Homes of the future could help water woes

Go behind the scenes of this year’s Solar Decathlon to see how students are tackling the water challenges of tomorrow.

November 29, 2017 | By: Jessica Mahaffey
Official all-teams photo.
The official all-teams photo for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 in Denver, Colorado, Oct. 5, 2017. (Credit: Jack Dempsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon).

“Innovation” is the word of the year in the water industry.

That’s because we need new thinking to solve the water supply and infrastructure challenges of the future, which include an anticipated water gap looming in Colorado and $1 trillion needed to upgrade the nation’s D-rated infrastructure.

Denver Water supports initiatives that promote water innovation like National Western, 10.10.10 and the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.

In October, I had the opportunity to visit the Solar Decathlon hosted right here in Denver, where 11 schools from around the world designed and built full-sized sustainable houses, and the students competed in 10 contests that ranged from engineering to health and comfort.

Jack stands on the porch the University of Maryland house
The author’s nephew, Jack, stands on the porch of the “reACT” house designed by students from the University of Maryland.

This was the first year that water was part of the competition, and the students didn’t disappoint. Water-efficiency ideas like rainwater collection, graywater systems and even aquaponics were brought to life in the “pop-up village” displaying all 11 student-built sustainable homes.

To me, these innovative and forward-thinking designs proved that the future is now. We’re seeing firsthand that the students of today have some great ideas to tackle the water challenges of tomorrow.

Not only were the homes technologically innovative, they also made sustainable living look and feel like a lifestyle enhancement, rather than a sacrifice.

Changing public perception is often the most difficult kind of innovation, and these extraordinary students not only did that, they also inspired the next generation. Including my 9-year-old nephew Jack, who walked through the homes and told me he couldn’t wait until he was big so that he could live in a house like he saw at the Solar Decathlon.

I think you’ll agree. Take a look:

2 thoughts on “Homes of the future could help water woes”

  1. I love the idea of gray water collection systems – things like using water collected from the shower to flush the toilets. But…. isn’t that against the law here? I seem to recall something a few years ago about a man who got a huge fine for using gray water from his washing machine to water his lawn – the reports said Denver Water required that all water be “single use.” Would love some clarification on that regulation.

    1. Water use in Colorado is regulated by the state, not Denver Water. That said, we support exploring all ways to use and reuse water efficiently, including graywater, rainwater harvesting, stormwater management and treatment, and more. Allowing the use of graywater systems for indoor and outdoor uses will be a critical tool to help ensure water for our future.

      As a result of 2013 legislation, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment developed Regulation 86: Graywater Control Regulation, which was adopted by the Water Quality Control Commission on Nov. 9, 2015. A copy of regulation is available on the commission page. A graywater information sheet is also available.

      The statute made graywater an “opt-in” program for local jurisdictions and not a statewide program. To allow graywater use, a city, city and county, or county will have to adopt an ordinance or resolution to allow graywater use within its jurisdiction by developing a graywater control program that meets the requirements of Regulation 86.

      Denver was the first Colorado municipality to allow graywater reuse. Learn more about Denver’s adoption of this law, here.

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