Whole Water Approach

What is the whole water approach?




The whole water approach considers the continuum of the water cycle to be interconnected with all parts of a community.


It includes ice, snow, precipitation, snowmelt, and all forms of runoff and infiltration. The term is used interchangeably with the concept of integrated water cycle management.


Specifically it includes:

•Ice/ Hail

•Snow & snow melt


•Stream runoff

•Infiltration water (sublimation, percolation)

•Groundwater (stored & discharged)

•Evaporation (evapotranspiration)


•Atmospheric moisture

•Stream Flow

•Springs, Rivers, Lakes, Ponds

•Freshwater Storage including bogs and fens

•Oceans & Seas

•Ancient Water


It takes the opposite view to one-size-fits-all. It unifies water, instead of fragmenting it between multiple disciplines and departments. It rebels against silos. It creates more efficient, effective results that benefit more uses and more opportunities. The concept embraces growth and future needs.


Planning is a key component to this tool's success. Planning pays off in more resiliency and more alternatives. The bigger the location, the more hard surfaces interfere with the hydrological cycle. Whole water restores natural balance to a system.


How does it work?


Existing policy fails to address intense atmospheric flooding, extended droughts, pollution dumped on our ground surfaces, emerging contaminants, industrial pollution and related complications. Insurance costs are rising and inadequate building codes restrict essential sustainable practices in some places.


It’s time to take a smarter approach to water management at the residential, suburban, urban and rural environment levels. Whole water management integrates water into urban planning, community planning, industrial, power and agricultural planning for all scale levels. Place based planning is essential, however there is more to it. What is the best water for the purpose? Different communities have different water needs. Understanding those needs is essential.


Water management used to be, supplying adequate drinking water, taking away sewage, providing a level of treatment to it, and discharging wastewater, stormwater and runoff back into the system as quickly as possible. The resolution was ‘dilution-is-the-solution' .


We need a better approach. Whole water management provides that better, more progressive and sustainable approach.


How water works, matters


Whole water looks at creating sensitive designs and sharing benefits between uses, to move water more sustainably. The concept recognizes that how we handle our water impacts people, and lifeforms around the water.


The concept combines the water supply system; wastewater/sanitation; stormwater; atmospheric moisture; surface water; urban planning; building design by-laws and policy. Bringing our green spaces into the water management process is part of this. Can playgrounds, soccer fields and tennis courts be a solution, rather than an impact? Yes, using a whole water approach, they can help us better manage cyclical flood/drought conditions. We can also ‘mine’ our waste water streams, to recover materials for re-use/recycling.


We can look to rainwater harvesting to help cushion our water security, from the effects of intense rainfall events; drought, salmon spawning ground washouts, as well as building, infrastructure, and crop land damage. Rainwater harvesting helps to protect us from the scouring effect heavy rain events can have, on our freshwater resources. Less scouring means less pollutants in our freshwater resources.


By optimizing opportunities multiple budgets between parks; waterworks; wastewater /sanitation; and building development, can be pooled for smarter investment opportunities. Many opportunities exist to save billions of dollars, when this approach is undertaken at the urban scale, leading to social and environmental benefits, and lower water bills for end-users.


An Australian study found that up to 70% of water needs could be supplied by a combination of rainwater, stormwater, greywater and recycled water (Othman, 2006).

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Page Reviewed 24/05/2016, AloPluvia™ Integrated Water Resource Management Website and photographs © Copyright 2016. AloPluvia All Rights Reserved