Evaluation of pollution prevention options in the municipal water cycle
76The impact on water resources caused by municipal wastewater discharges has become a critical and ever-growing environmental and public health problem. In order to be able to efficiently address this problem, it is important to adopt an integrated approach that includes a decrease in and control of contamination at its source. These principles have been successfully applied in the industrial sector and now these concepts are also being applied to integrated water resources management. In this context the conceptual model of the Three Steps Strategic Approach (3-SSA) was developed, consisting of: 1) minimization and prevention, 2) treatment for reuse and 3) stimulated natural self-purification. This paper is focused on the first step. The assessment includes a case study in the expansion area of the city of Cali, Colombia (410,380 new inhabitants). The evaluation of alternatives is done using two different system boundaries: (1) reduction in water supply costs for households and the avoided costs in the infrastructure of additional sewerage and wastewater treatment facilities; and (2) only taking into account the reduction in water supply costs for households and the savings associated with the drinking water infrastructure. The alternatives of minimization and prevention were hierarchized using an analytic hierarchy process and grey relational analysis. A cost-benefit analysis was carried out to compare the highest ranked alternatives with the conventional approach, which considers a ‘business as usual scenario’ of high water use, end-of-pipe wastewater treatment plant and the conventional water supply system with drinking water quality for all uses. The best minimization and prevention alternatives for Cali’s expansion zone were found to be those which consider double discharge toilets and the possibility of using rainwater harvesting for laundry purposes. On the other hand, the minimization and prevention alternatives considered are only viable if these are implemented in more than 20% of household units.