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Water & Wastewater Systems
Updated June 2013

Sustainability Best Practice Area

Water and waste water system are important elements to addressing climate change for several reasons. First, since energy is used to deliver water and wastewater services, using water and wastewater systems more efficiently indirectly also reduces energy use. Second, the impacts of climate change include increased drought and extreme weather events, such as heavy rain and storms, floods and reduced snow pack, all of which effect water availability. Thus, efforts to conserve and use water more efficiently will help cities and counties adapt to the impacts of climate change.


Ensure Water Efficiency in Agency Buildings and Operations

  • Audit agency’s water and wastewater pumps and motors to identify most and least efficient equipment.
  • Work with agency or company that provides water and wastewater service to implement a cycling and equipment replacement program for least efficient water and wastewater pumps and motors.
  • Initiate a water loss program or “leak-audit” of agency water infrastructure.
  • Upgrade and retrofit agency plumbing systems and appliances with water efficient technology and fixtures.
  • Retrofit existing agency buildings and facilities to meet standards for the LEED® Standards Rating Systems for Existing Buildings (EB), Build It Green, Commercial Interiors (CI), or other equivalent standards.
  • Incorporate water-efficient systems in new agency buildings that include opportunities for recycled water.
  • Require dual plumbing for use of recycled water for new facilities.

Reduce Water Use in Parks and Landscaping

  • Implement all feasible water efficiency strategies included in the Ahwahnee Water Principles for Resource Efficient Land Use in agency parks, landscaping and other new developments. (
  • Install smart water meters to track water usage and the effectiveness of water efficiency activities and programs.
  • Assess, maintain and repair existing irrigation systems to minimize water use, including parking lot landscaping, public rest rooms and parks, golf courses and other recreational facilities.
  • Install weather-based smart irrigation systems in agency parks and landscaping areas.
  • Adopt a water recycling master plan that connects parks into a recycled water system.
  • Use recycled water for agency facilities and operations, including parks and medians, where appropriate.
  • Convert all water distributing vehicles, such as street sweepers and tree-watering tankers, to use reclaimed water, where feasible.
  • Reduce turf and grass in agency landscaped areas. Use native turf and grass, when applicable.
  • Implement drought tolerant and hydro-design principles to group compatible plants based upon water needs for agency parks and landscaping.
  • Use compost, biosolids and mulch in agency landscaping as a water conservation measure.

Create Safe and Efficient Water and Wastewater Systems

  • Use non-toxic fertilizers in agency parks and landscaped areas to reduce contaminates in run-off.
  • Create a Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) Control Program to reduce blockages in the wastewater system.
  • Reduce energy use by auditing agency’s water and wastewater pumps and motors to identify most and least energy efficient equipment.
  • Work with agency or company that provides wastewater service to implement an audit, cycling and equipment replacement program to increase energy efficiency for water and wastewater pumps and motors.
  • Work with local wastewater service provider to determine whether biosolids can be recycled by using them on local landscaping, golf courses, community parks and other programs to improve soil quality and reduce irrigation needs.
  • Promote methane capture and enhanced production through co-digestion of other organic waste streams for use as renewable energy at wastewater treatment plants.

Address Future Water Security

  • Construct a new groundwater recharge facility that can hold additional surface water secured in wet years to eliminate possible groundwater overuse in the region.
  • Create an urban runoff recycling facility.


Promote Water Conservation

  • Adopt water efficiency principles similar to the Ahwahnee Water Principles for Resource Efficient Land Use for new and existing residential and commercial developments. (
  • Adopt a retrofit program to encourage or require installation of water conservation measures in existing businesses and homes that exceed state standards.
  • Require water efficiency audits at point of sale for commercial and residential properties.
  • Provide free faucet aerators, water-efficient shower heads and low flow hose nozzles to residents at community or other events.
  • Pass a water-efficient landscaping ordinance stronger than state standards, where feasible.
  • Develop a training program to educate local landscapers and agency personnel on practices that reduce the use of water and toxic pesticides.
  • Create a water efficient demonstration garden that includes native and drought tolerant plants and requires low volume mulch, irrigation and other water saving features.
  • Implement a lawn buy-back program for residents who convert sod or grass to drought-tolerant landscaping.

Promote Water Recycling and Greywater Use

  • Incentivize and promote the installation of residential greywater systems that meet appropriate regulatory standards.
  • Develop a local ordinance to require all new homes to have a greywater system.
  • Require dual plumbing for use of recycled water for new commercial and/or residential developments.
  • Provide educational resources to encourage residents to harvest rainwater.

Educate about Water Pollution Prevention

  • Install informational kiosks at agency parks to educate residents about stormwater pollution.
  • Engage the public in riverbank planting events, storm drain marking or stream-cleanup programs.
  • Promote bio-retention basins for stormwater collection and treatment prior to discharge.
  • Promote local solutions for stormwater management, such as rain gardens, green roofs and detention ponds.
  • Develop an educational community program or campaign that engages residents as watershed stewards.
The Institute gratefully acknowledges the following individuals who reviewed this best practice area and offered their comments:
  • Greg Kester, Biosolids Manager, California Association of Sanitation Agencies
  • Kerrie A. Romanow, Director of Environmental Services, City of San Jose
  • Lianna Rios, Supervisor of Local Government Partnerships, San Diego Gas & Electric
  • Pat Stoner, Local Government Energy Efficiency Statewide Coordinator, Local Government Commission

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