Dr. Glen Daigger explains the different approaches countries need to take to solve water challenges. From his recent travels to the Netherlands and China, Daigger recognizes there is no single solution to managing water resources.

By Dr. Glen Daigger, International Water Association President and CH2M HILL Senior Vice President and Chief Water Technology Officer

When traveling throughout the former British Empire, you might come across a useful saying– “Horses for courses.” This phrase is a horse racing term, and it means that certain horses are ideal for certain race courses but not for others. In the more common usage it means identification and selection of the right solution for a particular application. To think about it differently, it is the exact opposite of another popular saying – “One size fits all.”

Why do I start with this? It characterizes thoughts from my most recent international trip where I made my first stop in the water-rich Netherlands and then made a visit to water-short Northern China (Qingdao specifically).

One morning, riding the train from Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport to Den Haag, I looked out on the rich, green landscape and saw the open field drains—knowing that groundwater was just below the ground surface. The next day, it rained like crazy and remained overcast throughout my stay. It’s no wonder people in locations such as this question the wisdom of water recovery and use when plenty of water comes right from nature! For the Dutch people who are quite thrifty, however, energy and nutrient recovery are of great interest. I found this perspective quite different from that in Qingdao, a densely populated city that lacks sufficient available water resources and is heavily investing in seawater desalination and water reuse, despite the fact that these techniques use more energy than traditional water supplies.

So, now you can see how different “courses” (situations) demand different “horses” (solutions). The key is to understand what is most important in a given situation and develop the solution that maximizes the delivery of that resource—no “One size fits all” approach will do the trick. In fact, “one size” seldom fits a given situation.

But, this is where the fun comes in for the practitioner—to find that ideal match for each and every situation. To find just the right “horse” for that particular “course.”

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