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Wastewater Treatment at the Solaire & Proposed NYC Incentives for Water Conservation

New York City is considering a capital incentive that would reimburse developers for each gallon of water that they conserve above a one thousand gallon per day yearly average. Dave Praeger (author of the recently-published Poop Culture, a book that discusses, among other things, the environmental impact of wastewater and sewage) toured the Solaire in Battery Park City earlier this summer and wrote this excellent piece about both the proposed capital incentive and the building’s wastewater treatment system, which reduces water consumption by forty-eight percent. The system ultimately processes 25,000 gallons of wastewater from the Solaire’s 750 toilets in a membrane bioreactor, which separates water from contaminants and sends it back to the building for landscape irrigation, into the cooling tower, and to refill those same 750 toilets.

Praeger also reports that the system required a twelve-year payback period under 2003 incentives (when the Solaire was built) and with 2000 technology (when the project was designed), though this period has since shrunk. Along with better technology, the proposed incentive (currently in the public comment phase) would reduce the payback period of such treatment systems to two or three years thanks to a gallon per day payment of between $15 and $20 to developers, whose applications would be judged based on the amount of water savings and lowest gallon per day cost.

Wastewater management is by no means the sexiest of sustainable issues, but it’s certainly no less critical than any. (Without getting into the argument regarding whether individual credits should be weighed, LEED awards up to five credits for water efficient landscaping, innovative wastewater technologies, and twenty and thirty percent water use reduction.) New York City’s proposed incentive program makes a great deal of sense, and local political and environmental organizations should rank it high on their priority list to push through before the end of 2007. You can meet Mr. Praeger at the Park Slope Barnes and Noble in early September where he’ll be signing copies of his book.

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