Formula One Is Just Not Green

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 16, 2012

Dear Editor,
    It is laudable that efforts are being made to green the Formula One project, but the sad truth is that F1 cannot ever be very green as long as the water management strategy being forced upon it by the city of Austin remains very, very un-green. This sort of event-driven venue is perfect for distributed reuse. Wastewater would be flush-water dominated, so flush-water recycling – done, for example, at Gillette Stadium where the New England Patriots play – is a natural fit. Other flows could defray irrigation demands. Combine this with rainwater harvesting off the large roof this project will entail and we might approach water independence – through point-of-use generation and reuse, the project lives largely off water falling on it.
    Why don’t we consider those strategies instead of pumping potable water out there to serve these nonpotable functions? And why don’t we save a whole lot of energy that wouldn’t be needed to move that water to and from this project? And, in turn, save the water consumed to produce that energy?
    Austin Water, however, insists on installing a 3-mile-long wastewater main, draining to a lift station out at the edge of its current system. A line it's telling us ratepayers we have to pay for, to the tune of $8.1 million. The justification for that? Austin Water says because it's a setup to provide wastewater service to this whole basin.
    Well, first, it's going to install a whole bunch more high-cost trunk mains. But more importantly, what Austin Water is saying is that it wants to manage wastewater over this whole basin on the basis that it’s a nuisance and it has to go “away.” Austin Water appears not interested in how to manage it, right from its point of generation, as a resource. Austin Water is, in fact, reported to have said about the very idea of distributed reuse, “Oh no, we don’t want to do that.”
    As long as the city of Austin doesn't want to move toward sustainable water, nothing about this city will ever be truly green.
David Venhuizen, P.E.
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