When we decided to showcase Greyter Water Systems and the Greyter HOME greywater reuse solution at this month’s Association of Municipalities (AMO) annual conference, we were not sure what to expect. Greyter has actively promoted its onsite water reuse technology solutions for commercial buildings over the past 5 years. However, our audience has been, for the most part, architects, engineers, designers, builders and developers – all interested in creating water efficient buildings and homes. Although Greyter has contributed to discussions relating to water policy, we have contributed to a dialogue mostly made up of water stakeholders living in South Western United States. After all, it is in areas like California, where there is a widespread understanding that many of the solutions to water scarcity will come from new technologies that assist in managing water resources more efficiently. For example, in San Francisco, it was largely the result of the hard work of water experts working with the SFPUC that led to the creation of financial incentives for builders and developers of commercial and residential buildings that collect and reuse greywater for such purposes as flushing toilets, irrigating lawns and other purposes. Whereas the glass is perceived to be half empty in many drier regions like California and around the world, what then would be the response from Ontario policy leaders living in a province surrounded by the Great Lakes and an abundance of fresh water? Needless to say, we were looking forward to interacting with Ontario policy experts at the AMO Annual Conference in Windsor to see where water management, efficiency and reuse fell in terms of the list of priorities. For some, water was not on the top of the list as a most pressing issue. The glass was still half full. Residents of Ontario, after all, are blessed with living in cities and towns near the Great Lakes and along waterways like the majestic St. Lawrence River. However, for many policy leaders, often within very large municipalities, the interest in decentralized water reuse and water conservation was extremely high. There was significant interest in how onsite water reuse solutions, like the Greyter HOME and our commercial building’s solutions, could assist in developing new infrastructure that manage water resources more efficiently.
Clearly, water conservation and reuse has become a major priority issue for the policy leaders of York Region. Listed number one, within York Region’s six major actions within its Water and Waste Water Master Plan, is to “Implement the Long Term Water Conservation Strategy and Water Reuse”. York Region has a very unique problem when it comes to water. It is the fastest growing region in Canada and it is the only municipality in the Greater Toronto Area that does not have direct access to Lake Ontario. Communities in York Region are serviced by water originating in Lake Ontario, Lake Simcoe based water and/or groundwater. The Region has had to enter into long term agreements with Peel, Durham Region and the City of Toronto for various aspects of its water and wastewater needs. Without direct access to Lake Ontario and with a population expected to grow by 50 per cent in 2041, reaching over 1.7 million people, York Region has created a plan to develop all new infrastructure and developments with water management, reuse and efficiency at the forefront. As part of its “Long Term Conservation Strategy”, York has created a “No New Water” initiative. This is a bold initiative that sets a 2051 water consumption target across all sectors that would not be greater than the region’s 2011 usage.
York Region’s Chairman and CEO, Wayne Emmerson stopped by the Greyter exhibit for a brief discussion. “York Region is striving to minimize its environmental footprint through initiatives such as energy conservation, greenhouse gas reduction and water conservation and reuse while continuing to provide safe and sustainable water and wastewater services,” said Mr. Emmerson. “As the Region embarks on water reuse innovative technologies, this is a way to showcase leadership in utilizing water reuse applications not only for public buildings and water and wastewater facilities but also for residential development and industrial commercial and institutional sectors,” continued Mr. Emmerson.
Like York Region, many other Ontario municipalities are tackling water pressures head on by promoting conservation and/or reuse. In Toronto, reuse goals are not the consequence of lacking direct access to Lake Ontario. Toronto’s low impact developments and promotion of sustainable site and building designs is a direct result of a city addressing urban environmental pressures such as storm water run-off and combined storm-sewers overflows. As a result of the Toronto Green Standard, new developments are required to retain at least the first 5 mm from each rainfall through rainwater reuse and on-site infiltration. In addition, the site is required to retain stormwater to the same level of annual volume of runoff allowable under pre-development conditions. This means that new developments within Toronto must incorporate large stormwater retention tanks as a part of the development process. When stormwater retention is a necessary requirement of a new building, a readily available source of water in now available for onsite water reuse. Furthermore, it becomes easier to justify the benefits and savings of using the stormwater collected in these cisterns for onsite water usage such as toilet flushing, irrigation, cooling towers and many other purposes because the total costs are reduced by the mere fact that the stormwater retention tank is a requirement of the building.
How a region promotes and adopts incentives for water reuse applications for greywater recycling or stormwater harvesting in new residential and commercial developments will be driven by the environmental factors and pressures facing each specific region or municipality. That being said, where municipalities appear to be aligned is in the adoption of water conservation and reuse strategies within new developments. Furthermore, there also appears to be an understanding by those driving policy that the solutions to various water pressures will come from new technologies that can aid in managing Ontario’s precious water resources more efficiently.