Addressing critical water challenges at The Water Council (USGBC Wisconsin)

Posted by Kyle Weise on USGBC on June 7, 2018

“When it comes to water, Milwaukee gets it…Milwaukee will be the freshwater capital of the world.”

—U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, 2014

Issues in water continue to be a major facet of sustainable development worldwide. As we near the WaterBuild summit being held during Greenbuild 2018 in Chicago this November, it is important to recognize the strides happening in water development. Fresh water has carved out the design of the city in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and in the Walker’s Point neighborhood, The Water Council is creating a powerful and unique international success story.

The Water Council has been making waves in the city as of late, but as early as 2009, it was just an idea. Built to facilitate development around what is perhaps Milwaukee’s largest and most unique resource, the fresh waters of Lake Michigan, today The Water Council has grown to include more than 190 members from small and midsized businesses and large global corporations to engineers, entrepreneurs, utilities, government agencies, education programs and nonprofits.

As humans, water is central to our lives. From drinking to manufacturing to food production and nearly everything in between, water is a nonnegotiable component of the world’s vital systems. Yet water access and quality issues are expected to be growing concerns in the United States and globally. That is why the World Economic Forum has called water scarcity the top global risk to society.

It is estimated that the operation of buildings (including landscaping) draws about 47 billion gallons of water per day, which equates to approximately 14 percent of the total water use in the U.S. As more designers and end-users strive to achieve the best certification possible in their buildings, The Water Council is a great resource for professionals to learn about water stewardship and new ways to better use water within facilities and operations, which in turn could enhance the performance of buildings working to gain LEED certification.

Purple pipe as a water reuse strategy

One tactic that is becoming increasing popular is the design of purple pipe into a building’s infrastructure to reroute and reuse its greywater, which is incorporated in the Global Water Technology Business Park across the street from The Water Council. Water is identified as grey after it has been used for washing and is still relatively clean.

Also known as purple pipe, by engineering in a separate pathway for this class of water, buildings can reuse it on-site for an assortment of tasks such as flushing toilets or watering a rooftop garden. Since the water is being used twice, the amount of water put into the sewage system is cut in half. The integration of purple pipe is a great way to boost scores in the LEED v4 Water Efficiency credit category.

Permeable surfaces that reduce flood risk

Another growing trend in buildings and water is the use of porous pavement. Permeable materials can be used to construct parking lots, bike paths and sidewalks that allow stormwater to trickle beneath the surface. When the water reaches the ground at the source, it can be naturally handled rather than adding more load to the system—effectively reducing the risk of erosion and flooding.

As the runoff reaches the soil, it is made accessible to the naturally occurring organisms to filter and detoxify some materials. The use of permeable surfaces can earn LEED credits for water-efficient landscaping, use of recycled materials and minimizing the heat island effect.

As water issues continue to be a major concern in sustainability, USGBC Wisconsin and The Water Council are advancing what is possible in the way water is sourced, used and recycled.

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