Fresh water is one of our most important natural resources as it is necessary for survival and lacks a substitute. We depend on water for survival as well as for our convenience; we drink it, cook with it, wash with it, travel on it, and an enormous amount is used for the purposes of agriculture, manufacturing, mining, energy production, and waste disposal (Environment 264). Therefore, with respect to sustainability, maintaining the quality and quantity of water is a top priority.
Water covers approximately three-fourths of the earth's surface, creating many problems for water management and the implementation of water conservation technologies (Environment 264). However, from a community level many water saving tactics can be implemented to conserve this most precious natural resource.
In light of the new building, the future Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering (ESE building), scheduled to open in 1998, has provided an opportunity for a WATGreen team to initiate the study of a rain water system for the building. The results of this study could lead to the incorporation of a rain water system into the plumbing of the ESE building.
The proposed rain water system would involve using rainfall that would otherwise be collected as surface runoff and channeled through the Region of Waterloo's storm water sewer system eventually leading to the Grand River and other small tributaries. With a rain water system, 'free' rainwater would instead be stored in a rain water storage or retention tank and then used for flushing toilets, which does not necessitate the use of clean chemically treated water. The practice of a rain water system on the University of Waterloo campus, especially in the design and construction of the new ESE building, not only promotes water conservation, but it also promotes an aspect of sustainable development of such an irreplaceable resource.
In turn, it is the task and determination of the WATGreen team to examine the likelihood of a rain water system for the ESE building. Considering a significant component of sustainability is related to economic concerns, not only will a bio-technical and it and study be completed, but a socio-economic study will accompany it as well. Prior to the performance of any such studies however, it is necessary to first identify the components of the rain water system itself. The WATGreen team has made it their goal to identify components of the rain water system that are only the most "environmentally" efficient. That is, each of the components identified will use as little energy, water as is possible, while minimizing costs and waste generation.
The physical components of the new building's rain water system will consist of: the retention tank used for rainwater storage, the plumbing system which will channel the water to the toilets and channel contaminated water to sanitary sewers, a connection to the sanitary sewer system to remove the waste or sewage from the system, a storm sewer connection in case of overflow in the retention tank due to excessive precipitation, and 6 litre toilets or the smallest possible flush toilet available on the market to reduce the amount of water expended by flush toilets.
The inputs into the system will depend on the climate and seasonal conditions
in the Waterloo area. Rainfall will be the prime input into the system,
however some energy will be required to operate the pump, which will pump
the water from the retention tank to the toilets.
SEE SYSTEMS DIAGRAM
After all of this has been completed, what will it all mean to the University
of Waterloo? Simply, the inclusion of a rain water system in new developments
on campus will promote development which is sustainable, and if the system is
incorporated into the design of the building, the University of Waterloo may
be regarded as an environmental pillar of the community. In other words, UW
would be setting the standards for future developments, not only on campus,
but for the Kitchener-Waterloo community and beyond.
Back to Table of Contents
A rain water system is a means of water conservation and involves the implementation of a unique plumbing system thus, the study will be completed from a conservationist/technical perspective. The conservationist's perspective works toward achieving the optimal use out of existing resources, while attempting to minimize the use of additional inputs into the system. The technical aspect of the perspective aims at designing a technically feasible plumbing system that incorporates the conservationist framework outlined above. These approaches set the framework from which sustainability will be evaluated because in order for the development of the new building and the plumbing system in particular to occur, integration of a natural resource (water), and integration of human technologies will have to be implemented in a sustainable manner.
The sustainability framework will be based on both a financial study and an ecological savings study. The financial study will determine the predicted monetary savings to the University of Waterloo for treated water consumption versus the implementation of a rain water system. The ecological savings study will be determined by the rain water system infrastructure and the amount of rain water used instead of chemically treated water. Also, the amount of contaminated water channeled to the Region of Waterloo's sewage treatment plant will also be assessed.
As analysts of the possibility for a rain water system within the new building, it becomes necessary for the WATGreen team to know to whom the issue is of concern and who has some stake in the development of such a system. Actor systems are comprised of both the main persons or stakeholders in an issue and the social rules and power structure in which they operate. These are the people who are affected directly or indirectly by a problem and who may have a vested interest in its outcome. Actor systems can include core actors who are at the centre of an issue, supporting actors who are less involved but can exert influence over an issue, and should-be actors who may be affected by a problem or its solutions but are unable to participate in problem resolution or who are unaware of the issue (University of Waterloo).
Within the realm of this system study, it is vital to consider the roles of
the members of the community that will be affected in any decisions or
developments. The inclusion of these actors will allow the development of
the new building to be accepted by the community. For example, we feel the
listed actors below will, or should be involved in the development of the
plumbing system of the ESE building. Their stake in the matter is described
in detail following their listing below:
The roles of these actors is critical to the study of the system. For example, the role of the students is to assess the feasibility of a rain water system in the ESE building. The plant operations staff are responsible for the technical aspects and the maintenance of the system, and the New Building Committee will be responsible for the implementation of a rain water system into the cost and design of the building, as are the architects and contractors.
