Water conservation programs targeted at large users will play an integral role securing water supplies for cities in years to come. A hierarchical approach to water conservation—reducing consumption as a priority, then considering internal re-use of water and replacement of potable water with alternative sources—should be the key principle in sustainable water management. The application of this approach relies on a sound understanding of water consumption at a site: where water is used, why, when and how. This entails smart- and sub-metering of the water supply and detailed analysis of site activities to produce a site water balance. The hierarchical approach can then be applied, and conservation options can be costed to assess financial viability. ‘Packaging’ measures with different payback times together should be considered, along with funding support available. Based on implemented projects in Australia, an estimated 30% of potable water consumption within the commercial and industrial sectors could be saved at attractive payback periods. By adopting this integrated water conservation and management approach the same outcomes can be achieved with less potable water consumption. Appropriate source substitution is a pillar of sustainable water supply, providing water at less environmental, social and financial cost than the alternatives.

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