On the Progress and Promise of Water Reuse

Building codes and regulations are changing—slowly—to accommodate systems that support the capture and reuse of graywater and blackwater.

Architect Magazine

Water is omnipresent in Virginia Beach, Va., where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic. Due to rising sea levels and land subsidence, sunny-day flooding during high tide is common here and in surrounding towns, stressing the region’s water utilities. But the Brock Environmental Center is stepping in to help. Completed in 2015, the 10,000-square-foot facility for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF’s) Hampton Roads office and conference site sources, purifies, and reuses its own water in a closed-loop system. Excess water cleaned by the center is being used by a local brewery to create its Rain Barrel beer.

Aerial view, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Brock Environmental Center

Water management is a critical component of resilient design yet building codes and regulations typically assume a centralized, utility-provided water delivery and wastewater collection. Introducing decentralized systems to capture and reuse water has traditionally resulted in a regulatory quagmire.

The good news is that codes are changing to accommodate decentralized systems. Since 2012, when ARCHITECT last reported on water reuse systems, some municipalities passed important regulations to govern the design, permitting, and safety of graywater reuse systems. In fact, the city of San Francisco now requires any building 250,000 square feet or larger to install and operate an onsite non-potable water system to treat and reuse available graywater, rainwater, and foundation drainage. Seattle also recently adopted a rainwater capture and reuse mandate for large buildings.

Read the full story here.

Thanks, everyone, but the koalas have enough mittens now

Everyone loves animals in little outfits. But couple that with an environmental campaign and you’ve created an unstoppable craft monster.

The Guardian
January 29, 2015

Logo-GuardianThere is little that is likely to stir readers more than photos of adorable animals dressed up in funny clothes. Add the element of a vulnerable species rescued from the brink of death and destruction and you have clickbait gold.

Such was the case earlier this month when one of the world’s largest animal welfare and conservation charities, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), put out a call for assistance with crafting mittens for koalas whose paws were burned in wildfires across southeastern Australia.

“Our supporters are always asking what they can do to help,” says Josey Sharrad,native wildlife campaigner for IFAW’s Australia chapter. “So [when this wildfire hit] we put a little campaign together and sent it to our supporters and local media and we posted it to Facebook.”

More than 150 media outlets – from The Guardian to Good Morning America, not to mention scores of blogs – posted irresistible IFAW photos of koalas with burned paws wearing cotton mittens. The photos were accompanied by appeals to readers to pitch in and help.

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California water witches see big business as the drought drags on

Dowsers, sometimes known as ‘water witches,’ are in high demand in drought-stricken California, where four dry years find farmers and vintners taking desperate measures.

The Guardian
September 15, 2014

Outside of a farmhouse on a 1,800-acre organic dairy farm near Oroville,California, Sharron Hope bends over a printout of a Google Earth map, holding a small jade Buddha pendant. The map shows a small section of the farm to the east, and Hope is hunting for water. As the pendant swings, she notes a subtle change in motion that, she says, indicates she has found some.

Is there any significance to the jade? No, she says, I just like it. Plus, she adds, “I figure Buddha’s gotta know.”Logo-Guardian

Hope is a water dowser, or someone who uses intuition, energy vibrations and divining rods or pendulums to mark the best spots for wells.

As California rounds the corner towards a four-year historic drought, many farmers and vintners have become completely reliant on groundwater. After divvying surface water allotments to satisfy urban, ecosystem and industrial needs, farmers in many parts of the state received little or no irrigation water from state agencies this year. In a normal year, allotments would cover roughly two-thirds of farmers’ needs.

Under these severe drought conditions, the success or failure of a well can mean the success or failure of a farm or vineyard, so before the drill bit hits the dirt, landowners need an educated guess as to where to find the most productive well site on their property. To get that, they can call in a professional hydrogeologist, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars – or they can drop a fraction of the cost on a dowser, such as Hope.

Despite a distinct lack of empirical evidence regarding dowsers’ efficacy, demand is high and dowsers’ phones are ringing off the hook.

“I’ve gotten far more calls this year from farmers looking for a water dowser than in most years,” says Sacramento-based Donna Alhers, who heads the Sierra Dowsers, a chapter of the American Society of Dowsers.

Water dowsers from around the state are also seeing a spike in demand. “I’m getting a lot of calls from people whose wells have run dry,” Hope says.

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