Paula Kehoe, Vision 2020 chair for Water Efficiency, is the director of water resources for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). Her responsibilities include developing and maintaining water resources for SFPUC; water supply diversification and planning; and developing communication strategies and public messaging for water supply projects. Of particular interest to Vision 2020, Kehoe also oversees research regarding alternative and future water supplies for SFPUC.
What do you hope your experience and expertise will contribute to Vision 2020?
I’ve been working for the city and county of San Francisco for almost 20 years. I have an environmental background and have worked on a number of environmental and non-water resource programs, but I’ve worked in water resources since 2005. I have not worked in the private sector, I’ve always worked in government, but I feel like the local government has the ability to develop a lot of programs and actually implement them. For me it’s been very rewarding.
What I’d like to see out of this whole Vision 2020 process is the local government perspective. [I was recommended to the group] because of my strong interest in encouraging the collection, treatment, and reuse of alternate water sources—graywater, black water, rainwater, and foundation drainage. We’re really trying to push that effort forward here.
What do you do in your office?
As head of the resources division I oversee recycled water, conservation, desalinization, ground water, and our non-potable program as a way to diversify our water portfolio. Water is a big issue in San Francisco. We provide water to 2.5 million people in the Bay Area every day.
Our goal is to diversify our water supply portfolio. My job is to provide strategic direction, to remove barriers, and to make sure we have the tools to get the job done. There’s a whole host of barriers—political, financial, public acceptance, regulatory.
Is water shortage or scarcity an issue in your area?
It is in the long-term. We do not have enough water for our whole regional system. There is definitely a projected shortfall in the future—about 7 million to 20 million gallons a day in 2025. We’ve put a cap on our water sales and can meet all of our water needs until 2018, but looking out into the future we have potential concern. There are a lot of issues out there in the need for additional water supplies. Every five years we do an Urban Water Management Plan that looks out 30 years in terms of demands and supplies, and we have to update that to account for new developments that may shift our water picture.
Is there a general trend among municipalities in how water should be handled as a resource—capturing it, distributing it, etc.? Is there something that needs to change?
There are lots of site-specific issues, so it depends on where you’re located. For example, we worked with our department of public health and department of building inspection to establish a program, and codify it in an ordinance that allows the collection and treatment of alternate water sources on a buildings scale. We then streamlined the permitting process. We were very successful on that front, but if you don’t have those codes and policies in place it’s going to inhibit any of this activity in the future. So what I’d like to see out of Vision 2020 is to push that.
What is your vision of a water-efficient future?
I would say the future direction and development of urban mixed-use residential would be to incorporate alternate water resources. Buildings would already have water-efficient fixtures—it goes beyond that to collecting the water that’s being generated onsite and reusing it. So you’re increasing your water efficiency and your water conservation efforts.
This goes beyond what is happening now. LEED is focused on water efficiency fixtures but not on this reuse concept—is there a way to incorporate that so it becomes a practice, rather than something unique? That’s my desire—to make it a practice, not something unique. I am optimistic, but we have to go beyond the efficient fixtures and get into reuse.
What projects are on your calendar? What events will make a difference?
California is going to update its plumbing code for 2013—it will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, and it’s pretty significant because it takes into consideration applications of graywater and rainwater. Trust me, it’s huge (and) it’s very historic.
Building on its successful launch in 2012, ECOHOME’s Vision 2020 program continues in 2013, focusing on eight critical areas in sustainability: Energy Efficiency + Building Science, Building Design + Performance, Materials + Products, Sustainable Communities, Water Efficiency, Codes, Standards + Rating Systems, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Economics + Financing. Track our progress all year as our panel of visionary focus-area chairs, our editors, and leading researchers, practitioners, and advocates share their perspectives on initiating, tracking, and ensuring progress toward sustainable priorities and goals in residential construction between now and 2020. The program will culminate in an exclusive Vision 2020 Forum in Washington, D.C., in September 2013, and with a special edition of ECOHOME in Winter 2013. Click here to see the 2012 Wrap-Up.