Water Reuse is Water Conservation!

Recently, we talked about strategies to manage and save water within buildings to make sure we’re protecting the availability of this important resource. Today, we want to talk about reusing water from buildings and managing stormwater efficiently.

There are lots of innovative technologies being tested and implemented to reduce building-wide water use. Two of those technologies include capturing greywater from the building and harvesting rainwater from the site to reuse for nonpotable uses (not for human consumption). These strategies can protect our water systems from taking in excess or contaminated water, and can also help building managers save on water bills because it means using less water through the meter.

Capturing greywater is a great way to make sure excess water isn’t wasted or sent into the sewer system, potentially contaminating the rivers, lakes, and main water sources. Greywater is typically defined as lightly used water from sinks, cooling towers, or washing machines, but that has not come in contact with human or animal feces (so not water from toilets). Greywater systems generally treat and clean the water again to make it usable for nonpotable activities, like flushing toilets or irrigating the landscape; the treatment is not as thorough as water treated for potable uses though, so should not be ingested during reuse. Greywater systems can be technical and expensive upfront, but depending on the size and function of a building, they may be worth the investment. By reusing this water instead of letting it get wasted down the drain means that a building won’t be using fresh, “new” water for things that don’t require it.

Harvesting rainwater is also a simple way to keep water usage down. These systems collect rainwater and either store or use it directly on site. For example, some rainwater harvesting systems will collect rainwater from the roof into a barrel or other storage container which has pipes or a drainage system that can redirect it for landscape irrigation. This type of reuse reduces water because fresh water isn’t used for something like watering a lawn or garden. It is also a great stormwater management strategy that reduces runoff into the sewers that can overwhelm aging sewer systems, and potentially send harmful chemicals into the water supply. Rainwater harvesting is dependent on weather though, so areas that don’t see much rain may not have as much success with this strategy.

Buildings can also reduce their outdoor water needs by using native vegetation for landscaping rather than plants that need a lot of care and irrigation. Native plants have adapted to the area and climate so generally don’t need as much watering or pesticides to survive. Not only will this reduce exterior water usage for the building (and therefore save on bills), natural landscaping where pesticide use is eliminated means protecting water sources from being potentially polluted by chemicals draining off the site into the sewers. Native plants can also provide important ecosystems for local wildlife. Win-win-win!

Check out Laurel’s other blog posts!