Best Practices for Delivering Clean Water in a Changing World

May 31, 2023

Clean water is essential for human health and well-being, and climate change, among many other issues, has increasingly become a threat to the availability of this vital resource. This article will provide a comprehensive assessment of best practices for delivering clean water to the consumer despite climate change impacts. It will cover topics such as the types of water sources available, methods for ensuring safety and quality, and innovative technologies that can be used to maximize access to clean water. The goal of this article is to provide an overview of the current state of water delivery and to offer a range of strategies that can be used to effectively deliver clean water despite the challenges posed from natural causes and climate change.

  1. Types of Water Sources

The availability of clean water depends on the type of water source available. In some areas, groundwater may be easily accessible and naturally free from contamination. Accessibility is through a well and modern types of drilling or digging can be utilized to reach the water table or underground aquifer. Pumping of water with energy efficient equipment can be used via variable speed drives (VSD) that can be customized to the specific type of drilling job. In some parts of the world including the US, surface water may be the only viable source, but its quality may be more vulnerable to climate change impacts and man-made pollution like high phosphorus levels from fertilizer use via irrigation runoff, and contamination from industrial waste. This section will provide an overview of the different types of water sources that can be used to deliver clean water.


Groundwater is one of the most common sources of clean water. It can be found in aquifers located beneath the surface of the land or in reservoirs created by natural features like rivers and lakes. Groundwater is naturally filtered by layers of soil and rock and is usually low in contaminants. It is also relatively easy to access and pump, making it an attractive option for delivering clean water in areas where it is available. Groundwater may provide a viable means of satiating the consumption demand of large portions of the population, however, transboundary basins that span neighboring countries or cities may give rise to water rights issues and long-drawn legal battles.

Surface Water

Surface water is any form of water found at the surface of the land, such as rivers, lakes, and oceans. While surface water can provide an abundant source of clean water, it is also vulnerable to contamination from pollution by runoff from urban areas or agricultural fields. Climate change can also cause variability in weather patterns, which can lead to flooding and other disruptions that can impact the quality of surface water sources. Melted snowcaps, excessive rains which cause flooding, and the effects of El Nino and La Nina are examples of the erratic features of climate change. The questions relating to aquaculture and biodiversity come to the fore at this juncture. Just how much of the natural resource can humans use before it becomes detrimental to other species sharing the planet? Human activity like hydropower generation utilizes surface water at a massive scale. Fishing, wastewater treatment, and construction of infrastructure to divert water in order to supply communities that are outside the range can cause disruptions to the chemical components of these important water bodies. Human activity, thus, must be curbed to avoid lasting and detrimental effects. For example, the application of pesticides or fertilizers on farms may need to be timed with evapotranspiration cycles. Other controlled human activity include measurement of algae content to understand degradation levels, and considerations for water bodies that contain susceptible aquatic life (close to extinct or extremely rare species) and highlighting the reasons they cannot be approved by municipalities for runoff from human activity.


Rainwater is another type of source for delivering clean water. In the US, precipitation in 1901 averaged 710.93 mm until 2021. Reported highs of 834.45 mm in 2019 were recorded, while in 1910, the record low of 593.18 mm was reported. Rainwater harvesting systems are becoming increasingly popular as a way to capture and store rainwater for use as a drinking source, and for many other domestic uses. These systems are relatively easy to install and can provide an abundant supply of clean drinking water during periods when other water sources may be scarce or contaminated. With the integration of technology, rainwater management can prove to be a very sustainable solution to any water problem. In the developing world where access to packaged and ready to ingest water isn’t common, rainwater harvesting and the innovations behind the process has developed over the years. Of course, the quality of rainwater depending on the mediums used to collect are susceptible to scrutiny. However, multinationals and water principals in countries like Finland, Denmark, and Sweden are set to reach landmarks by making the targets set for water sustainable development goals (SDG 6). They are simply ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. These countries often extend their support in the form of intellectual and proprietary technology to developing countries.

Chart data in ‘mm’ and courtesy of World Bank

  1. Ensuring Safety and Quality

Once a suitable source of clean water has been identified, it is important to ensure that safety and quality standards are met. Here is an overview of strategies that can be used to maintain high standards for safety and quality in both groundwater and surface water sources.


Testing is an essential part of ensuring safe drinking water. Regular testing with test strips, color disk kits, and hand-held digital instruments are common methods for testing for quality of water. Users or laboratories simply need to collect samples and test for certain chemicals like fluorides, Arsenic (As), or nitrates on a spectrum to determine levels high enough to be considered as harmful to humans. These tests may be done regularly and should be conducted  thoroughly to monitor levels of contaminants from different geographical positions of the same water body and at different depths of the river or lake to discover bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides, and other pollutants that may pose a risk to public health, as mentioned earlier. By testing regularly and randomly, new and unknown sources of effluents or waste with varying chemical compounds and structures may be unearthed.


