Archive for January, 2010

Include Rainwater Collection in Georgia’s Water Contingency Task Force Plans

January 21, 2010

See attached link for recent Water Contingency Task Force Report;

http://metroatlantachamber.com/files/file/pub_pol/water_environment/final_water_briefing_301.pdf

I commend  efforts the water contingency task force has done and its rigorous analysis through BCG.  The problem is obviously complex and breaking it down into a more objective set of problems can only help.  I would like to offer some solution alternatives which the task force may or may not be strongly considering, but which I believe can have a true impact on metro Atlanta’s water challenges regardless of the Lake Lanier outcome.  In the recent update, I did not see mention of any of these alternatives.

The task force seems to be going down the path of building huge new reservoirs, some of which will take water from the same watersheds as Atlanta’s current water supply.  While some of this may prove necessary, I would advocate more small reservoir building in the form of rainwater collection systems.  For residences, this alternate water supply should range from about 3,000 to 10,000 gallons to replace all outdoor watering and to be considered for indoor use.  For commercial applications, the cistern size may be much larger.  Such systems are already proven to reduce residential use by well over 50% over and above any conservation steps and in many cases can eliminate all municipal water use.  Very different from tiny 50 gallon rain barrels, rainwater collection systems provide a real impact on municipal water demand.  Typical water savings range from 50,000 to 100,000 gallons per home.  Multiplied across a meaningful percentage of metro Atlanta homes, impact can easily be 10-30 million gallons per day and very probably much more.  Coupled with an effective conservation policy, the impact can be even more.  By my estimates, rainwater collection can eliminate the need for at least some of the planned reservoirs and can be implemented much faster and with less state and city funds (see below).

Implementation will require support of the task force as well as state municipal governments.  Here are a few ideas for implementation:

1.  I recommend to benchmark and collaborate with municipalities in Australia where the water challenge pre-dates that of Atlanta and where rainwater collection has been an integral part of the water management plan.

2.  Consider using federal loan money to finance rainwater collection systems.  Funds are available which could be directed to private home owners and businesses as capital for rainwater collection.  With rates being offered at around 2.2% the finance charge of a system is lower than the monthly water bill savings, making it a cash flow positive incentive for investors and avoids the cost to local governments of incentives such as tax rebates (which would be a challenge with current state and local budget crunches.

3.  One alternative could be to implement alternative water sources only for outdoor watering.  Coupled with the incentive above, a ban on using municipal water for irrigation could have a huge and sustainable impact on metro Atlanta municipal water usage

4.  Compared to permitting for reservoirs and environmental impact, rainwater collection for homes and businesses is straightforward.  However, state code could be more streamlined and clear to allow only certified rainwater system installers to do installations and to specify requirements for potable and non-potable applications.  At the same time, it should be made easier for certified installers to obtain permits.

One final comment:  I concur that conservation efforts can only take us so far, although your numbers on outdoor water use appear understated in the recent presentation I saw.  Most estimates show outdoor water use accounts for over half of residential consumption.  Switching exclusively to alternate water supplies for this purpose would have a much greater impact on municipal water usage than the outdoor watering ban the last few years.

I am founder of an Atlanta local rainwater collection business (www.ecovieenvironmental.com) and am a member of ARCSA (American Rainwater Collection Systems Association).  I serve as the EPA liaison for the organization.

