Our goal is to use no more water than can be gathered from rainfall landing on our plot area, and discharge no contaminated water, and no water outside of our plot area.
This means we collect all the rain landing on our roof, we process it and use it, recycling it as often as necessary to supply all our needs, and only discharge used and/or excess, in an uncontaminated condition onto our own land area. i.e. we are independent of water supplied by the city, and discharge nothing into the sewage system.
Unlike with the issue of power, we are dealing here with life, and living organisms, the survival of many of which conflicts with our own survival. But lets take it one step at a time:
We must collect all the water that lands on our property, ensuring that none of it runs off into storm water drains, and store it for use. This raises a question: How long a drought period do we plan to store enough to supply all our needs? In our situation, we will not get permission to disconnect from the city water supply, but unlike with power, we cannot feed water back into the city water supply when we have surplice.
Given that water for consumption is a tiny fraction of the water that we use, we could design our house, so that city water is piped only to taps in the kitchen.
Beside drinking and cooking, water is used for washing (ourselves, our clothes, and a few other things too), and for moving things about ( like those things we produce in the bathroom). Including drinking and cooking, in fact, including the whole of life on this planet, water is a carrier. Things are added to it and dissolve (or are suspended in it), they get moved to somewhere, and are taken out of it. Very few of those things react with the water and change it.
When we wash our clothes, we use the water to accept the particles and chemicals on the clothes that we dont want to be there, and the water carries them away. When we flush the toilet, we are essentially doing the same thing. The natural cycle of things, is that when one part of the system deposits its waste, that waste becomes the food of another part. When we discharge our waste, the sewage treatment plant uses organisms for whom our waste is their food. It also passes the water thru filtration, that simply allows the water thru, and stops anything that is bigger than water molecules. Most of us do not think about this circular process when washing our clothes, taking a shower, or using the toilet. For all of human history, we have not needed to think of it, because the amount and type of waste we produced was quite within natures capability of recycling. People collected water in reservoirs, used it, and flushed it away.
Now, we need to think about our usage of water as part of a circle, and we need to take responsibility for designing circles that can cope with our water use. And just as with money, the faster it gets passed around the circle, the more a given amount can achieve.
So why not design our homes, and all our buildings, so that the water they use is constantly recycled within? We dont need great reservoirs, that cause unaccounted damage to eco-systems, we dont risk polluting our rivers, we have no conflict with our neighbors need for water, and we can use our water without fear of running out.
This is our goal.
So what does this mean really?
It means we have to include in our buildings, space for the filtration and sanitization of our water. It means we have to have safety systems to ensure the water that comes back for re-use is safe to do so. It means we have to design pipework and associated systems to collect, store, process, test, store, and feed back into the loop. Is this difficult? No. Is it new? No. (putting it a different way, Has it been done many times before? Yes.) Does it have a major fear factor? YES!
And for us at Viridian Future, the big question we face is: Can it be done in a New York townhouse, and get approval both from the city, and from the co-owners?
Follow this project to learn the answer…