The supporting actors should influence the core actors to implement a rain water system. Weigle Reality should encourage the University of Waterloo to implement a rain water system into the ESE building because of the success they have in their condominium complex, which has a rain water system incorporated into its design. The Region of Waterloo should encourage the core actors to incorporate any environmental technologies into new developments to sustain the Waterloo community.
The should-be actors are mainly the financial sponsors of the new ESE
building. For example, private donors and the provincial government who are
mainly providing the funds for the building should have a say in the design
of the building and it's environmental standard. The students and WPIRG
should be concerned about what the University of Waterloo is constructing on
campus and in light of the attention the natural environment is receiving in
the 1990s the students and WPIRG should make sure that the UW only
promotes the most environmental technologies available.
Back to Table of Contents
However, in trying to remedy the problem of overland flow, rainwater has
needlessly been redirected to rivers and other water bodies. To a certain
degree this water is necessary to replenish the hydrological cycle, but some
of the rainwater can be redirected for use in buildings that would otherwise
require chemically treated water. Therefore, the purpose and goals of this
study is to:
The system is dependent on the initial inputs into the system
(rainwater). However, in order to have a reliable system it is
necessary to have a backup source in order to provide for maximum
efficiency in the event that sufficient amounts of rainwater to meet
the flushing demands does not fall. Therefore, a connection to
treated water supplied from the Region of Waterloo, which will also
provide water for any other plumbing component in the building such
as sinks, will fuel the system when needed. The main feature of this
system is to reduce the stress on water use on the University of
Waterloo campus and the system will benefit the environment by
producing less stress on the sanitary sewer system and eliminating
waste more efficiently.
Back to Table of Contents
In order to evaluate the feasibility of the system, the precipitation
will be measured and the flushing demands will be monitored. The
precipitation data will be obtained from the Larry Lamb ecology lab
located on the University of Waterloo campus. This precipitation data
is an extremely important aspect of the system as it will indicate
whether or not enough rainfall is present in one year to meet the
flushing demand. Similarly, it will indicate how much treated water
will be needed to compensate for the difference in rain water and
flushing demand if it is found that not enough rain falls in one year to
meet the flushing needs of the new building. The flushing demands at
the University of Waterloo will be measured via counting the average
number of flushes in an 8hr. day. The information required to complete
a CBA will be obtained from the University of Waterloo's Plant
Operations department, from Paul Weigle a contractor and supporter of
rain water systems, and from the new building committee.
Back to Table of Contents
Important information obtained from Mr. Weigle:
Our list of questions were supposed to help us determine water usage in
various buildings on campus, and allow us to extrapolate some general
numbers to figure out the appropriate size of the proposed cistern in the
ESE building. The list of questions is as follows:
Secondly, Rick Zalagenes provided a spreadsheet of water
campus, which revealed that is was impossible to determine how much water
is used per building over a year. We were told that every building was
metered in the past, but high maintainence costs prompted Plant
Operations to stop this metering and rely on four meters for the majority
of the campus. These meters are named:
The only buildings which are monitored individually are:
The idea of using Optometry as a model for water use was dismissed to it's low population and water-cooled air conditioning. The former causing low water use levels in the winter, and the latter causing very high consumption rates in the warmer months.
Due to this lack of information regarding water use in each building, it was also impossible to find out the amount of water used for flushing toilets and urinals. It follows that it is also impossible to determine the water use costs that flushing represented each year.
Rick Zalagenes contacted Phil Simpson in Plant Operations who was able to answer the rest of questions regarding the number of fixtures and the nature of the fixtures. According to Mr. Simpson, there are 57 toilets and 25 urinals in the psychology building. Plant Operations is in the process of retro-fitting every fixture with "Crane Delaney" flush valves. These particular flush valves use only a small amount of water each flush and can be adjusted to account for water pressure levels and water use levels. (Water pressure in lines tends to be 57 psi, and varies with time of year and water use levels.) The valves are being replaced as the old fixtures break-down. Most of the fixtures have been replaced as of March 1995.
Crane Delaney flush valves are set to use 2 gallons per flush on toilets and 1 gallon per flush on urinals. These valves are attached to Crane and American Standard porcelain fixtures. Other water-conserving valves being used on campus include "Teck II' which use 1.5 gallons and 0.75 gallon per flush for toilets and urinals respectively.
"Building's Coming, A Home for Earth Sciences", in The UW Gazette, Wednesday, February 15, 1995.
Phone Interview with Paul Wiegle, Friday Febraury 17, 1995.
Back to Table of Contents