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Rainwater Collection an Ally in Water Conservation by Robert Drew To find a long-term, affordable solution to the ongoing “water wars” with neighboring states—and to put some much needed, long-term sanity back into the region’s overall water-related strategizing—metro Atlantans need look no farther than their own roofs. Put another way: Area residents are a lot of closer than they think to a solution to the current water crisis—potentially for a fraction of the cost being discussed by various government agencies that think building new reservoirs and water treatment constitutes the only effective way out of this morass. What exactly is this fix? Three words: rainwater collection systems. Rather than large new reservoirs, these personal mini-reservoirs can have a major impact on demand for municipal water. We’re not talking about what comes immediately to mind when most people think of collecting rainwater: Installing 55 gallon rain barrels in yards typically bought at so-called “big box” retailers or farmers’ markets—barrels intended to help water gardens. Rain barrels are a meaningful way to begin any effort at conserving and utilizing rainwater, but more substantive collection means the installation of residential tank systems that commonly store between 2,000 and 10,000 gallons for a home. When outdoor water use accounts for around half of all residential demand and upwards of 100,000 gallons every summer, this sort of capacity is required to keep up with demand. A quick look at some basic numbers demonstrates just how great the impact of these systems would be if thousands of Atlanta households were to embrace this solution to our ongoing water wars. On a macro level, the City of Atlanta uses an average of around 90 to 100 million gallons daily to water their yards, flush toilets and do their laundry, according to the city’s watershed Web site. (More broadly, the 15-county Atlanta metro area utilizes about 652 million gallons per day.) This thirst is quenched in part by 270 million gallons of water withdrawn daily from the Chattahoochee River (fed by Lake Lanier’s contested H20) and an additional 170 million gallons taken from the area’s lesser rivers. How does this translate individually, on a household basis? A typical family of four uses about 25,000 gallons a year for toilet flushing and another 25,000 gallons for laundry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates. This 50,000-gallon “non–potable” usage makes up around half of all indoor water use. Outdoors, usage can be even higher with usage typically in a range of 50,000 to 100,000 gallons annually. Enter the rainwater collection system, designed to significantly cut individual household draw on the region’s limited municipal water capacity and greatly reduce an individual household’s water bills in the process. If a “typical” family of four were to build a rainwater collection system designed to handle its “non-potable” drinking needs, it could save 50,000 to 100,000 gallons annually depending on roof size and storage capacity—by cutting city water use for outdoor watering and for indoor non-potable uses. On a household basis, this level of city water usage reduction dwarfs conservation measures such as the use of low-flow toilets and fixtures, which has been a very successful program. As an example, an estimate of low flow toilet impact for a family of four is around 14,000 gallons annually. With the sort of water savings rainwater collection can provide, one can easily envision saving 30 to 50 million gallons daily if collection systems are adopted on a widespread basis, maybe even more. This is equivalent to what we draw from Lake Allatoona, for example! There are examples around the world and around the U.S. showing that rainwater collection really helps to reduce demand on municipal water supplies. In Australia, due to the extended droughts, rainwater collection is now a normal and matter of fact part of most households. In Austin Texas, rainwater collection now accounts for 5 million gallons a day for municipal and commercial applications alone. Translated into a metropolitan area the size of Atlanta, this would mean around 18 million gallons a day. Adding the impact of residential rainwater collection, the impact would be much higher. Of course, rainwater collection alone isn’t a panacea for all of our water problems: The battle is still joined as the region’s demand for water is expected to increase 53 percent by 2035, to 1 billion gallons daily as a result of continued economic and population growth. Nevertheless, there’s no question that rainwater collection, if planned and executed on a macro level, will be an extraordinary ally in this area’s water planning; particularly if it helps individual Atlantans recognize finally that water is no longer a resource to be taken for granted or squandered, but one to be cherished as the city ramps up its overall “eco-friendly” initiatives, planning a healthier, cost-efficient future for all. Robert Drew is founder and president of EcoVie Rainwater Collection Systems in Atlanta. Contact 404-824-9266 www.ecovieenvironmental.com for more information.

January 21, 2010

Rainwater Collection an Ally in Water Conservation

by Robert Drew

This note is in response to the recent plan put out by the Governor’s water contingency task force. many of the actions taken are well thought out and based on sound analysis by BCG. However, they may have missed some opportunities to alleviate the Atlanta’s water issue through rainwater harvesting and other more creative measures. Spending billions on new reservoirs will not affect water supply much and and then only many, many years from now.

To find a long-term, affordable solution to the ongoing “water wars” with neighboring states—and to put some much needed, long-term sanity back into the region’s overall water-related strategizing—metro Atlantans need look no farther than their own roofs.

Put another way: Area residents are a lot of closer than they think to a solution to the current water crisis—potentially for a fraction of the cost being discussed by various government agencies that think building new reservoirs and water treatment constitutes the only effective way out of this morass.

