Apr 18, 2007

Editorial: Nuisance ... or Resource?

With winter finally behind us, I tend to assume spring will be filled with sunny days. I forget about all the rainy days that break up the beautiful weather—that it is April showers that bring May flowers. This time of year, it is easy to think of storm water as a nuisance—something I think we do too often. With nearly 20% of the world’s population lacking access to safe drinking water and water being called the new oil, it is imperative that, rather than a nuisance we need to dispose of, we think of storm water as a resource.
At Environmental Connection, the International Erosion Control Association’s conference and expo that took place in Reno, Nev., in February, Adam Lyman, an engineer with American Geotechnics, presented a case study on this topic that described the development of the Banner Bank Building in Boise, Idaho, which received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum rating, the highest available from the U.S. Green Building Council. The 190,000-sq-ft, 11-story Art Deco/Nouveau-style office building utilizes many sustainable design elements, including an under-floor air distribution system; photo sensitive, motion sensitive and direct digital controls; geothermal heat; energy modeling; and a water reclamation system.
After planners determined that 58% (1,290,500 gal) of the total water used in the building goes into flushing toilets and urinals, they designed a unique system that reuses lavatory graywater and storm water from a 7.3-acre collection area. Based on average demand and rainfall in the area’s semi-arid climate, reclaimed graywater and storm water can meet about 50% (647,500 gal/year) of the building’s sanitary needs, with storm water making up about 40% (510,000 gal/year) of that water.
For another example of how storm water is used as a resource, turn to Page 33 in this issue of Storm Water Solutions to read a case study about storm water reclamation. It details the problems a Florida city has experienced with both flooding and water shortage, and how flood mitigation solutions can incorporate storm water reuse.
For a different approach to the topic, turn to Page 24 in this issue to read a technical article, “Ready for a Paradigm Shift?”—which argues that traditional best management practices (BMPs) create more of a storm water movement, rather than management system, because they treat storm water like a waste product rather than a valuable resource. The authors call for a change in philosophy and methods in storm water management and introduce a BMP that captures and filters storm water so it can be reused
for irrigation.
So when you accidentally step into a puddle of water on the next rainy spring day, don’t be irritated that your socks are soaked; be irritated that that water could be put to better use flushing a toilet or keeping a golf course green.

About the author

Amy Osgood is managing editor of <i>Storm Water Solutions.<i> She can be reached at [email protected].