Water is water. Previously, without technology, we needed to treat types of water differently. Greywater, blackwater, stormwater, rainwater, river and well water are all water. We need to stop thinking some are unusable.
We think of some types of water (greywater, blackwater, and stormwater) as waste and others (well and river water) as suitable for drinking, but environmental pollutants canmake well and river water unsafe. With today’s technology, all waters are useful.
Singapore, a county with limited access to natural water sources, is leading the water-recycle charge. Until recently Singapore shipped in drinking water by ocean tankers! In 2002, the nation commissioned its first reclaimed-water plant. They called the product NEWater. It is available throughout the island. Water is retreated and used again and again. Singapore is now viewed as a world leader for water recycling technology.
The recent Next GenerationWater Summit held in Santa Fe explored this issue for the arid west. In the United States, water has many classifications and is managed by city, county, state, and federal agencies. Each management group has a different set of reuse rules. This has created a barrier for efficiently reusing water. The Summit brought speakers from across the U.S. to discuss how recycled water is being used formultiple purposes. Case studies prove there is no such thing as waste water. Localities choose to classify water as waste and then push to find new supplies of water.
In the summit’s keynote address, Ed Mazria discussed the importance of energy savings in building design. Now in the 21st century it is possible to model and predict how much energy new buildings will utilize. These metrics help reduce energy use in the building sector. The same should be true forwater savings. There have been no metrics to measure water. How do you save something if you have no idea on how much is being used? That is the purpose of Santa Fe’s new tool, the Water Efficiency Rating Score (WERS) system.
The City of Santa Fe has adopted WERS into the building code. This tool measures water usage in new homes. Working with the building community, the city will monitor the effort and cost it takes for builders to meet the required score of 70. The city is also working with the developers of this tool, making it easier and more accurate. No tool is perfect at the start and the city is providing ongoing feedback. Since its adoption in March 2017, over 50 homes are in theWERS certification process. So far every builder has obtained a preliminary score of 70 or better. The State of Florida looks to be the next to include this tool in it’s statewide building code.
Measuring means improvement. The city should be applauded for taking this action. We all knowwater is critical to our survival. By measuring what we use we can guarantee a supply that will last us for generations. Water is water! Allwater is valuable!
Doug Pushard, founder of the website www.HarvestH2o.com, has designed and installed residential rainwater systems for over a decade. He is a member of the Santa FeWater Conservation Committee, a lifetime member of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, and an EPAWaterSense Partner. He can be reached at doug@HarvestH2o.com.