Water and Circular Economy (2018)

This paper explores the relationship between the principles of circular economy and sustainable water management, identifying the opportunities that are offered through applying circular economy principles to water systems.

Primary Functions

  • Develop an understanding of how the circular economy relates to sustainable water management.

Detailed Description


There is enough water to meet the world’s growing needs, but the statistics and projections highlight that it will not be achievable without dramatically changing the way water is used, managed and shared. System level change including the use of new enterprise models, will be necessary to maximize the extraction of value from water cycles at all scales (river basin, city, industrial unit, building) increase effectiveness in the use of water resources and prevent further degradation of the environment.

Adopting a circular economy approach, based on the three principles of circular economy, presents a tremendous opportunity for businesses, governments and cities to minimise structural waste and thus realise greater value from industry and agriculture while regenerating the environment.

A circular economy is inspired by natural systems, so its foundation lies in system -thinking. Renewable resources should be used wherever possible, natural systems are preserved or enhanced; waste and negative impacts are designed out. Materials, water, products and components are managed in loops, maintaining them at their highest possible intrinsic value. Application of circular economy principles will require mapping the interactions of the water cycle, how it is used, and where within the river basin and urban water cycles value can be extracted and new enterprises established.

This project, a collaboration between Arup, Antea Group and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Water & circular economy, aims to kick start the integration. The project is split into two phases.

Phase 1 develops the common understanding between the water experts and circular economy experts, establishing a basis for a framework, and is outlined in this White Paper.

Phase 2 will collate wide ranging case studies that exemplify both water management and circular economy principles. These will be utilised to develop the scope of the framework that has been highlighted as of high interest by the CE100 Water & circular economy Working Group.


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Topics & SDGs

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WWF Mitigation

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