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Wastewater System Design Can Create a More Sustainable Office

By 3p Contributor

By Megan Wild

You turn on the tap and clean, drinkable water comes pouring out. This is a luxury many of us in the working world take for granted.

But this isn’t the reality in many parts of the world. A recent study found that 1.1 billion individuals, about 17 percent of the world’s population, don’t have access to improved water. An even higher number of people don’t have safe drinking water. So, it should go without saying that having the luxury of ample water on demand comes with responsibility.

Just because we have a supply of water available to our businesses doesn’t mean we should use it all, or that we should ignore the possibilities for reuse after we're done with the water. In our workplaces, it’s important to consider the use of water and the resulting impact on the environment. This is good for the bottom line, the environment and also public perception.

One way to do this is to reconsider how we dispose of our water – wastewater doesn’t need to be wasted. In fact, there are many potential uses for a wastewater system that can have a positive impact on your company.

What is wastewater?

As the term implies, wastewater is water that has been used. It’s been consumed in office kitchens for cooking and cleaning, has been flushed down the toilet or has been used for industrial purposes.

When wastewater is expelled, it can contain human waste, soaps and various chemicals. Wastewater can also incorporate landscaping residue and storm runoff with potentially harmful materials from lawns, roads and rooftops.

Try not to think of wastewater as a dirty, unusable product, but rather as a resource that you can tap into for your company’s benefit. Creating a wastewater system can help you realize the long-term benefits of reusing water.

How can wastewater be reused?

Wastewater doesn’t need to be a problem – it can be a resource. Businesses can use it in many ways and in many places that can help both the environment and the business world.

Greywater systems divert lightly used water for landscaping. Businesses can then reuse water to irrigate a business’s lawn and can help sustain streams, create artificial wetlands or enhance natural ones on the property.

Businesses can also tie into the fire protection of a building or the plumbing system to flush toilets. Also, it has purposes in heating and cooling systems or in processing materials and/or products.

What are the benefits?

The benefit of lowering the demand of fresh water in any office means saving the resource. By doing so, it frees up the fresh water for others to use -- creating a broader community benefit.

It means more reliable water in case of a drought. You don’t need to look any further than California for evidence of this. The Golden State is in the midst of one of the most severe droughts in its history. But it is implementing these initiatives and finding this kind of reduction helpful.

Even if you’re not facing drought, the lowering of fresh water usage has other benefits including cutting utility bills. Less fresh water use translates into less cost. This will impact a business’s bottom line and also further its corporate responsibility mission.

In addition to the individual impact, the reduction of wastewater entering sewers means less demand on treatment systems. This means lower costs for the community at large, and certainly something that’s good for a business to contribute to.

What comes next?

The setup and implementation of water recycling can be expensive. Let’s face it: It’s cheapest to just draw water from a natural freshwater source – that’s why there hasn’t been a real push to pursue wastewater reuse. However, we need to think ahead and see that we won’t always necessarily have the option of seemingly limitless fresh water.  

Probably one of the most difficult aspects of wastewater reuse is public acceptance. The notion of "toilet to tap" technology can make many people uneasy. Each city, community or business undertaking this type of project needs to find the system and method that works best for them – it isn’t one size fits all.

The abundance of fresh water in the developed world has enabled us to take the precious resource for granted – for better and for worse. We are able to turn on the sink to make coffee for the morning meeting or run the dishwasher in the staff kitchen, not worrying about if the water is available or safe.

Now that places like California are facing devastating droughts, we must start to ask ourselves how we use our water and if we can reuse it. The answer is a resounding yes.

The technology and know-how exist, with new innovations constantly emerging. However, there needs to be a demand for it. Business owners can take up this cause and save themselves money while contributing to the greater good.

Image credit: Pixabay

Megan Wild is a writer who is interested in sustainable construction and design. When she isn’t brushing up on the latest in green technology, you can find her tweeting about the latest developments in technology @Megan_Wild.

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