Aaron Tartakovsky, Co-Founder and CEO Epic of Cleantec
Michael Warandy, President and Co-founder at Sylmar Group
Eric Hough, Chief Commercial Office of Epic Cleantec
Droughts, wildfires, and extreme weather have exacted a devastating toll on the southwestern United States in recent years. These dire conditions highlight the rising need for resilient water infrastructure — not only in affected regions, but throughout the entire country.
The United States’ aging water infrastructure is already under incredible strain as urban populations grow. Even with the right political pressure, fixing the nation’s water infrastructure would take decades and require hundreds of billions of dollars.
We simply can’t afford to wait that long — but luckily, we don’t have to. The decentralization of our water and wastewater infrastructure alleviates the strain on the aging infrastructure and makes our water system more resilient.
Unreliable Infrastructure: A Water Crisis Underway
Just as rooftop solar and distributed power generation power helped to decentralize the electric grid, onsite water reuse can make water infrastructure more resilient for many types of building owners.
For example, when ERCOT experienced mass power outages due to the Texas winter storm, millions lost both power and water because of damaged and offline water infrastructure. Additionally, during the Texas summer blackouts, increased energy demand due to hot weather drove up the power grid’s demand for water, since power plants’ cooling mechanisms depend on water. This interplay presents an increased potential to ignite a water scarcity crisis in many regions across the U.S. Vulnerable regions, in particular, should use every tool available to increase system resilience. Onsite water reuse systems provide an additional water source independent of the central water system. This source can provide water resilience for buildings, industries, and businesses that rely on a consistent, reliable source of water.
Reliance on electric grids is not the only factor that makes our centralized water system unreliable. Centralized water systems are also vulnerable to events that affect transportation of the water to where it’s needed. For example, most of Southern California’s water is piped from the Colorado River and Northern California. Since these piping systems cross the San Andreas fault multiple times, an earthquake along that fault line could put the region’s entire water supply at risk.
These risks illustrate the urgent need to update water infrastructure in the United States. The U.S. currently recycles only 1-3% of its water supply, straining the capacity of natural reservoirs in water-scarce areas. Other countries, including Spain and Israel, have updated their water infrastructure to make water recycling more efficient. Spain recycles roughly 35% of its water, while Israel recycles 90% — examples for the U.S. to model as we realize the potential, and urgency, of water reuse.
As U.S. Water Scarcity Grows, So Does Water Reuse
The rise of water scarcity in the U.S., especially in the Southwest, has driven cities to adopt water reuse mandates. Los Angeles and San Francisco both have onsite water reuse mandates for new commercial developments over 250,000 square feet. Because of the mandates, water reuse has increased drastically; it is estimated that over 2.5 million acre-feet of water will be recycled in California by the year 2030.
In other cities, governments have instituted water reuse incentives instead of mandates. Austin, TX offers incentives for projects that replace over one million gallons of potable water per year, incentives which increase along with the amount of water replaced.
While onsite water reuse mandates and incentives multiply across the country, the real estate industry’s burgeoning interest in sustainable buildings, and recognition of their value, has ultimately driven the growing popularity of these systems. Even wineries, especially those in drought-stricken and wildfire-prone regions, are discovering that water reuse systems provide not only water resilience but also fertilizer (from the waste solids), thus boosting the system’s value proposition.
Opportunities in the Water Reuse Industry
As both water scarcity and the costs of wastewater disposal increase, companies are looking for ways to use less water in their day-to-day operations. As a result, many are considering onsite water reuse for their facilities. This growing industry will need workers with installation, service, software, administration, and marketing skills.
However, since young professionals may not view water as an attractive industry, it has suffered from a shortage of new workers. Meanwhile, a significant amount of the water workforce is aging out and retiring. Local and city governments can help remedy this shortage by partnering with community colleges, trade schools, and state college systems to educate students on the importance of water systems and the many well-paying career paths in the industry.
The Future of Water Resilience
An increasing number of our cities are facing a harsh reality. As extreme weather patterns affect ever-expanding regions in the U.S., our demand for water also grows — precisely while that same weather dries up natural supplies and cripples our outdated water systems.
But even if our current infrastructure is beginning to buckle under the strain, we don’t have to. Onsite water reuse systems can help build resilience by conserving water, diminishing demand on centralized systems, and stabilizing access during weather events that could otherwise leave people without water for days at a time.
Moreover, they’ll do all this while creating well-paying American jobs and providing cost saving solutions for governments, companies, and building developers.
It’s time to change that 1-3% recycled water statistic. It’s time to make the most of our most irreplaceable natural resource.
About the Author
Aaron Tartakovsky is a co-founder and the CEO of onsite water reuse firm Epic Cleantec. Prior to Epic, Aaron served as Director of Business Development and Marketing at CB Engineers, where he formed its R&D division. He has also worked in federal politics, where he remains active in affecting public policy on the local, state, and national levels. Aaron understands that the coming together of new technology, forward-thinking government, and smart regulation can be a catalyst for positive change on a global scale.
Michael Warady is the President and Co-founder at Sylmar Group, a permanent equity holding company that acquires and operates legacy businesses in the water and wastewater industry. Michael’s experience runs across technology, development, and operations of companies across the energy and water sector in both the US and China. Michael also serves as an advisor to Epic Cleantec.
Eric Hough is Chief Commercial Office of Epic Cleantec, a leading on site water reuse firm. With 15 years of water recycling project delivery experience that spans engineering, project management, and sales, Eric is a nationally recognized leader on the integration of water reuse into real estate.”
About Epic Cleantec
Epic is an onsite water reuse firm, helping real estate owners and developers lower costs and achieve sustainability certificates, increasing asset value. Led by a veteran team with multidisciplinary expertise, Epic is trusted by major real estate developers including Related Companies and Crescent Heights. Epic installs compact yet highly efficient wastewater treatment systems, managing projects from concept through install and ongoing system management. The Epic system can help new developments reduce water demand by up to 90%, resulting in cost savings totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. For more information, visit www.epiccleantec.com.
Follow Epic Cleantec