Day Three: Designing for One Water

 By Tony J. Thornton, AIA, LEED AP BD+C 

“This is something we simply must do…”

…Echoed Denver Water (DW), as they first sat down with RNL to review the One Water goals that the team had been contemplating jointly. One Water is a quintessential sustainability strategy for DW’s new Operations Complex Redevelopment project (OCR); a campus project Intent on exhibiting DW’s aspirations of being the “number one water utility” in the nation and a paragon of environmental stewardship within the community.

Rather than Net-Zero Water, which relies on relatively inefficient, cost exorbitant and potentially unsafe 100% onsite water collection and reuse, the aim of One Water is to be a more reliable and replicable model where: 

  • Each water source is the most appropriate for each use.
  • Potable water use is specifically avoided for non-potable purposes.
  • Potable water demand use is minimized through conservation.
  • Potable water discharge to the environment is minimized through resource recovery and reuse.
  • Efficient & safe potable supply is delivered via the local water utility, where the strictest standards for health are upheld and routinely tested by experts using the best technologies available.

Specifically for Denver Water’s OCR, this approach incorporates familiar and progressive water sustainability concepts such as:

  • Low flow and low use plumbing fixtures.
  • Low water demand, drought resistant landscaping and porous paving.
  • Large volume rainwater harvesting for irrigation through augmentation.
  • Treated clean water overflow directly to the Platte River, avoiding wasteful, redundant re-treatment through the city’s wastewater system.
  • A small scale Onsite Wastewater Treatment Facility (eco-machine) capable of reconditioning discharge grey and black water into reusable sources for toilet flushing and additional irrigation stores.
Denver Water’s future administration building is a part of their $195M  campus redevelopment .

Denver Water’s future administration building is a part of their $195M campus redevelopment.

Within Colorado, the difficulty does not lie in creating a comprehensively sustainable model, but rather working with convoluted state and local laws and water rights. Fortunately, One Water as a public utility integrated approach is also the key to solving the Colorado’s regulatory water reuse riddle. By applying intelligent processes and technology, RNL is leveraging DW’s water law knowledge, access to the regional water supply and ability to help influence future amendments to water reuse laws in order to mold One Water’s design parameters to operate completely within the existing and projected structure.  

The time is now.

As water needs will eventually outpace Colorado’s available supply, new systems for smart water management are imperative. With One Water at the heart of its underlying model, Denver Water’s OCR is poised become the catalyst for Denver’s own, citywide approach to responsible water use and reuse on a large scale.