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Water and Sanitation

The Future of Green Buildings? Recycled Water

Photo: Courtesy of Inge Maria

Today, buildings in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Tokyo, Sydney and more are collecting and treating water onsite to serve non-potable needs instead of using potable water. These onsite non-potable water reuse systems represent the next wave of innovation in green building design and sustainable water management.

Changing bad water habits

Water systems everywhere are being challenged by a confluence of trends. Water supplies are strained, climate and weather patterns are changing, and populations are moving and growing. If we don’t change our patterns of water use, millions could be left without adequate potable water. Onsite non-potable water reuse helps tackle and mitigate the effects of these issues before they become crises.

Onsite water systems collect non-potable water which can include wastewater, stormwater, rainwater and more and treat it. It can then be reused in a building for non-drinking water needs such as irrigation, toilet flushing and cooling. By using alternative water sources for these needs, onsite reuse reduces the waste of valuable drinking water. In fact, water reuse can account for up to 50 to 95 percent of the water used in residential or commercial buildings.  

Minizimizing strain for maximum benefit

These innovative systems can also minimize strain on wastewater systems. The integration of onsite reuse contributes to more resilient and sustainable water management practices citywide, protecting both public health and the environment.

To support the greater adoption of onsite non-potable water reuse in communities around the country, a commission of water and public health experts have convened to develop resources, including policy and best practices recommendations, to motivate other municipalities to incorporate onsite reuse into their sustainable water plans.

From office buildings to conference centers to eco-district developments, onsite non-potable water systems are changing the way buildings and entire communities use, and reuse, water, now and for future generations.

Radhika Fox, CEO, U.S. Water Alliance, [email protected]

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