What exactly is this fix? Three words: rainwater collection systems.  Rather than large new reservoirs, these personal mini-reservoirs can have a major impact on demand for municipal water.  We’re not talking about what comes immediately to mind when most people think of collecting rainwater: Installing 55 gallon rain barrels in yards typically bought at so-called “big box” retailers or farmers’ markets—barrels intended to help water gardens.

Rain barrels are a meaningful way to begin any effort at conserving and utilizing rainwater, but more substantive collection means the installation of residential tank systems that commonly store between 2,000 and 10,000 gallons for a home. When outdoor water use accounts for around half of all residential demand and upwards of 100,000 gallons every summer, this sort of capacity is required to keep up with demand.

A quick look at some basic numbers demonstrates just how great the impact of these systems would be if thousands of Atlanta households were to embrace this solution to our ongoing water wars.

On a macro level, the City of Atlanta uses an average of around 90 to 100 million gallons daily to water their yards, flush toilets and do their laundry, according to the city’s watershed Web site. (More broadly, the 15-county Atlanta metro area utilizes about 652 million gallons per day.) This thirst is quenched in part by 270 million gallons of water withdrawn daily from the Chattahoochee River (fed by Lake Lanier’s contested H20) and an additional 170 million gallons taken from the area’s lesser rivers.

How does this translate individually, on a household basis? A typical family of four uses about 25,000 gallons a year for toilet flushing and another 25,000 gallons for laundry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates.  This 50,000-gallon “non–potable” usage makes up around half of all indoor water use.   Outdoors, usage can be even higher with usage typically in a range of 50,000 to 100,000 gallons annually.

Enter the rainwater collection system, designed to significantly cut individual household draw on the region’s limited municipal water capacity and greatly reduce an individual household’s water bills in the process.

If a “typical” family of four were to build a rainwater collection system designed to handle its “non-potable” drinking needs, it could save 50,000 to 100,000 gallons annually depending on roof size and storage capacity—by cutting city water use for outdoor watering and for indoor non-potable uses. On a household basis, this level of city water usage reduction dwarfs conservation measures such as the use of low-flow toilets and fixtures, which has been a very successful program.  As an example, an estimate of low flow toilet impact for a family of four is around 14,000 gallons annually. With the sort of water savings rainwater collection can provide, one can easily envision saving 30 to 50 million gallons daily if collection systems are adopted on a widespread basis, maybe even more.  This is equivalent to what we draw from Lake Allatoona, for example!

There are examples around the world and around the U.S. showing that rainwater collection really helps to reduce demand on municipal water supplies.  In Australia, due to the extended droughts, rainwater collection is now a normal and matter of fact part of most households.  In Austin Texas, rainwater collection now accounts for 5 million gallons a day for municipal and commercial applications alone.  Translated into a metropolitan area the size of Atlanta, this would mean around 18 million gallons a day.  Adding the impact of residential rainwater collection, the impact would be much higher.

Of course, rainwater collection alone isn’t a panacea for all of our water problems: The battle is still joined as the region’s demand for water is expected to increase 53 percent by 2035, to 1 billion gallons daily as a result of continued economic and population growth. Nevertheless, there’s no question that rainwater collection, if planned and executed on a macro level, will be an extraordinary ally in this area’s water planning; particularly if it helps individual Atlantans recognize finally that water is no longer a resource to be taken for granted or squandered, but one to be cherished as the city ramps up its overall “eco-friendly” initiatives, planning a healthier, cost-efficient future for all.

Robert Drew is founder and president of EcoVie Rainwater Collection Systems in Atlanta. Contact 404-824-9266 www.ecovieenvironmental.com  for more information.

Rainwater Collection an Ally in Water Conservation

January 21, 2010

This note is in response to the recent plan put out by the Governor’s water contingency task force. many of the actions taken are well thought out and based on sound analysis by BCG. However, they may have missed some opportunities to alleviate the Atlanta’s water issue through rainwater harvesting and other more creative measures. Spending billions on new reservoirs will not affect water supply much and and then only many, many years from now.

