Plenty Canada is currently developing an innovative water and waste management system at its head office location in Lanark, Ontario. We are seeking to incorporate and integrate methods and technologies into the renovation of our “Makwa Inn” multipurpose space that will reduce consumption of potable water, reuse both water and nutrients, as well as release the used water in both a sanitary and ecologically sound way. We are viewing both water and nutrients as part of a cycle that should be cared for and designed to be resilient.
As mentioned in a previous installment of this water and wastewater management series, heavily populated rural areas experience many of the same concerns around nutrification of natural water courses as urban populations do. The minimum standards for home-scale sewage systems such as septic fields or buried trenches do not remove most nutrients from the water we are releasing, and these nutrients end up in our waterways. Cottage country around lakes release large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus into groundwater and when this filters into lakes it creates algae blooms and habitat loss for marine life by starving the water of oxygen. The alternative to septic fields is storing water and having a truck come pump it out.
There are a variety of advanced on-site wastewater treatment products available, such as the Waterloo Biofilter, Ecoflo, and SystemO)) Enviro-Septic which can reduce the footprint of a septic system as well as convert and remove nutrients from our wastes. There are also alternative methods such as constructed wetlands which use the natural processes of wetland plants to absorb contaminants and treat water. All these systems rely on creating aerobic (or oxygen rich) environments that encourage the proliferation of aerobic bacteria which (similar to composting which also relies on aerobic bacteria) convert ammonia to nitrates and starve out harmful bacteria.
There are also new water recycling technologies which reuse greywater (all of a home’s water other than from toilets). Systems such as the Hydraloop and Greyter greywater recycling systems collect and treat water from showers and laundry to be used as water to flush toilets, wash laundry, irrigate gardens, or fill pools. The Hydraloop uses no filters and relies on alternative physical methods and biological processes to treat the water through a series of steps, finally passing through a UV light. The use of one of these systems reduce a home’s water consumption by up to 50% (depending on use) and avoids using potable water to flush our wastes.
Plenty Canada will be incorporating greywater recycling to reduce water demand as well as explore the potential of constructed wetlands or another advanced treatment system to treat the water coming from the “Makwa Inn.”
The combination of rainwater collection, efficient faucets and appliances, greywater recycling and reuse, composting systems, and ecologically sound release of used water into the environment integrate to create a circular system that does not take from the land but in fact creates value to the surrounding environment. Taken as a whole, these methods and technologies create a long lasting and resilient system that works together with natural processes. Resiliency is the ability to adapt and rely on oneself through a changing world.
Plenty Canada is incorporating these technologies to educate the public on issues surround human water use, as well as to create a template or inspiration for other buildings and communities to copy our plans. We will make the plans available to the public and encourage anyone who wishes to incorporate similar technologies to share freely.
— Garrett Johnson