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City of Tulsa Working on Ordinance for Net-Zero Water Projects

Matt Trotter

City of Tulsa officials are considering ordinances to encourage the next frontier in green building: net-zero water projects.

Such systems would allow homes to collect and treat their own water and be off the city water and sewer system. Under the proposed ordinance, net-zero projects could be installed in detached single-family homes or a residential duplex. They would be assigned separate street addresses to they are readily identified in city computer systems.

"When anybody goes to turn on their services, it will be very apparent that there is no way. Plus, our own staff will know not to issue permits because we are concerned about when the private sector goes into their own water and sewer processing business. We do not want cross connections," said City Engineer Paul Zachary.

The ordinances ensure net-zero water projects are also readily identified to potential buyers or renters in case some day they want to be back on the grid.

"If these people do change their mind and go into wanting potable water, the health department — before we do that — any existing plumbing systems they have to have, have to be completely cleaned and have to get a permit to do that," Zachary said.

The ordinances require annual health department testing to ensure water is potable, and any compost toilet materials must be removed by a licensed technician.

The ordinance is a key step in architect Molly Jones’ project known as The Joinery, which is the first in Oklahoma seeking Living Building certification.

"Living Building Challenge Certification is the most stringent green building design rating system in the world. There are less than two dozen of these in the world today that have been certified," Jones said.