Like many water savings articles recently published, this article could be filled doom and gloom, the fear of the unknown, and the ubiquitous dire warnings from the so-called experts. I can go on about planting low water landscape and switching to low water irrigation systems (not bad ideas!). Instead, I’m going to request that you push aside those common themes of today, and allow me to introduce you to a wonderful world of opportunity. A world where you take back control over your living expenses, your guilt of consumption of precious resources, and your desire to thrive financially. I know it may seem un-grounded in optimism, but I challenge you to conclude at the end of this article that what you are about to read is a story that not only can be easily duplicated, but readily achieved by anyone looking to reach the same goals.
Located in the suburban foothills of San Diego lies a twenty-something year old, 500 unit HOA community that is predominately owned by fixed income retirees, and low to middle income citizens. Facing budget overruns and inefficient infrastructure, and a stretched to the max constituency, the Board desperately searched for answers to avoid inevitable assessment increases.
What began as a meeting to investigate “smart controllers” for their seven outdated, and non-operable irrigation controllers, turned out to be a fortuitous introduction to a completely different approach towards landscape management. I say fortuitous in that although the seven irrigation controllers were definitively well beyond their useful life cycle, and were justifiably ready for replacement, expending those dollars on that particular element of their infrastructure was not the best use of precious, limited reserve capital. I can hear that voice in the back of your mind saying now, “but who’s to say, and how would you know?” Allow me to explain.
This particular community, like almost all others located throughout our state, utilizes water for both interior and exterior use. The two systems supplying this water are not connected, and consume our precious blue resource based on their individual needs. But what if these two systems were connected, and you captured the wastewater leaving your building headed for the local municipal wastewater treatment plant, and redirected it to your own, onsite wastewater treatment system? That reclaimed water would then be processed in accordance with our water resource regulations, and available for re-use throughout the landscape. The net affect of this would be to purchase water once, but use it twice. Very exciting! But wait, it even gets better.
Most municipalities assess sewer fees based upon your water meter consumption, realizing there is a close relationship between what you buy, and what you return down the drain. However, since we are no longer sending portions of our wastewater back to the municipal wastewater treatment facility, that means our actual sewer costs will be less than the water we purchase, and therefore cannot be tied to the water meter. Instead, our sewer fees will be reduced by the amount of wastewater we redirect to our onsite wastewater treatment system, thus reducing our sewer fees and creating additional savings.
In addition to the reduction in cost of purchased irrigation water and sewer fees, another benefit realized is the leveling out of annual rate increases. Anyone close to the books knows how radical our water and sewer fees have increased over the last (10) years, and there appears to be no end in sight. Since you have reduced your water and sewer costs by investing in your own wastewater treatment facility, (yes, your very own wastewater treatment facility) your ability to shield your community from these annual increases is greatly increased, thereby lowering your operating costs in comparison with your neighbor.
The scenario above has been in practice outside of our country for many years, but is now gaining attention due to the recent drought restrictions, and incredibly high cost of water and sewer services. Although blessed with abundant resources that have previously been adequate to serve our communities, a growing population and aging infrastructure is placing pressures on supply and cost. By connecting these two systems and re-purposing water that has previously been distributed f long distances, you are expanding the water supply, decreasing your costs, and creating more resiliencies, both environmentally, and economically.
Similar to solar, these privately owned waste-water treatment facilities are still connected to your current utility grid, but offer you a fixed operating cost while harvesting a resource previously intended for the waste stream. The savings realized from no longer purchasing irrigation water, and reduced sewer fees, repays the initial capital outlay required to invest in these systems.
As long as you purchase water for interior use, and have a landscape requiring irrigation, you too can realize this same benefit as the community in San Diego; having access to free and unlimited irrigation water, (never paying another irrigation water bill again), realizing reduced sewer fees, securing fixed future water and sewer costs, and having a landscape not impacted by any further drought restrictions. All easily accomplished, and available for your pursuit today. Prosper, enjoy and replenish.
A seminar will be held in first quarter 2016. If you are interested in attending, please let us know by clicking here.