Comonsense meets water scarcity – let’s recycle!

CA Drought, Sierra Nevada reservoir, photo by BitHead, flickr

A reservoir in the Sierra Nevada’s shows the effects of drought. Photo by BitHead, from flickr

I’ve often thought that we consumers waste inordinate amounts of water everyday. Now that California has finally declared a drought, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee so to speak.

With talk of raising dams and cutting water allotments, it’s really time to get real and use our commonsense to create real and do-able solutions that have been hiding in plain sight for years. One California legislator may be spearheading the charge.

Last week, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) introduced AB 2282, which requires California to adopt building standards for recycled water in newly constructed commercial and residential buildings, helping the state to integrate recycled water into its water-supply portfolio for the future.

An in-home system to reclaim used water, photo by wipeout 997, from Wikimedia

An in-home system to reclaim used water, photo by wipeout 997, from Wikimedia

“Recycled water is cleaner than most of the water in our natural aquifers,” said Gatto, who is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the California State Assembly.  “It’s wasteful and inefficient to dump this water into the ocean when we could use it for a productive purpose.”

Recycled water is already a popular option for many communities seeking new supplies of safe and inexpensive water. Tucson, Arizona has a successful reclaimed water system that serves local residents, schools, golf courses and parks. And check out this cool new design by Swedish industrial designer Mehrdad Mahdjoubi, the OrbSys (Orbital Systems), which reclaims and recycles shower water for repeated reuse.

In 2009, 669,000 acre-feet of treated, municipal wastewater was reused in California, mostly for irrigation purposes, and 51 out of 58 counties developed or identified recycled-water projects in their water-plan updates.

To ensure that homeowners and businesses aren’t economically harmed, Gatto’s bill specifically requires the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Building Standards Commission to consider the cost of various recycled water infrastructure and the estimated quantity of water savings from using recycled water. Once standards are adopted, cities with access to recycled water, or with plans to construct recycled-water facilities, will be required to adopt these mutually beneficial standards for all new construction.

Installing a closed loop for water use in residential and commercial buildings could save the state tremendously during this serious drought, which by all accounts could last for years. With water supplies dwindling and aquifers being tapped without thought to the long term consequences, we face serious problems that must be solved.

Reclaimed water manhole cover, photo by Marianna Zavadovskay, from Wikimedia

Reclaimed water manhole cover, photo by Marianna Zavadovskay, from Wikimedia

“This bill is about building more infrastructure,” says Gatto. “Single-family homes use about 60 percent of their water outside. If people could water their lawns and wash their cars with recycled water, there would be 60 percent more clean water available for consumption, crops, and bathtubs,” he said.

The technology to create closed loop water systems has been around for decades but, like the idea of desalination plants, has been deemed too expensive for widespread adoption. But, like desal plants, it seems that the idea for this innovative solution has finally come.

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