Water efficiency, recycling and harvesting
Water is the forgotten sibling to big brother energy when it comes to efficiency, management and production. Billions of dollars are being invested in alternative energy sources while we fall farther and farther behind in the production and “over” consumption of water. For centuries Americans have failed to use water resources efficiently and effectively. Only during extreme drought conditions, have consumers reduced daily water consumption. From California to Florida, we are seeing water shortages more and more often. As populations continue to grow and weather patterns continue to change, drought conditions could be the norm in California and we are not prepared with viable solutions to produce the savings that are desperately needed in order to operate indefinitely at lower water levels. The future of water will be dependent on how we as a nation and a world integrate four strategies:
The beginning of our water program at Jensen Beach Green starts with the fact that we will be OFF the county water main – ZERO NET WATER. We will be personally responsible for our water supply and our water consumption. Reducing consumption is the starting point of any program from a personal diet to a financial budget to energy demand and even to a comprehensive water strategy. Our water plan for 3841 Cheri Drive will help reduce our daily consumption, allow us to source water from renewable sources, re-cycle water for multiple uses, reduce stormwater runoff and pollution, and promote a low water diet thus reducing the daily amount of water required to live daily. Our comprehensive water plan will be the foundation for a true ULTRA-LOW FLOW Net Positive water home.
Efficiency – In order to obtain overall efficiency, we are looking inside and outside of the home. Inside we are installing low flow fixtures on all sinks and showers, 1.6 liter flush toilets, low use washing machine, dish washer, and a ocean friendly landscape with drip irrigation. We plan to install flow indicators on showers, faucets and water main in order to track all water consumption on a real time basis. The key to savings is the information will be available 24/7 on multiple devices. All will combined into a comprehensive strategy to produce the most water efficient home possible.
Water harvesting & production – Over the past century rainwater harvesting has been abandoned by our communities to such a degree it is against local health ordinances to drink rain water as it is deemed unfit for human consumption. Secondly, rainwater or storm water runoff is a huge contributor of water related pollution all across the nation.
Yet, rainwater harvesting could prove to be the best primary water supply for communities all across the nation. With an annual rainfall of 58 inches in Jensen Beach, we have a capacity to generate over 68,000 gallons annually or 5700 gallons per month. Even in Flint, Michigan with an average rainfall of 38 inches of rain and average household could generate over 45,000 gallons of water per year or 18,000 gallons per occupant per year. The filtration required to bring rain water up to potable standards would be minimal compared to the filtration currently be used or not used to bring river water up to potable standards.
A by-product of our failure to harvest rainwater is storm water runoff. Storm water runoff in communities across the country have had and will continue to attribute to the pollution in our waterways, lakes and beaches. All across the nation storm water runoff is causing health issues and in some cases actual death. As per the Surfrider Foundation, the following statistics show just how our lakes, waterways and beaches are impacted by storm water runoff and the need for onsite collection / harvesting (roof and ground), storage and utilization of harvested rainwater.
- One inch of rain on a major US city can generate up to 8,000,000,000 gallons of polluted runoff.
- One inch of rain on just one city block will generate over 62,000 gallons of polluted runoff.
- One inch of rain on the roof from just one-family home can generate over 1,200 gallons of polluted runoff
- 20,000+ beach closures and advisories are generated in the U.S.A annually as a result of storm water runoff
The degree of pollution is dependent on how effectively and affordably we can manage rainwater at the point of first contact. Catchment and containment of runoff and the immediate reuse of the water on location at first point of contact could prove to be the best solution going forward in regards to water shortages and water pollution. I just do not understand how the government thinks that requiring the installation of retention ponds is the solution to water shortages and storm water runoff. Let me get this straight, you divert the water to area of land (taken out of use) to allow the water to soak into the ground or run into our storm water drains and ultimately dumping into a body of water. The city then pumps whatever water enters the groundwater table at a the water facility (very small percentage of what comes down is available to the water company wells via groundwater due to declining areas of infiltration). The city then has to build and maintain a network of pipes (leak over time) in order to send the water back to the location for consumption. I ask, is this the BEST we can do or is this the result of the fact that this is how we have done it for the past 50 to 100 years?
