The United Nations designated the first Monday of October of every year as World Habitat Day to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. The day is also intended to remind the world that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns. The focus of this year’s World Habitat Day is “Housing for all: A better urban future”.
Water management is a critical technology to build a better urban future. Citizens today are deeply impacted by water quality, water scarcity, and water flooding issues. These water problems affect the health and the quality of life of many people, and more action is needed to ensure that freshwater is accessible to all and that we design cities to fulfill this need before it is too late.
Water quality for drinking is facing challenges in many cities. As stated by the GAO, the U.S. government Accountability Office, “over the last 40 years, the nation’s water quality and drinking water have improved, but threats to water quality and safety remain. The EPA and states have identified almost 39,000 water bodies nationwide that are considered impaired by pollutants so that they do not meet water quality standards set by the states or EPA.”
Water scarcity is prevalent in many of our states, and the shortage of freshwater influences the present and the future of their economy and their citizens’ wellbeing. Some of the states with severe water scarcity, where the water consumed versus the freshwater available are at a dangerous level, are New Mexico, California, Arizona, Colorado, and Nebraska, where the drought is depleting the freshwater available in their reservoirs.
Flooding from heavy rainfall damages people’s habitat, where the drainage systems are not equipped to absorb such heavy rainfalls. The states with the highest rainfall, with more than a yearly average of 50 inches are Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia.
Programs led by federal, state, and local governments are a good start in addressing these issues. Here are just a few examples. The EPA establishes water quality standards under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The City of Los Angeles requires onsite water to be used for cooling tower makeup for any building above 25 floors. San Francisco requires that 25% of the water in buildings with more than 250,000 square feet be supplied by alternate (onsite) water sources. Cities like Austin Texas and Santa Fe New Mexico have incentives for using captured rainwater.
Many private organizations are working towards a better urban future. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) with its LEED and WELL certifications, The International Living Future Institute with its Living Building Challenge (LBC) and special Affordable Housing certification, are two excellent examples. Water is a vital element for healthy living, and clean water availability is one of the most important criteria for creating a sustainable healthy living.
At Ecovie, we see a better urban future where people, communities, developers, media, and government value water as like gold. We see a future where people are consuming less water per person, by decreasing the amount of potable water used in situations that do not require potable water or using less water by paying attention to its value. We see a better urban future where city developers and the regulatory offices promote local on-site water management as a key complementary source to traditional water sources.
On-site water management can help with water quality, water scarcity, and water discharge. We can collect rainwater and stormwater and use it for potable and non-potable purposes. We can recycle greywater from our showers, washing machines, and bathroom sinks and use it for non-potable purposes. We can recycle black water from toilets and kitchens and use it for non-potable purposes.
On-site water collection and purification reduces municipal water demand as well as the load on wastewater treatment plants. As shown in the LBC projects that Ecovie has been involved with, net-zero water is actually possible. Going this direction empowers all citizens to manage their water in a proactive way. This aids in providing access to ample, clean water for all. By having on-site water management, we enable communities with local solutions to effectively run rainwater collection systems, grey and black water reuse systems, so that everybody has high-quality water supplies and an environment with high quality of life.
The construction industry faces regulatory obligations that are necessary for the safety and quality of life of its residents. Water resiliency is still at an exceptionally low level of focus, and there are opportunities to be addressed to help to build a better urban future for all.
At Ecovie, we are dedicated to building water resilient communities, one building at a time.
“Solutions begin with small steps individuals can take to alter the way our cities function. We must reduce the amount of waste we produce, and, at the same time, start seeing it as a valuable resource that can be re-used and recycled, including for energy.” — UN Secretary-General António Guterres