Environment watch: From Indigenous lands to water recycling at the office

1. United States

San Francisco is leading the charge in extreme water recycling. In 2015, the city mandated a decentralized approach, requiring the cleaning and reusing of water on-site for all new buildings larger than 100,000 square feet. Researchers estimate that in five to 10 years, the technology, safety testing, and regulations will come together to enable water neutrality, achieved through circular systems that repeatedly reuse a set amount of water rather than pumping water in from outside sources.

“This is the future of water,” said Newsha Ajami, director of Urban Water Policy at Stanford’s Water in the West Program. “A lot of communities are going to pick this up as a way of having economic development while having water security.”

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In our progress roundup, natural resource management is being distributed in ways that expand our idea of who is responsible. Around the world, more land is now owned by the people whose long histories are attached. And in San Francisco’s largest new buildings, water recycling moves in-house.

Decentralized water recycling drives down demand for potable water from centralized sites. In San Francisco, the Salesforce Tower recycles 30,000 gallons of water each day for use in irrigation and toilet flushing – a practice that saves 7.8 million gallons of water annually. In the New York borough of Brooklyn, the Domino Sugar Refinery redevelopment project will recycle 400,000 gallons of blackwater – water used in toilets, dishwashers, and kitchen sinks – each day. And a Dutch company, Hydraloop, markets a product that can recycle up to 95% of the water used in homes for nonpotable use.
Sources: Yale Environment 360, The New York Times