Measures of Sustainability: Water, Air, and Waste

Note:  If you wish to join this interest group, please contact gandksmith@gmail.com

Starting with the source of life, WATER, there are three important flows in Redmond:  drinking, sewer, and storm water. 

Drinking water:  By most measures, Redmond has clean, healthy drinking water.  As one of five Eastside cities in the Cascade Water Alliance, it draws either from  local wells or since 1964 from Seattle's Tolt Reservoir.  To check on reservoir status, see www.seattle.gov/util/about_spu/water_system/water_supply/spu01_001850.asp 

Local wells have occasionally been the subject of some concern,  but before reaching Redmond taps the water is tested daily throughout the city. To get a current readout of water quality in Redmond, go to www.redmond.gov/Environment/DrinkingWater and click on the link for Water Quality ReportProbably the most controversial aspect of drinking water is conservation, especially in summertime.  Water use can double or triple as the temperatures heat up, and unfortunately, peak demand comes when the least water is available.  Reducing consumption is not the only option for sustainability; here are ways to tap more directly into nature's supply by harvesting rainwater: 

Sewer:  The city of Redmond does not treat sewage, but instead sends its flows to King County/Metro treatment plants.  Regional capacity is a growing issue but has been increased recently with the new Brightwater Sewer Treatment Plant near Woodinville, which has been controversial because of costs, construction problems, and questions about effluent release points.  One question Redmond is facing:  What to do about Brightwater plant effluent; specifically, can the city safely use this greywater?  To see King County's strategy for local usage of this wastewater; go to page 6 of this web document and see also the map on page A-1 for the "purple pipes" proposed for Redmond:  http://your.kingcounty.gov/dnrp/library/wastewater/rw/CompPlan/1012_RWCPStrategyReport.pdf .  To find out the latest action by Redmond city government, you can contact me about the Willows Run Golf Course permit for a purple pipe extension to bring in greywater.  Nobody is arguing against usage on golf courses, but what about the County's suggested use for "wetland enhancement?"  A dozen members of Sustainable Redmond toured the plant in November 2011, a month after its opening, and we all gained first-hand information to form opinions about the challenges of sewage treatment in King County.  The Brightwater Education Center is offers plant tours every Monday and on the 3rd Saturday of every month.   For details call (206)263-6028 or email Casey.Plank@kingcounty.gov .

Stormwater:  To introduce the negatives of this subject, stormwater runoff causes pollution, erosion and flooding problems.  Since rainwater falls pretty much everywhere, every property owner has some responsibility for how to handle it.  Many local people and organizations are popularizing "rain gardens" and such: 

www.stewardshippartners.org

www.redmond.gov/Environment/StreamsHabitat/lakesriversstreams/WatershedManagement 

The city of Redmond is also addressing larger issues to do with water (drinking, sewer, and stormwater).  Go to www.redmond.gov/Environment and see “All About Our Waters.” 
AIR
Probably the most controversial topic in sustainability (and the hardest to meaure) is greenhouse gas emissions.  Our Sustainable Redmond citizens group addresses various aspects of this under "Energy Efficiency and Generation" and "On a Personal Level" on different pages of this same website.  In a new initiative called "Impact Redmond" the city in 2009 started measuring greenhouse gas emissions.  Chemically speaking, the principal greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide (technically, dinitrogen monoxide) and methane, and they can be combined into a single measure called equivalent carbon dioxide: 
CO2 + N2O  + CH4 = equiv CO2
Here’s a list of the city government’s own sources of emission:  building facilities, street lights and traffic signals, drinking water delivery (wells, pumps, etc.), wastewater delivery to treatment facilities, fleet vehicles, employee commutes, and a catch-all category of equipment like city generators and ACs.  Redmond is currently in the process of measuring those emissions and will express the summary amounts in terms of gigajoules or MMBTUs, which are denominated in metric tons of equiv CO2.  In July, 2011, the city started putting this data on its new website, http://impactredmond.com.  More important than posting data, the city and the Redmond community at large should be increasing efforts at reducing carbon emissions.  On June 14, 2011, the City Council had a study session on this issue and promised by the end of this year to set targets for both city and community emissions reduction.  Also in June, the Council took up the isse of "green buildings."  For people interested in building design, here's a well-designed website with a NW regional base:  http://cascadiagbc.org/about-us

A Redmond company that has been active in the greening movement is Microsoft.  A couple years ago it launched a program called “Hohm” to help people learn more about their energy consumption.  Microsoft-Hohm locates your home on a map and can illustrate electricity usage patterns for average homes in nearby areas.  For a general introduction to “Hohm,” go to www.microsoft-hohm.com/Info/Help.aspx but be advised that the website will be discontinued on May 31, 2012, and Microsoft does not have any plans to offer an alternative service to Hohm.  You can still continue to use Hohm at this time.

Since everything under the sun is part of climate change, we will only focus on certain issues and leave others aside, for example, leaving car emissions to the "Alternative Transportation" group.  For that sub-group or the larger Sustainable Redmond website, go to http://sustainableredmond.org .

Note to readers:  this section on measures of sustainability is obviously under construction, and going forward, as the measurements webpage manager, I need help on Solid Waste, which is yet to be addressed.  Anybody with specialized interest in this topic is welcome to add new material to this webpage.  Please let me know if you'd like to help on this amorphous sub-group, which touches all subjects but controls none.

Contact Gary Smith – gandksmith@gmail.com