We promote the exploration of new ways to conserve water, recover resources, and diversify our water supply.
Through our Innovations Program, we encourage testing of forward-thinking ideas. We partner with the community, industry, developers, technology vendors, and others who play key roles in ensuring the long-term sustainability of San Francisco. The Innovations Program is exploring several innovative efforts, including:
Atmospheric Water Generation (AWG): We are testing AWG technology that extracts water from the air to produce water fit for irrigation and drinking. In May 2023, we completed a 2-year pilot project in San Francisco that tested the use of solar power to extract water from the air. We collected water quality and water quantity data from 2 AWG hydropanels installed at the San Francisco Botanical Garden and Hummingbird Farm. Averaged across the 2-year pilot, each hydropanel produced about 11-12 gallons of water per month, which was used for irrigation of the surrounding landscapes at both locations. We also learned that the hydropanels were helpful teaching tools and promoted active engagement with school groups and community members from the neighborhood. Following this pilot, we are exploring new opportunities to continue to learn about the scalability of AWG and the value for San Francisco’s future water supply.
Brewery Process Water Reuse: We are providing grant funds to breweries to collect, treat, and reuse process water generated onsite. Collecting and reusing process water onsite can provide significant offsets to potable water usage as breweries use large quantities of water for cleaning tanks, bottles, and equipment. Our water recycling program specifically for breweries includes guidance and requirements for water characterization, treatment, and ongoing monitoring to ensure the water is safe for the intended reuse.
Expanded Leak Detection: We are exploring new technologies to detect leaks in our system and reduce loss of potable water from our pipeline distribution system.
Heat Recovery for Onsite Reuse: We are encouraging the integration of heat recovery in onsite water reuse systems can reduce building energy consumption, operating costs, and greenhouse gas emissions.
PureWaterSF: We are researching how we can reliably treat wastewater generated onsite at the SFPUC headquarters to produce purified water (before it is returned for use in our non-potable system). By purifying recycled water to levels that can be compared to drinking water standards, we are exploring the opportunity to develop a future resource that is local, drought-resistant, and can be used for many of our diverse needs.
National Blue Ribbon Commission for Onsite Non-Potable Water Systems
The SFPUC has been collaborating with a nation-wide group of utilities and public health agencies since 2014, advancing policies and contributing significant research related to onsite water reuse. In 2016, the SFPUC and the U.S. Water Alliance formalized the partnership and established the National Blue Ribbon Commission for Onsite Non-potable Water Systems. Today, in partnership with the WateReuse Association, U.S. Water Alliance, and Water Research Foundation (WRF), the group is comprised of more than 30 members representing 14 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, City of Toronto, and City of Vancouver.
The National Blue Ribbon Commission advances best management practices to support the use of onsite non-potable water systems for individual buildings or at the local scale.
Leveraging funding from WRF, the group has made significant research contributions and advanced policies and regulations for onsite water reuse. In 2017, the National Blue Ribbon Commission participated in the development of the Risk-based Framework for the Development of Public Health Guidance for Decentralized Non-potable Water Systems report. This landmark report establishes the appropriate water quality criteria and monitoring for ONWS and has allowed states including California, Hawaii, and Colorado to move forward with adopting legislation to establish state-wide water quality standards for onsite non-potable systems.
Building on the momentum and interest in developing programs for onsite water reuse, the National Blue Ribbon Commission released guidance for developing and implementing regulations for onsite water reuse systems. The guidebook and supporting resources build on the approach outlined in the Blueprint for Onsite Water Systems, and establish a consistent national approach to inform the regulation and management of onsite non-potable water systems.
- Blueprint for Onsite Water Systems: A Step-by-Step Guide for Developing a Local Program to Manage Onsite Water Systems
- A Guidebook for Developing and Implementing Regulations for Onsite Non-potable Water Systems
- Model State Regulation for Onsite Non-potable Water Programs
- Model Local Ordinance for Onsite Non-potable Water Programs
- Model Program Rules for Onsite Non-potable Water Programs
- Technical Appendix: A Guidebook for Developing and Implementing Regulations for ONWS
The group’s most recent work includes finalizing a Guidance Manual and Training Modules in 2020 for designing and permitting onsite water systems that meet risk-based public health standards. It targets system designers, regulators, program administrators, owners and operators to help with capacity building. In addition to guidance on developing and implementing regulations, the National Blue Ribbon Commission developed a 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.
For more information, visit the National Blue Ribbon Commission’s web page at www.watereuse.org/nbrc.
- National Blue Ribbon Commission Factsheet
- National Blue Ribbon Commission Highlights and Accomplishments
Share Your Ideas with Us
Do you have an innovative approach for improving water use efficiency or creative ideas for recovering and reusing water and energy resources? To share your ideas or learn more about the Innovations Program, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.