The intent of the Water Petal is to realign how people use water and to redefine “waste” in the built environment, so that water is respected as a precious resource. Scarcity of potable water is quickly becoming a serious issue as many countries around the world face severe shortages and compromised water quality. Even regions that have avoided the majority of these problems to date due to a historical presence of abundant fresh water are at risk: the impacts of climate change, highly unsustainable water use patterns, and the continued drawdown of major aquifers portend significant problems ahead. A water-independent community is a stronger, more resilient community, and the Challenge calls for Communities that honor the realities of each project’s bioregion.
Ideal Conditions and Current Limitations
The Living Community Challenge envisions a future whereby all buildings, infrastructure, and communities are configured based on the carrying capacity of the development’s site: harvesting sufficient water to meet the needs of an entire population while respecting the natural hydrology of the land, the water needs of the ecosystem the site inhabits, and those of its neighbors. Indeed, water can be used and purified and then used again—and the cycle repeats.
Currently, such practices are often illegal due to health, land use and building code regulations (or because of the undemocratic ownership of water rights) that arose precisely because people were not properly safeguarding the quality of their water. Therefore, reaching the ideal for community-wide water use means challenging outdated attitudes and technology with decentralized site–or district-level solutions that are appropriately scaled and efficient.
Community water use and release must work in harmony with the natural water flows of the Community and its surroundings.
100% of the Community’s water needs must be supplied by captured precipitation or other natural closed loop water systems, and/or by recycling used Community water, and must be purified as needed without the use of chemicals.
All stormwater and water discharge, including grey and black water, must be treated and managed at the Community scale either through reuse, a closed loop system, or infiltration.