While the focus in green building initiatives has been efficiency and creating robust building envelopes that help to conserve energy, reducing water use is an equally important aspect of every green build. As water resources become scarcer, water costs increase and on-site water treatment systems can go a long way to mitigating water wastage. Water treatment systems not only help to conserve water, but those that utilize wetlands can make attractive additions to the landscaping as well. Of course, on-site water treatment isn’t right for every project, and you will have to consider the site and the owner’s propensity for reducing their water consumption.
Why choose on-site water treatment?
Potable water carries with it a huge carbon footprint and the price we pay on our utilities bill is just a fraction of its true cost. It’s not only bringing potable water to domestic homes that costs money, but also the treatment and transportation of wastewater in a safe and hygienic way that adds to the already high costs. Saving potable water and reducing water consumption can go a long way to reducing utilities bills and preserving the environment.
On-site wastewater treatment systems help to return valuable nutrients to the soil safely. If effluent is released directly into the ecosystem, it overloads the system with nitrogen and phosphorous which may do more damage than good. When released gradually into the ecosystem, these elements can provide valuable nutrition to soil.
On-site waste-water treatment options
There are a number of options for on-site water treatment systems.
Composting toilets allow for decomposition of waste through anaerobic conditions. The decomposed matter from a composting toilet can be used as compost in the garden.
Septic systems keep effluent in pits or tanks while it decomposes. These systems require routine maintenance and have to be pumped out periodically in order to prevent leaks and pollution of the groundwater.
Solar aquatics systems are filtration systems that mimic the functioning of natural wetlands. Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in nature as they are able to filter large quantities of water in relatively short time periods. Some of the most successful systems are Living Machine™ wetland systems which can be small enough to service a single household or big enough to accommodate entire communities.
The Living Machine utilizes wetland flora and fauna (including algae, snails, bacteria, protozoa and plankton) to filter waste water to create reuse-quality water and plant matter. The plants can be ornamental and add to the aesthetic appeal of the landscaping or they can be used for animal feed, building materials and biomass.
Living machines must be custom-designed to suit the site, the volume of waste water and the kind of effluent that needs to be removed. If the volume or kind of effluent changes, the wetland can be altered by adding different plants and microbes to deal with the changes.
Water that has been rehabilitated by the wetland can be utilized for flushing toilets, in hydroponics, landscaping and aquaponics.
Designs in composting toilets and septic systems have developed considerably since their inception and are no longer the smelly, unhygienic systems they once were. They warrant consideration if you are looking at alternatives to traditional waste-water systems. If you have the space, solar aquatic systems offer a wealth of advantages and are dynamic so they can grow with your community and adapt to your changing needs.