New Pacific Institute Guide Highlights Onsite Water Reuse Systems as Circular Approach to Build Urban Water Resilience
Guide Supports Private and Public Sector Site Developers Plan, Design, and Operate Systems to Collect and Treat Water for Non-Potable Onsite Reuse
Oakland, California – January 26, 2023 – The Pacific Institute, a global nonpartisan water think tank, today released guidance for developers to plan, design, and operate onsite water reuse systems. The “Guide for Developing Onsite Water Systems to Support Regional Water Resilience” advances circular, localized approaches to managing water that reduce a site’s water footprint, improve its resilience to water shortage or other disruptions, and provide benefits for local communities and regional water systems.
Onsite water systems collect and treat water from onsite sources, including wastewater, rainwater, and stormwater, and reuse it for non-potable water uses like toilet flushing, outdoor irrigation, and cooling, which can account for over 75% of a site’s water demand.
The new guide assists site developers envision and evaluate how an onsite system can use a multi-benefit approach to build water resilience, support equity, improve environmental health, and protect public health. Each section is paired with sample questions to consider, stakeholders to engage, resources to examine, and recommended analyses. The guide also provides a range of case studies illustrating best practices and lessons learned.
“What’s unique about this guide is the holistic perspective – going beyond the site, and going beyond water, to consider other issues that intersect with water reuse and who those issues affect,” said Cora Snyder, Pacific Institute Senior Researcher. “While guidance to support site-level decision-making exists, this guidebook expands the scope to include actionable advice on how onsite systems can also provide benefits to surrounding communities and regional water systems.”
The guide was developed through a year-long working group process led by Pacific Institute and facilitated by Ross Strategic. The working group included more than 20 local and regional decision-makers across industry sectors—from public agencies to private companies to NGOs—with interest in and influence over onsite water system development in California’s Silicon Valley.
While the guide was developed with insights from Silicon Valley, the decision-support framework for onsite water system investments can be applied across the United States and beyond.
“Onsite water systems are gaining traction across the US and the world as a water resilience strategy,” said Heather Cooley, Director of Research at the Pacific Institute. “This circular approach can provide multiple benefits for the building, water systems, and the larger community. In addition to diversifying water supplies, they can reduce pollution from stormwater, create green space, and provide added flexibility and redundancy to centralized water systems.”
The guide builds on the Pacific Institute’s ongoing work on water reuse, including the 2021 report, “The Role of Onsite Water Systems in Advancing Water Resilience in Silicon Valley.”
Founded in 1987, the Pacific Institute is a global water think tank that combines science-based thought leadership with active outreach to influence local, national, and international efforts in developing sustainable water policies. Its mission is to create and advance solutions to the world’s most pressing water challenges. From working with Fortune 500 companies to disenfranchised communities, the Pacific Institute leads local, national, and international efforts in developing sustainable water policies and delivering meaningful results.