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Innovation in Urban Water Systems

National Blue Ribbon Commission

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the US Water Alliance have partnered to convene the National Blue Ribbon Commission for Onsite Non-potable Water Systems to support the use of onsite non-potable water systems for individual buildings or at the local scale. The National Blue Ribbon Commission announced their commitment to accelerate the development of onsite non-potable water systems in March 2016 at the White House Water Summit: http://uswateralliance.org/news/us-water-alliance-and-san-francisco-public-utilities-commission-announce-joint-commitment-white

While a broad range of benefits can be achieved by implementing onsite non-potable water systems, widespread adoption of these systems has been stymied due to a number of institutional and regulatory barriers. The National Blue Ribbon Commission is focused on addressing these barriers by establishing model policy frameworks and guidance for municipalities that support local implementation of onsite water reuse. 

On December 14, 2016, the National Blue Ribbon Commission held their first meeting in San Francisco, bringing together representatives from water and wastewater utilities, public health agencies, and national organizations to begin their work addressing the institutional barriers to onsite reuse. The press release below covers the details of this first meeting:

In December 2017, the National Blue Ribbon Commission released guidance for developing and implementing regulations for water systems that collect, treat, and use non-potable water within a building or at the local scale. The guidebook and supporting resources establish a consistent national approach to inform the regulation and management of onsite non-potable water systems.

In addition to guidance on developing and implementing regulations, the National Blue Ribbon Commission developed a report to help water and wastewater utilities, local government agencies, and others understand the benefits and drivers behind onsite non-potable reuse. Making the Utility Case for Onsite Non-potable Water Systems report is meant to inspire One Water leaders to consider this important and effective strategy in their long-term water resource and resilience planning. 

Blueprint for Onsite Water Systems

This national group of water and wastewater agencies, public health departments, and research institutions from across North America have been meeting regularly since May 2014, when the SFPUC hosted the Innovation in Urban Water Systems meeting to discuss onsite water treatment systems. The purpose of this meeting was to share knowledge and lessons learned in order to achieve our mutual goals of overcoming institutional barriers to onsite water treatment.

To continue the momentum from the May 2014 convening, the group developed the “Blueprint for Onsite Water Systems: A Step-by-Step Guide for Developing a Local Program to Manage Onsite Water Systems”. The Blueprint serves as a how-to guide for communities interested in implementing an onsite water treatment program.

Risk-Based Public Health Guidance

In 2015, the coalition came together once again to tackle another barrier: the lack of appropriate water quality standards for onsite water treatment systems. Supported by the Water Research Foundation and Water Environment & Reuse Foundation, an Independent Advisory Panel of water industry experts worked with the coalition to identify appropriate water quality standards and monitoring regimes for onsite systems. The report Risk-Based Framework for the Development of Public Health Guidance for Decentralized Non-Potable Water Systems was published in March 2017 and establishes guidance to help state and local health departments develop water quality standards for onsite non-potable water systems that are adequately protective of public health.

Last updated: 11/26/2018 10:23:38 AM