To find a long-term, affordable solution to the ongoing “water wars” with neighboring states—and to put some much needed, long-term sanity back into the region’s overall water-related strategizing—metro Atlantans need look no farther than their own roofs.
Put another way: Area residents are a lot of closer than they think to a solution to the current water crisis—potentially for a fraction of the cost being discussed by various government agencies that think building new reservoirs and water treatment constitutes the only effective way out of this morass.
What exactly is this fix? Three words: rainwater collection systems. Rather than large new reservoirs, these personal mini-reservoirs can have a major impact on demand for municipal water. We’re not talking about what comes immediately to mind when most people think of collecting rainwater: Installing 55 gallon rain barrels in yards typically bought at so-called “big box” retailers or farmers’ markets—barrels intended to help water gardens.
Rain barrels are a meaningful way to begin any effort at conserving and utilizing rainwater, but more substantive collection means the installation of residential tank systems that commonly store between 2,000 and 10,000 gallons for a home. When outdoor water use accounts for around half of all residential demand and upwards of 100,000 gallons every summer, this sort of capacity is required to keep up with demand.
A quick look at some basic numbers demonstrates just how great the impact of these systems would be if thousands of Atlanta households were to embrace this solution to our ongoing water wars.
On a macro level, the City of Atlanta uses an average of around 90 to 100 million gallons daily to water their yards, flush toilets and do their laundry, according to the city’s watershed Web site. (More broadly, the 15-county Atlanta metro area utilizes about 652 million gallons per day.) This thirst is quenched in part by 270 million gallons of water withdrawn daily from the Chattahoochee River (fed by Lake Lanier’s contested H20) and an additional 170 million gallons taken from the area’s lesser rivers.
How does this translate individually, on a household basis? A typical family of four uses about 25,000 gallons a year for toilet flushing and another 25,000 gallons for laundry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates. This 50,000-gallon “non–potable” usage makes up around half of all indoor water use. Outdoors, usage can be even higher with usage typically in a range of 50,000 to 100,000 gallons annually.
Enter the rainwater collection system, designed to significantly cut individual household draw on the region’s limited municipal water capacity and greatly reduce an individual household’s water bills in the process.
If a “typical” family of four were to build a rainwater collection system designed to handle its “non-potable” drinking needs, it could save 50,000 to 100,000 gallons annually depending on roof size and storage capacity—by cutting city water use for outdoor watering and for indoor non-potable uses. On a household basis, this level of city water usage reduction dwarfs conservation measures such as the use of low-flow toilets and fixtures, which has been a very successful program. As an example, an estimate of low flow toilet impact for a family of four is around 14,000 gallons annually. With the sort of water savings rainwater collection can provide, one can easily envision saving 30 to 50 million gallons daily if collection systems are adopted on a widespread basis, maybe even more. This is equivalent to what we draw from Lake Allatoona, for example!

There are examples around the world and around the U.S. showing that rainwater collection really helps to reduce demand on municipal water supplies. In Australia, due to the extended droughts, rainwater collection is now a normal and matter of fact part of most households. In Austin Texas, rainwater collection now accounts for 5 million gallons a day for municipal and commercial applications alone. Translated into a metropolitan area the size of Atlanta, this would mean around 18 million gallons a day. Adding the impact of residential rainwater collection, the impact would be much higher.

Of course, rainwater collection alone isn’t a panacea for all of our water problems: The battle is still joined as the region’s demand for water is expected to increase 53 percent by 2035, to 1 billion gallons daily as a result of continued economic and population growth. Nevertheless, there’s no question that rainwater collection, if planned and executed on a macro level, will be an extraordinary ally in this area’s water planning; particularly if it helps individual Atlantans recognize finally that water is no longer a resource to be taken for granted or squandered, but one to be cherished as the city ramps up its overall “eco-friendly” initiatives, planning a healthier, cost-efficient future for all.

Robert Drew is founder and president of EcoVie Rainwater Collection Systems in Atlanta. Contact 404-824-9266 http://www.ecovieenvironmental.com for more information.