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Water: Sustainable Infrastructure

Alternative Technologies & Assessment


When addressing our water infrastructure needs, we can move toward greater sustainability by selecting the right solution to meet each need. An important element of the infrastructure planning process is the evaluation of all of the alternatives for meeting an infrastructure need.

This can mean everything from an evaluation of the latest treatment technologies, to considering distributed or decentralized solutions, to water efficiency or reuse programs that may obviate the need for new water supply infrastructure. The alternatives available will depend on the issue that the infrastructure investment is looking to address. 

While not an exhaustive list, here are some examples of alternatives that should be considered and links to resources with more information on the possibilities.

Treatment Technologies

  • Municipal Technologies—EPA provides direct and indirect assistance on municipal wastewater treatment technologies.
  • Technology Fact Sheets—EPA has developed a suite of fact sheets that provide technical and cost information to assist in the evaluation of new, innovative and sustainable technologies for wastewater systems.
  • Aging Water Infrastructure Research—EPA’s Office of Research and Development has a very active program to conduct and disseminate research to help the nation address our aging water infrastructure systems. This site provides a wealth of information on infrastructure condition assessment, rehabilitation technologies and innovative technologies and approaches.
  • Technology Verification Centers—EPA supports programs that verify the performance of innovative technologies that have the potential to improve the protection of human health and the environment.
  • Technology Transfer—Information about the latest advancements in risk management approaches and decision options is vital to the success of EPA’s research programs
  • Arsenic Trade Show—Resources for the selection and implementation of technologies to remove arsenic from drinking water.

Green Infrastructure for Wet Weather

Green Infrastructure can be both a cost-effective and an environmentally preferable approach to reduce stormwater and other excess flows entering combined or separate sewer systems. EPA is working with state and national partners to reduce runoff through the use of approaches such as green roofs, trees and tree boxes, rain gardens and porous pavements.

These approaches, in combination with or in lieu of traditional approaches to wet weather management, can reduce costs while providing multiple benefits to the community and to the environment.

Source Water Protection

Source Water Protection can be successful in providing public health protection and reducing the infrastructure needs for public water suppliers. Source water quality can be threatened by many everyday activities and land uses, ranging from industrial wastes to the chemicals applied to suburban lawns.  Protection of source waters can reduce the need for drinking water treatment, and thereby reduce both infrastrutcure needs and the costs of operating and maintaining our systems.

Water Quality Trading

Water Quality Trading is an innovative approach to achieve water quality goals more efficiently. Trading is based on the fact that sources in a watershed can face very different costs to control the same pollutant. Trading programs allow facilities facing higher pollution control costs to meet their regulatory obligations by purchasing environmentally equivalent (or superior) pollution reductions from another source at lower cost, thus achieving the same water quality improvement at lower overall cost.

Decentralized Wastewater

On-site/Decentralized Wastewater Management uses septic systems or small package plants that treat and disperse relatively small volumes of wastewater from individual or small numbers of homes and commercial buildings. Septic system regulation is usually a state, tribal and local responsibility. EPA provides information to homeowners and assistance to state and local governments to improve the management of septic systems to prevent failures that could harm human health and water quality.  For many communities, the proper management of these smaller systems is far more sustainable than large, centralized alternatives.

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