Recycling System Cuts Home Water Use

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On the side of a model home at KB Home’s Sea Cliff development Tom Wood, founder and chief technology officer of Nexus eWater, looks inside his company’s gray water treatment system that recycles the home’s gray water. (Photo credit: Charlie Neuman)

Article courtesy of Roger Showley | June 22, 2015 | The San Diego | Shared as educational material

KB Home, one of the state’s largest builders, showed off a new recycling system in San Diego Monday that eliminates the need for much of the drinking water now used to quench thirsty landscapes. It would drop overall water use by as much as 72 percent. Water officials say it is the first time such a system is being installed in a housing subdivision.

The $10,000 system comes at a time when California is searching for ways to reduce water use because of severe drought. It is a standard feature in KB Home’s 52-home Sea Cliff project and routes so-called “gray water” from showers, bathtubs, washing machines and bathroom sinks through filters that remove most solids and impurities, and makes the water ready for use in each home’s landscaping.

The project, which held its grand opening over the weekend, is located north of state Route 56 in the northern San Diego city neighborhood of Rancho Penasquitos. Homes range from $890,000 to just over $1 million on floor plans of 2,892 to 3,934 square feet. Sales agent Sandro Di Nunzio said the recycling system caught the buyers’ attention.

(Photo credit: The San Diego)

“People just see it as a great innovation. It’s setting the community apart from other builders,” he said.

KB obtained the system from Nexus eWater, founded in Australia five years ago and recently relocated to California.

“We’re the only certified system and this is the only place (it’s been installed),” said Scott Isaksen, Nexus’ director of engineering and technical services.

The National Sanitary Foundation, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., has certified the system as the only one currently available nationally for this sort of use. Its NSF350 standard was added to the California plumbing code in its most recent edition.

At a tour Monday, Nexus and KB officials showed how the system works.

Used water is routed from drains and pipes to a 50-gallon underground tank in the side yard. It then runs through a 10-gallon-per-hour filtering system that removes virtually all suspended solids, bacteria and impurities and ends up in a 200-gallon underground tank that feeds the home’s landscaping irrigation system.

Ralph Petroff, founder and chairman of Nexus eWater stressed that the water does not meet state drinking standards and should not be consumed.

A monitoring system connected by cell phone alerts Nexus offices if there is a problem that technicians can be dispatched to fix.

Besides the recycling system, the home features the latest in water-saving fixtures and appliances that comply with the EPA’s WaterSense standards program.

Jeff Stephenson, representing the San Diego County Water Authority, said the typical water use of 161 gallons per person per day could be cut by 50 percent with the recycling and higher efficiency features. But Tom Wood, Nexus’ chief technology officer, said use could drop as low as 45 gallons per person per day — a 72 percent reduction.

Nexus originally hoped to certify the use of recycled water for the KB homes’ toilets as well, but city of San Diego building officials said required annual inspections are not presently available to certify that additional use would be safe.

In the front yard of a model home at KB Home’s Sea Cliff development ,Heather McPherson and Tom Wood, of Nexus eWater, remove the cover of the home’s gray water tank. The water will be treated by the home’s gray water recycling system. Nexus Water makes the home’s gray water system. (Photo credit: Charlie Neuman)

Still Jose Salcedo, a department mechanical engineer and assistant manager, called it a “huge benefit” for homeowners, because it would be included during construction.

Nexus officials said they are ramping up production at new subdivisions and can supply existing homes as well, but at a cost of around $15,000. They expect the costs to drop in coming years.

The project’s unveiling occurred just as home builders gather in San Diego for the annual Pacific Coast Builders Conference, where water conservation is expected to be a common topic by presents and among delegates because the growing concerns about the ongoing drought. While water districts around the state have been ordered to cut back usage, cities and counties continue to approve new construction that generates more water demand.

David Cogdill, CEO of the California Building Industry Association that runs the conference, took note of that apparent paradox by saying new homes typically are more efficient in water use.

“We are part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Cogdill said at the KB Homes tour, and it “only makes sense” to move people into more efficient homes, where they can save money.

Tracy Quinn, a policy analyst at the National Resources Defense Council in Santa Monica, called the Nexus system a “step in the right direction” toward reducing Californians’ water “footprint.”

“As our water resources continue to diminish and our population continues to grow, I think we’ll see an increase in the cost of water,” she said. “As more (recycling) products come along, we’ll see a cost reduction in those products as well.”

Steve Ruffner, KB regional president, said the company will likely offer the system at other new projects around the state but has not decided if it will be included as a standard or an option.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he said.

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