Alternative Water Systems: What You Need to Know

March 20, 2023 | 4 minute read

Rising temperatures brought on by climate change are making droughts more frequent, severe, and prolonged than ever before. As a result, access to clean, safe water is diminishing for people across the globe. In response to this, alternative water systems have emerged as a solution to address the growing water crisis. 

Alternative water systems refer to a range of water treatment and distribution approaches designed to provide safe, sustainable, and affordable water to homes, communities, and businesses that want to find alternate or complementary solutions to conventional water sources. Some of these systems include rainwater harvesting, atmospheric water generators, greywater recycling, and reclaimed wastewater, among others. Read on to learn more about alternative water systems and how implementing one may benefit you. 

What Types of Alternatives are there for Water Sources?

Rainwater Harvesting

Over the past few years, rainwater harvesting has become a common water source as numerous states and municipalities have begun to encourage rainwater collection to ease the burden on local water systems. This, in turn, leads to reduced water bills and more reliable sources of water in times of scarcity.  

Rainwater harvesting is a simple and effective method for collecting, storing, and using rainwater for non-potable purposes such as irrigation, flushing toilets, and laundry. This approach involves harvesting stormwater from rooftops or other surfaces into rainwater storage tanks or cisterns and then treating it to remove any impurities before use. Naturally, the level of filtering required will ultimately depend on how the water will be used. 

Atmospheric Water Generators

Atmospheric water generators (AWG) use an innovative technology designed to extract moisture from the air to produce clean water. Most AWGs rely on using a heat exchanger to cool the air and cause the water vapor to condense into liquid form. Then, the water can be filtered to different degrees to produce drinking water or water that can be used for non-potable purposes, such as irrigation, flushing toilets, and other household or industrial applications. 

AWGs are a promising solution for communities in arid regions with limited access to conventional water sources. They can be used to produce drinking water in a variety of settings, including homes, offices, and disaster relief efforts. They are also becoming increasingly popular for off-grid living, as they can provide a reliable source of clean water without needing a connection to a traditional water supply.

Greywater Treatment Systems

Greywater is lightly soiled wastewater that has already been used domestically, commercially, or industrially but hasn’t come in contact with fecal matter. Greywater is typically generated from activities such as bathing, washing clothes, using the sink, and dishwashing. It usually only contains a small amount of contaminants and can be safely reused for irrigation, flushing toilets, and other non-potable purposes.

Greywater recycling involves collecting, treating, and reusing household greywater for non-potable objectives. This method not only saves water, but also reduces the amount of wastewater sent to treatment facilities, reducing the strain on local water supplies and helping to reduce the risk of water pollution.

Reclaimed Wastewater

Reclaimed wastewater is treated wastewater purified to meet water quality standards, making it safe for reuse in various applications, such as irrigation, industrial processes, and even as drinking water.

Reclaimed wastewater is an effective solution for communities facing water scarcity, as it provides a source of water that would otherwise go to waste. It is also a sustainable alternative to traditional water sources, since it reduces the demand for fresh water and the amount of wastewater sent to treatment facilities.

Air Conditioner Condensate

Another form of greywater reuse system, harvesting air conditioner condensate involves collecting the water left over from the condensation process of air conditioning units and reusing it for non-potable applications, such as irrigation. Air conditioner condensate is a readily available source of water that can reduce the demand for traditional water sources during the summer months. Plus, it is a sustainable, environmentally-friendly solution that reduces the amount of wastewater generated. 

Reasons for Finding Other Forms of Water Supply

The depletion of fresh water sources coupled with climate change and pollution has made it crucial to track down water alternatives that are both sustainable and readily available. Here are some reasons to consider other forms of water supply:

Decline of Fresh Water Sources

Fresh water sources such as rivers, lakes, and aquifers are increasingly being depleted due to droughts, overuse, and industrialization. The growing demand for water for personal and industrial purposes has led to an overexploitation of these sources, leading to a decrease in the quantity and quality of available fresh, usable water. 

Climate Change

Evidence shows that climate change is affecting the earth’s water cycles, leading to changes in rain patterns, increased evaporation, and changes in the timing and quantity of water availability. As a result, these changes lead to widespread water scarcity and longer seasonal droughts.

Water Pollution

Population growth, industrialization, urbanization, and agriculture are causing fresh water sources to become contaminated. This can have negative impacts on human health, wildlife, and the environment as a whole.  

Population Growth

As the world’s population continues to multiply, the number of people without access to clean water will also grow. In fact, water scarcity is already a reality in many urban and rural populations. Beyond the issue of not having enough drinking water for drinking purposes, other consequences of water scarcity in over-populated areas include sanitation problems as well as the decimation of plant and animal habitats that rely on fresh water sources for survival. 


Droughts happen when an area experiences a deficiency in precipitation (rain or snow) for a prolonged period, leading to a water shortage. Droughts are a fairly common phenomenon that don’t necessarily lead to natural emergencies in well-prepared areas. However, climate change is making these dry spells more frequent and severe, leaving susceptible places with less time and resources to plan ahead. In areas with extreme water shortages, severe and prolonged droughts can cause damage to crops and result in food shortages. 

To Wrap Things Up

Alternative water systems provide people and communities with usable and affordable water sources, particularly in areas with limited or dwindling access to traditional fresh water supply. From rainwater harvesting, AWGs, reclaimed wastewater, and greywater recycling, these alternative systems offer a range of safe and sustainable solutions to the growing water crisis. 

It is important to note, though, that alternative water systems are not a one-size-fits-all solution. As such, it is crucial to assess the needs of each individual, community, or business to determine the best approach to meet their unique needs.