change and urban growth demands as well as the need to replace much of the existing infrastructure. This model uses vast quantities of clean water as transport, does a poor job of reusing nutrients, is increasingly energy intensive, disperses contaminants, disrupts natural ecological cycles, and is divorced from the bigger picture of water in the urban and natural environment. The Aspen Institute characterizes the issue this way: “While the traditional definition of water infrastructure focused mainly on physical structures associated with drinking water ...

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