water damage

Greywater and stormwater use in buildings

How one Ontario-based water technology company is creating a sustainable water culture
Thursday, March 19, 2015
By Rebecca Melnyk

A large cistern installed near the main plumbing lab in Peterborough’s Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre at Fleming College is ready to harvest rainwater. This water, however, pumped from nearby surface areas or collected from the rooftop is being used for a valuable task—to flush toilets and urinals in the building, reducing potable water consumption and saving about 6,000 litres every week.

The project is one of many across the globe that Greyter Water Systems has installed. The Mississauga, Ontario-based business, which provides water reuse management solutions, is offering keen building owners and developers a way into the sustainable water movement, an increasingly necessary initiative, according to Mark Sales, chief executive officer of the company.

“Given the pressure on water resources, I was thrilled to get behind something with the mission to create more efficient communities through creating water-efficient buildings,” he says, speaking from the company’s new R&D and assembly facility.

Evolving water technologies, interest from existing markets and support from water champions like WaterTap, are expanding the company amidst a landscape of new water entrepreneurs who recognize opportunities to recycle an abundant, yet underappreciated resource in Canada.

Aiding water-efficient choices in a world where the population adds 74 million people each year, and where water shortages are expected to severely climb in about 60 countries by 2050, also holds economic benefits for building owners.

The company, which acquired its assets in 2012, was built on the idea that economic and environmental drivers must coincide. “If it’s important to a building owner to showcase that they’re managing water more efficiently,” says Sales, “it will never come to fruition if the solution is not economically viable.”

With this in mind, Greyter Water Systems continues to offer affordable and practical design options that reduce operating costs through lowering water consumption.

As of 2015, a few company achievements also include the use of greywater—easy-to-treat washwater from sinks, tubs and washing machines—their current area of focus.

Once greywater enters the Greyter lift station, it gets pumped through a pressure filter, then through another set of filters, and is then disinfected before being pumped on demand to flush toilets.

A recent installation at a depot and control yard in Oakville, with a new fire hall, is collecting shower water from the fire hall, road work crews and exercise room to flush toilets in two common washrooms. As occupants are estimated to flush six litres of toilet water seven times a day, the savings add up.

For a residential building with 500 occupants, the savings from a greywater system could amount to more than $20,000 per year at today’s rates. Generally, greywater applications in residential buildings can eliminate 30 per cent on the water bill. And depending on the building and use of water, these systems offer a three to six-year payback.

Chris Thompson, president and chief technology officer for Greyter Water Systems, says although cost benefits are indeed considerable, interest is also geared towards problem-solving. For instance, in a building supporting 1000 users, about 30 per cent more can be accommodated with the reduction of water consumption.

Other key drivers include municipally mandated reuse of stormwater runoff, attaining LEED certification (up to six points worth) or other green program objectives.

Above all, the resulting benefits amount to an empowered industry, cultivating a sustainable water culture that can be initiated through knowledge.

“There’s a lack of awareness about greywater,” Sales notes. “When people bath or shower, they don’t often think about the fact that the water is being sent directly to the sewer.”

Instead, such water can be pumped to flush toilets or used for irrigation, washing vehicles and cooling towers before it’s sent back to the sewer, treated at a municipal waste treatment facility and transported back home.

Some properties that Greyter Water Systems has worked on are even equipped with combination systems. In a school in Vaughan, Ontario, greywater is collected, filtered and managed in a single tank for toilets, while rainwater is filtered and collected in another tank. When the greywater supply runs low, the tank is supplied with rainwater using a second system.

Nearby regions in Ontario are encouraging the use of such systems. York Region’s No New Water campaign, for example, aims to keep future total water use at 2011 levels, with the goal to stop new water from being treated at wastewater treatment facilities by 2051. And with the population expected to increase there by 800,000 in the next 40 years, the issue of supply and demand is crucial.

At a WaterTAP event towards the end of 2014, David Meyer, manager of capital projects for the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and Ministry of Research and Innovation in Ontario, said by 2030 the demand for water is expected to outskirt supply by 40 per cent.

Factors like climate change are only adding to this issue with the increasing prevalence of droughts and floods that are straining aging infrastructure.

“Water technology is therefore a huge economic opportunity for the province of Ontario,” said Meyer, adding that there’s a global demand for water technology worth more than 560 billion per year, a number expected to grow to more than 1 trillion by 2020.

Here in Canada, while the Great Lakes account for 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater supply, the country’s renewable supply amounts to roughly seven percent, behind other countries like Brazil and Russia.

Water and waste rates are expected to rise about seven to nine percent every year.

“For owners, a quick analysis of their water bill will help make the case for installing a system,” Thompson points out.

And in the midst of Canada Water Week, which leads up to International Water Day on March 22, it’s important to note that emerging companies, like Greyer Water Systems, are not only positioning Ontario to be a global water leader, but providing building owners with accessible and innovative solutions.

Rebecca Melnyk is online editor of Building Strategies & Sustainability and Canadian Property Management.