It’s never been more important for us all to be good stewards of the environment and consider what we can do to reduce our water usage. Green building consulting tells us that one particularly incredible water reduction goal that can be achieved is net-zero water use in high-rise buildings.
Net-zero water use guarantees that the building utilizing this high performance building strategy never makes use of more water than it produces. But why is net-zero water use so important right now? The answer lies in the severity of today’s drought, as well as the impact of such high performance building strategies on both building systems and the financial bottom line.
Let’s take a look at each, shall we?
Severity of Drought
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) brings to light the startling truth behind today’s drought: 97% of California is drought-affected, and most western U.S. states aren’t faring any better. In fact, in California’s case, 46% of the state is at an “exceptional” drought level, putting the state at critical risk.
Here are some other worrisome drought statistics that illustrate the depth of its severity:
— Researchers say California is the driest it’s been in 500 years.
— Earlier this year California state governor Jerry Brown imposed state water reductions of 25 percent. This mandate represents the only time in California’s history that mandatory water restrictions have been put into place.
— With groundwater levels at a new low, reservoir’s in places like California only have approximately one year’s worth of water remaining.
— Folks in the western U.S. are using groundwater that fell 20,000 years ago.
— Due to digging deeper to access this ancient groundwater, the state of California is literally sinking, and at a rate of two inches a month (and climbing)!
Impact of Net-Zero Water Use on High-Rise Building Systems
Despite the immense severity of the drought, there’s hope thanks in part to water reduction strategies that lead to a building reaching net-zero water use. Reaching net zero water use, which combines water reduction strategies with the reuse of blackwater and greywater, can completely transform a building’s systems — even at a high-rise structure.
Building’s account for 47 billion gallons of water use every day in America, which in turn represents 12% of total water use. However, water reduction thanks to low-water use plants, drip irrigation, special moisture-sensing controllers, and plumbing fixture flow rates can slash water use. A high-rise building’s restrooms, irrigation, and heating and cooling systems can all be positively impacted. Irrigation water savings alone can top 80%.
Further, the application of an on-site rainwater collection system and a blackwater reuse system can lead to the realization of net-zero water use, even in high-rise buildings. And since high-rise buildings represent perhaps the most difficult type of buildings when it comes to producing the same amount of water as a structure uses, these strategies can create an inspiring model that will boost wider market adoption.
Impact of Net-Zero Water Use on Your Bottom Line
If you implement net-zero water use in a high-rise building’s plans, you’re going to find that your finances will greatly benefit, too. By implementing the above discussed high performance building strategies in an average 1 million sf building will result in estimated 12 million gallons a year saved. When considering national water price averages, this will lead to roughly $140,000 in water savings annually.
Thus, on top of doing your duty to the Earth, you can be cash-flow positive after installing the necessary net-zero water use systems in your high-rise building after just 11 years. Talk about peace of mind!