Archive for July, 2010

Canada Moves Forward with Rainwater Harvesting

July 30, 2010

This is an excellent article from Calgary.  ECOVIE Rainwater Collection Systems is bringing this technology to Atlanta to solve it’s water supply challenges.


By Joan Delaney
Epoch Times StaffCreated: May 19, 2010Last Updated: May 19, 2010

Serious water shortages in many regions of the country mean it’s time for Canada to take a hard look at rainwater harvesting, says a water advocate.

The recent news that most of British Columbia’s snowpacks have declined this year to the lowest on record should serve as a wake-up call, says Susanne Porter-Bopp, community water coordinator with the POLIS Project at the University of Victoria.

“I’m hoping that this is going to be one of those summers that really gets people thinking about water,” she says. “This might just be the push that we need to finally get some action on these more innovative water-conservation tools and strategies.”

Porter-Bopp says widespread rainwater harvesting would ease pressure on municipal water systems. A study by researchers at the University of Guelph found that rainwater harvesting could decrease household potable water demands by as much as 47 percent.

Rainwater harvesting is the age-old practice of capturing rainwater runoff from roofs and storing it for future use. The practice is still used in many parts of the world, particularly in the global south, as the main source for drinking, bathing, crop irrigation, and livestock.

Fifty years ago, rain barrels and cisterns were common outside Canadian homes. But this fell out of favour with the advent of cheap irrigation systems and the easy availability of potable water—high-quality treated municipal drinking water.

Much of the time, people don’t even need to use potable water, Porter-Bopp says.

“Even if we changed the regulations and made them more clear so as to allow things like rainwater and grey water into our homes for non-potable use like in toilets and laundry machines, that would have a huge affect on easing up on how much we pull from the municipal systems.”

There are several barriers to this, such as cost, liability concerns, and the lack of clear policy on rainwater harvesting. However, Ontario already permits rainwater and grey water reuse in the provincial building code, while Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and B.C. are planning to do likewise.

“People working on water issues in B.C. were really excited to see that,” says Porter-Bopp. “That means that there’s an appetite for it.”

Grey water is wastewater generated from domestic activities such as laundry, dishwashing, and bathing which can be recycled onsite for other uses.

In Calgary, most city-owned golf courses and many parks are now using rain and river water rather than potable water. In recent years, Alberta has been plagued by drought conditions, especially in rural areas. As in B.C., declining snowpack levels could force water restrictions this summer.

‘I’m hoping that this is going to be one of those summers that really gets people thinking about water.’ — Susanne Porter-Bopp

In many homes in rural areas, rainwater harvesting systems are being installed when traditional sources are not available or are seen as too expensive. On the Gulf Islands it’s common for people to plumb their houses with different sources of water.

Bob Burgess of Rainwater Connections, a company based on Thetis Island that specializes in designing and building rainwater systems, says provided it is collected, stored, and disinfected correctly, rainwater is entirely safe to drink.

Rainwater collection and storage can be as simple as capturing rain in a barrel for outdoor use, he says, or complex enough to necessitate the expertise of an architect, engineer, rainwater specialist, and a filtration and water treatment specialist.

When rainwater is used inside the home, more attention to collection techniques is necessary such as installing debris catchment devices and gravity filters.

“If it’s tank water, you do get more of an odour and colour from the water so it’s nice not to have that. Even for toilets you don’t really want smelly, discoloured water, and certainly not in the washing machine,” Burgess says.

Even with rainwater stored for gardening use, to prevent algae growth it’s advisable to reduce the amount of debris such as leaves and pine needles that can find their way into the storage tank, he adds.

“Almost all our uses of water in our homes and our daily lives are actually non-potable in the sense that they’re not drinking-water quality,” notes Porter-Bopp.

Burgess estimates that the U.S. has more than 500,000 rainwater users, with a thriving rainwater collection industry in Texas, Hawaii, Arizona, California, Washington, and Oregon.

Rainwater harvesting is also popular in parts of Europe and Japan, and mandatory in Bermuda and in parts of Australia and New Zealand. In South Australia, every new home must be plumbed with a rainwater tank for toilets, laundry, and outdoor irrigation.