My challenge – how about implementing onsite rainwater harvesting by connecting all surface areas to above or in
ground cistern via guttering connections. Install water processing equipment to such a degree the water can be immediately used inside the SAME home or building as potable water. The use of cisterns goes back thousand and thousands of years – there is nothing new about onsite water storage. Instead of massive cost to the community and the time and coordination to build infrastructure, time money and technology can be diverted to solving the treatment issues at an affordable price point. Once a single point solution is obtained, the model can be delivered at scale because the only dependent variable is the production of filtration equipment. The larger the scale of the individual units the lower the price point – with volume comes lower prices. Decentralized – independent – water loop just like we are doing in the energy side with wind and solar is the solution to our water shortages and pollution caused by stormwater runoff. By empowering the homeowner as the water company, we will drive demand and technology to provide the needed processing and testing equipment that can be monitored from a smartphone much the way we see the smartphones changing everything from taxis to home management.
In order to provide virgin water for pool, above ground landscaping, and non potable needs, we are installing a 7,500 to 10,000 gallon in ground cistern, connected to our roof guttering network and the condensation lines on our air
conditioning system, in order to harvest rainwater from the roof, decks and moisture removed from our home. More than enough to supply water for a family of 5, pool, and aquaponics system in a low or ULTRA low flow home annually. The problem with rainwater harvesting is the fact that the Florida health department does not allow rainwater to be used as a potable water source, thus we will have to use the water through our gray water system, external uses and for specified areas that do not require potable water. In order to provide potable water an in ground well be installed until such time as rainwater can be processed to a degree that is acceptable to the Florida Health Department as potable water. It is really disappointing our state does not have such a plan based on the fact that the average rainfall combined with a low or ultra low flow home would be self sustaining on a statewide basis. Instead we have a system that insures our dependency on public utilities to provided service that is trying to get more and more water out of source that has a finite volume.
In 2005 the state of Florida consumed 2.25 billion gallons of water per day for public use while residential use averages just under 100 gallons of water per person per day. A family of 5, on average, consumes over 15,000 gallons of water per month or 180,000 gallons per year as per the United States Geological Service. Beyond rainwater harvesting, in many areas that have reduced of insufficient rainfall, additional evaluation is currently underway to determine the possible benefits of using “air to water” systems that generate potable water from the moisture that is in the air. Energy is the single biggest hurdle in this process, yet the process could still prove valuable depending on where a home is located. Water is a problem that is not going away. Without it we do not exist. We have it, we just need to reevaluate how, what, when and where. It is time we let technology, and what make this country great, start working with nature to help solve many of these specific problems we are facing as a community and a society as a whole.
Water recycling – Water recycling offers the homeowner the opportunity to reduce water consumer up to 75% over a traditionally built home. This area of water management could prove to be the single greatest salvation to our existing water sources and it is affordable. The idea behind water recycling is to design a home that has such an efficient black water (septic) system there will be no need for a two drain gray water system. Once a new home is designed this way or an existing home is retrofitted, the effluent coming out the the advanced aerobic sewage treatment system is to a NSF 350 standard allowing it to be used for toilet flushing and irrigation. We can see gray water usage everyday in the medians and golf courses of towns and cities across the nation by way of “Purple” piping used to indicate “non-potable’ water. The effluent discharge in our home will be captured at the the point of discharge and piped to a 75 gal storage tank where it will be stored for future use.
Diet – I have left this water saving solution last because of the controversy associated with it. Unknown to most Americans is the fact that our diets consume more water than any other part of our daily lives. It is also unknown to most Americans just how much more water it takes to provide an animal based diet over a plant based diet. In short it takes between 1800 to 2400 gallons of water to produce just ONE POUND of beef. Granted chickens, dairy and pork consume less but none compare ounce for once of protein from plants compared to animals. Pulses (beans and legumes) require just 20 litres of water per gram of plant based protein while pork consumers approx 55 liters per gram of protein with beef being significantly higher as per a study out of India. In order to promote the consumption of plant based products, our rainwater harvesting will be used to provide the needed water for an aquaponics system that will grow vegetable and fish. Besides saving water, Americans could see an improvement in their health if they were to reduce the amount of beef and animal proteins consumed annually and adopt more a plant based diet.
Good water stewardship and health (personal responsibility) will be essential as we move forward as a nation and as a world. All of these processes will operate in such a fashion we will not even notice we are saving water. I highly recommend everyone start considering any and all of these systems on new construction or on an existing home or commercial property as a retrofit. The savings is not just in the cost of water, but in the fact that we, as a people, will become more and more independent of centralized utilities and control.