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Josh Dean
3 minute read

San Diego's goal is to seek support for a countywide net zero water ordinance.

October and November were busy months for USGBC in California. Our team, along with thousands of sustainability advocates, met up in Chicago for Greenbuild. The week was highlighted by some amazing speakers, educational workshops and major announcements. USGBC announced a partnership with BRE, full integration of the STAR Community rating system with LEED for Cities, and the launch of a Living Standard campaign.

Aiming for zero

Additionally, Greenbuild marked the official launch of LEED Zero, where LEED projects can verify their efforts and achieve a new distinction to be energy-, water-, waste- or carbon-neutral.

In San Diego, zero net energy has been at the forefront of our education offerings and has been the preferred pathway for many new construction projects. We are happy to see this as a recognized certification from USGBC and expect many projects in the San Diego area to seek this distinction.

Net zero water is also an important part of our work at San Diego Green Building Council (SDGBC). We recently received funding from the San Diego Foundation to embark on a net zero water initiative. The purpose of this project is to create a road map toward achieving net zero water buildings in the San Diego region.

In October, we wrapped up education offerings for our local community and municipality staff on the concepts, technology and approaches to net zero water, and we anticipate seeing LEED Zero pursued by projects as well. We engaged local community leaders and policymakers in discussions about what kind of infrastructure and policy changes may be necessary to achieve net zero water. SDGBC is looking to create a regulatory pathway toward “Net Zero Water Design” and generate a parallel civic engagement conduit to build community support for the cause.

Asking the important questions

Our ultimate goal is to seek support for a countywide net zero water ordinance, all while collaborating with state and national partners like USGBC and International Living Future Institute. SDGBC spent the last two years educating San Diego residents on what net zero water means and the feasibility of achieving such certification on-site in San Diego County. We wanted municipal staff to start asking questions about stormwater capture on their projects. We wanted residents to ask how they could permit more advanced greywater reuse systems at their homes. We also wanted to highlight state legislation that could help make these systems a reality—for example, with SB 966–Onsite treated nonpotable water systems.

Through SDGBC’s persistent education and advocacy for net zero water, we hope to see more of these projects pursued with easier permitting pathways. That being said, projects shouldn't just be looked at just through the lens of becoming design and engineering marvels. They must also take into account health, wellness, social equity and resiliency. With education and the abundance of sustainable, social and financial benefits to water reuse, there are more than enough reasons to explore the feasibility of these design strategies through county-wide ordinances or pilot project programs.

There is a lot of work to be done here in San Diego in terms of water reuse. We have the tools, the will and the necessity to explore these strategies in our built community, and in the San Diego region as a whole. We will work to put into practice these strategies, not only on a building-to-building scale, but integrating our buildings and infrastructure into a wider network of water reuse.