Writer Allison Arieff’s most recent By Design column for the New York Times – “Blue is the New Green” – discusses the importance of water, and mentions the panel we gave at this year’s West Coast Green conference:
Although 70 percent of the earth is covered with water, just 3 percent of that water is fit for human consumption. This isn’t going to improve anytime soon. Failures in water-related infrastructure result in lost biodiversity, higher temperatures, increased flooding, massive impact on energy and unsafe, unsanitary water.
But important advances have been made in water resource management — and they are far more compelling than the term “water resource management” would suggest. (Earlier this year, a panel at the sustainability conference West Coast Green was titled “The Sexiest Large Scale Design Applications We Have Ever Seen.”)
On the panel, Bry Sarte joined Paul Kephart of Rana Creek to bring some sex appeal to “Water Resource Management” and “Water-Related Infrastructure,” terms which may not exactly role off the tongue or come up often in cocktail chatter, but are increasingly becoming critical concerns for everybody.
In her column, Arieff discusses several issues that we covered on the panel, and routinely deal with in our work, including:
- Treating water as a resource instead of a waste.
- Building multiple uses for water into our designs.
- Recognizing that Water=Energy, and balancing the two.
She also lists several strategies to accomplish these goals including Living Roofs, Living Walls, Greywater Reuse, and Rainwater Harvesting. The photographs demonstrate that these designs can be both beautiful and practical.
In discussing his work designing the Living Roof for the Academy of Science, Paul Kephart noted that, “We have 42 acres of impervious surface in San Francisco. With 29 acres of roofs we could solve forever the runoff issues.” This would not only save water, but energy and money as well; while improving the health of the city.
Fortunately, this type of thinking is catching on. The California Public Utilities Commission is exploring water-energy efficiency programs:
The CPUC’s Water Action Plan calls for strengthening water conservation programs to a level comparable to the energy efficiency achieved by energy utilities. The Water Action Plan specifically calls for a 10 percent reduction in energy consumption by water utilities, emphasizes the importance of reducing the amount of energy needed by water utilities for water pumping, purification systems, and other water processes such as desalination, and encourages programs to reduce energy waste by water utilities from causes such as system leaks, poorly maintained equipment, defective meters, unused machines left idling, and improperly operated systems.
And it’s not just government agencies and designers that are finding the “sex appeal” in water design. As the dozens and dozens of thoughtful comments to Ms. Arieff’s column indicate – people all across the country are interested in making “Blue the New Green.”