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June 14, 2011


William E. Reifsteck DBIA

I am glad to see that those that sit in a relatively moist area are looking at smart new out of the box ways to conserve our most valuable natural resource. When I was at Notre Dame last century I was told by one of my professors that water would be more than $1.00 a gallon and eventually would cost more than gasoline in our lifetime. We laughed but that has come true. I am tired of people measuring sustainability by how many points I collect on someone else’s measuring card. Here is an example of water conservation that really does not fit into today’s scorecards but is invaluable to the project owner.

We were proposing on the design and construction of a Southern California community college maintenance and operations facility. Next door to the M&O facility was the school’s horticulture facility which was going to be rebuilt. Over the previous years the horticulture facility had to curtail several of its programs as they did not have adequate water to irrigate the teaching crops. We saw an opportunity here because the M&O facility had, by design, a lot of impervious surfaces. What if we collected all the rain water that fell on this site and stored it to be used by the horticulture teaching crops? Our team calculated that we could collect 100% of the average yearly rainfall by building a 70,000 gallon cistern that would be located under the paving of the M&O site. This project is under construction and ready to irrigate the crops.

Another thing that happened during the design process was that we were tasked with building a space to wash their maintenance vehicles. At their present site they washed the vehicles using a hose and a bucket of water. They then let the run off fall on the ground and “evaporate” or run into the storm sewers without any treatment. Most of their vehicles have pesticides and or fertilizers on them and this was what was going into the storm system. They would wash between 10 and 20 vehicles each week with an average consumption of 50 gallons per wash that was 1000 gallons a week that was thrown away down the drain. Our team knowing that water was a premium at this site designed a washing system that would recycle treat and reuse the water. The system is modified closed loop washing system that uses 300 gallons of water in a system that collects all run off, treats it for solids and grease, reclaims the water and purifies it for reuse. The system evaporation loss is about 10 gallons per day depending on how careful the operators are with overspray and what the relative humidity is. We are finding that they are washing their vehicles more often as they do not have to be so worried about consumption and mandatory water conservation regulations. Clean vehicles tend to be taken care of better and while being washed visual inspections of the body and vehicles often turn up maintenance issues that previously were not discovered until there was a break down also extending the useful life of the vehicles which is the ultimate in sustainability.

also if you would like to see more see this project look at this video



It seems that effort for these projects have done a subsequent success lately. To emphasize the issues about water preservation, we must do something big about this. Great article!

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