In some cases, treatment may be necessary in order to make contaminated surface or groundwater safe for drinking. Common methods for treating contaminated water include filtration systems, chemical treatment plants, and ultraviolet light treatment systems. Each method has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to identify the most appropriate treatment solution for each situation. Modern water treatment patents like nanotechnology, and Automatic Variable Filtration (AVF) technology can be used because of their energy efficient models and their ability to scale for size and distribution. Unfortunately, in some landlocked countries like The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and inland Kuwait, where the biggest disadvantage is the lack of access to natural sources of water by a substantial amount of the population, desalination and the large-scale energy exertion associated with the process is commonplace. (33 million people in rural areas in DRC lack access to quality water). Thus, research programs like Purdue University’s have made fresh breakthrough in the energy conserving water treatment process called ‘double-acting batch reverse osmosis’. The Lafayette, Indiana based university’s process focuses on energy efficient activities in the desalination process and can process water with much higher salinity. A variant of the process which also uses piston technology is called “batch counterflow reverse osmosis.”


Incentives can also be used to encourage people to adopt practices that promote safe drinking water. For example, subsidies or tax breaks can be offered to encourage people to install rainwater harvesting systems or invest in filtration systems that can improve the quality of their drinking water. In the UK, businesses like Stormsaver whose vision is ensure a clean, safe, sustainable water supply for all, are supporting a government initiative which cadres consumers in the Thames Water supply region into 3 tiers. These consumers will be paid or discounted amounts ranging £1,000 to £200 for water efficiency (if they adhere to the standard of 110 liters per person per day) and rainwater harvesting (technologies installed to record the capture of at least 50 liters of water use per property per day). Financial incentives like these can also be used to encourage people to practice sustainable agriculture techniques that reduce runoff into nearby waterways. Associations and regulatory bodies often offer incentives for novel innovative irrigation techniques to innovators and research institutes.

  1. Innovative Technologies

Innovative technologies are  becoming commonplace for the delivery of clean water to consumers despite climate change impacts and man-made problems. Holistically, innovative technologies range from complex programs in the form of software that can forecast and estimate revenue based on projections in water supply or demand, to augmented reality simulations that can help utilities order parts that fit perfectly into operations. This section will provide an overview of some examples of innovative technologies that are being utilized today in order to maximize access to clean drinking water.

Desalination Plants

Desalination plants are becoming increasingly popular as a way to produce fresh drinking water from saltwater sources like oceans or brackish groundwater sources. These treatment plants use reverse osmosis technology to filter out salt particles from seawater in order to produce fresh drinking water. Desalination plants are expensive and energy intensive but they can provide an abundant supply of fresh drinking water when other sources are scarce or unavailable due to climate change impacts and pollution. SCADA systems may be used to decouple the treatment and supply process in desalination plants to provide granularity and deep analysis.

Greywater Systems

Greywater is a term for ways to recycle wastewater for use as a drinking source. Although the stigma associated with drinking treated water from some particular sources may need to be resolved, greywater has proven to be safe and good for use. Simply put, greywater systems use biological treatment processes in order to filter out contaminants from wastewater to be used as a drinking source or for irrigation purposes. Greywater systems are becoming more popular, and as mentioned earlier, aside from SDG 6 and its targets which greywater adequately solves, greywater also addresses SDG’s 7, 11, and 12 proving to be fit for many domestic, manufacturing, and agricultural purposes. Greywater technologies and rainwater harvesting technologies may also be combined to deliver a more resilient water treatment system. 

Smart Meter Technology

Smart meter technology is also being utilized in order to more efficiently manage existing supplies of clean drinking water by providing real-time data about usage trends and potential leaks in a distribution system. This technology allows for more efficient management of existing resources by identifying areas where conservation efforts could be most effective or where upgrades could be made in order to improve efficiency and reduce waste due to leaks or overuse. Different hardware and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can be coupled together to deliver high-precision wireless readings thereby contributing to an efficient water system. Meanwhile, smart meters can often be controlled and monitored from laptops or mobile phones. They can be categorized in the internet of things (IoT) group of hardware with dashboard and open source software capabilities. These are usually used in tandem with smart taps and smart pumps that feed a database that the user can run analytics on thereby gaining insights. Cloud technology is the platform used for the implementation of this type of activity.

Cloud Technology

Cloud technology is being used by many municipalities to manage and maximize access to clean drinking sources through remote monitoring capabilities and data analysis tools. These tools are effective for the identification of potential problems before they become major issues. This type of technology allows municipalities to make better decisions about how best to manage their infrastructure and the benefits are overwhelming. Cloud technology allows users or utility principals to monitor dispersed systems with just internet access and software. Customers can understand minute details of their billing, infrastructure use can be monitored for maintenance with edge technology, and lastly, water supply companies can understand their revenue projections and better manage customers. The pool of information from all these data points (manufacturer, user or customer, water utility, regulatory body, researchers) ensures a comprehensive audit of the entire water system and life cycle. It’s the sort of solution Varuna provides with an emphasis on water risk.


Climate change presents many challenges when it comes to delivering clean drinking sources around the world but there are a range of strategies, including United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, that can help mitigate these challenges. Activities like utilizing available sources (rainwater and greywater), ensuring safety and quality through testing and treatment processes (desalination and reverse osmosis), and offering of financial incentives to residents can promote sustainable practices (municipal discounts). Finally, utilizing innovative technologies like  cloud compute and analytics solutions can , in their own way, contribute to global access to safe drinking water.