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Innovation in Urban Water Systems

National Blue Ribbon Commission

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the U.S. Water Alliance have partnered to convene the National Blue Ribbon Commission for Onsite Non-potable Water Systems to advance best management practices to support the use of onsite non-potable water systems for individual buildings or at the local scale. 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 Blue Ribbon Commission is focused on establishing model state and federal guidance and policy frameworks that support local implementation of this sustainable water strategy. Additionally, the commission will identify emerging business opportunities for water utilities as more commercial and industrial customers deploy these systems.

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:

On December 14, 2016, the commission held their first meeting in San Francisco, bringing together representatives from municipalities, public health agencies, water utilities, and national organizations to begin their work on policy frameworks and emerging business models. More information on the National Blue Ribbon Commission can be found at their website:

In December 2017, the Blue Ribbon Commission released a set of tools and resources 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 ONWS.

In addition to guidance on developing and implementing regulations, the Blue Ribbon Commission developed a new 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

In May 2014, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission hosted a dedicated group of water agencies, public health departments, and research institutions from across North America to discuss onsite water treatment systems at the Innovation in Urban Water Systems Meeting. 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.

In 2015, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission convened a Public Health Coalition to develop a regulatory framework for the oversight and management of 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 that are protective of public health. 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 oversight and management programs for onsite non-potable water systems that are adequately protective of public health.

Last updated: 3/30/2018 4:25:45 PM