Canadians are among the most voracious water users on the planet, second only to our neighbours to the south. One of the reasons for that may be that our water comes relatively cheap compared to most other countries.

Water shortages during the summer are becoming increasingly common across the country, a striking example being the 2006 scarcity in Tofino, a town on the west coast of Vancouver Island located in a temperate rainforest.

“That to me epitomizes how wrongly we’re managing our water,” says Porter-Bott. “That could have been easily mitigated by the use of alternative sources such as rainwater, etc.”

She believes rainwater harvesting is a permanent solution to water shortages as it decentralizes the water supply and encourages personal responsibility, leading to conservation of this finite resource.

“I think we just need to sit down and look to countries like Australia which has very progressive regulations regarding rainwater. That’s what we need to do here, because we have the capacity, especially in our little wet corner of the world. We have a wonderful resource to be able to harness.”


Atlanta Making Progress for Potable Rainwater Systems

July 30, 2010

This week, ECOVIE and others sponsored a USGBC event at Southface called “Rainwater Catchment for Potable Use: An Expert Panel Discussion”.

In it, two leading experts in the use of collected rainwater for potable uses gave attendees an overview of how technically to create potable water from collected rainwater.  Bob Boulware, President of ARCSA (American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association) and a Professional Engineer, gave a presentation of process design.  Dennis Lye, PhD biochemist with the US EPA, talked about water chemistry and compared rainwater to municipal water.  In addition, representatives of Atlanta City Government and Atlanta’s rainwater collection industry gave input and answered questions.

The upshot is that ECOVIE along with the group named above is working with the City of Atlanta to develop a guideline for rainwater collection for residential and commercial potable uses.  A pilot program is proposed to prove the system in Atlanta and then to institutionalize it across Georgia.  One major outcome of this week’s work is that the City of Atlanta now has a draft guideline for potable rainwater that cane be used to develop policy and code for the pilot project.

For residences, the use of rainwater for potable applications has many benefits over using it for just outdoor irrigation or for indoor non-potable uses such as toilet flushing and doing laundry.  First, there would be added water savings.  But, this is actually not the biggest  motivator since the non-potable uses make up about 75% of a household’s water use.  The big benefit is that using rainwater indoors for all uses is easy to retrofit.  Retrofitting for non-potable use is very cost prohibitive and difficult in most cases since separate plumbing must be run to all the toilets and to the laundry.  Hooking up treated rainwater to a home for all uses is vastly simpler.  It only requires one connection to the main line coming to a house with an approved back flow preventer (RPZ, or reduced pressure zone).  This makes whole home rainwater use cheaper and easier than partial home use and opens the possibilities for rainwater collection in Atlanta top a huge new set of existing households.  Another benefit is that rainwater is more healthy than Atlanta city water.  In tests done to date, treated rainwater is lower and nearly all major measures of water quality and has no biological activity (total coliforms) as required  by EPA drinking water standards.  Rainwater also does not have any of the contaminants known to be in public drinking water sources such as pesticides, industrial chemical, or pharmaceuticals.  See:

Since rainwater is naturally distilled water by virtue of the hydrological cycle, it does have the same types of contaminants that are so difficult to remove from municipal water sources which come from runoff into the Chattahoochee River or Lake Lanier.

On the commercial side, many of you have heard about the % Seasons Brewery’s foray into using rainwater to make beer.  See:

As part of the initiative ECOVIE and Rain Harvest Systems is making with the City of Atlanta, hopes are that we can allow 5 Seasons to continue making and selling beer made of rainwater collected from their rooftop.  The system is currently shut down while waiting for decisions to be made at the state and local level.  Projects such as the one at 5 Seasons and other restaurants and businesses will go a long way to promote rainwater as a clean drinking water source while giving business owners a unique return on investment and marketing opportunity.

The efforts of the City of Atlanta to work with the rainwater collection community to develop guidelines, codes, and policies around potable rainwater are much appreciated and potentially will be one way to help solve metro Atlanta’s water supply challenges.  We at ECOVIE rainwater collection systems look forward to taking the great progress made this week to take things to the next step!

For more information about ECOVIE Rainwater Collection Systems and rainwater collection, please see or call 404-824-0318.