Archive for December, 2011

RAINWATER HARVESTING CAN QUICKLY MAKE A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE IN GEORGIA’S AVAILABLE WATER SUPPLY

December 15, 2011

The outline below shows how rainwater collection can be part of the governor’s plan to increase water supply in Georgia.

Rainwater Collection Is:
• A form of reservoir that meets all of the criteria outlined in the GWSTF report
• A perfect “intermediate solution” to provide water while we pursue larger reservoirs
• A potential source of 27 mgd water supply by 2016
• A water source that meets the criteria of SB 122 and will be privately owned
• A form of reservoir that offers unique advantages over larger reservoirs
The Southeast Rainwater Harvesting Systems Association (SERHSA) is a newly formed nonprofit 501(C)(6) organization that seeks to educate the region on the benefits of rainwater harvesting, advocate for public policy that encourages its use, and promote the highest professional standards for the equipment and installation companies that provide it to businesses and homeowners. The leadership of SERHSA has thoroughly analyzed Georgia’s looming water crisis for more than a year and concludes that the benefits of rainwater harvesting are essential to helping the region address this issue before it becomes critical. What follows is our analysis:
Everything about rainwater harvesting speaks to the heart of the stated mission that guides the Georgia Water Supply Task Force. To wit:
As outlined on Page 2 of the report: Rainwater harvesting 1) develops new water supplies and presents an effective solution for water resources, 2) can be inexpensively financed with significant investment from the private sector, 3) provides enormous leverage for public support with private investment, and 4) is easily accomplished without cumbersome regulatory requirements.
As detailed on Page 4 of the report: Rainwater harvesting meets all the necessary requirements of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District’s charge to its jurisdictions, i.e. “All affected local governments in the Metro District are required to comply with best practices related to water supply, water conservation, and wastewater and storm water management.”
On Page 6 of the report, the Task Force tags “intermediate solutions” as the best option for addressing the water crisis. However, the “intermediate solutions” it identifies don’t fit the criteria defined. Intermediate is defined in the report as deliverable by 2020 and we’re already past the window that would make new or expanded reservoirs fit that time frame. But rainwater harvesting, which can begin generating new water supply immediately, can provide additional resources that could extend the window of opportunity while new or expanded reservoirs are being planned, permitted and built. The 10-year process identified on Page 7 of the report, acknowledges “political, economic and social competition between neighboring communities, or between cities and counties, often discourages collaboration in development of water supply projects. Established water departments may be resistant to cooperation with adjoining systems or communities.”
Rainwater harvesting dodges almost all these problems with its distributed approach to water consumption. Georgia’s Riparian rights trump any jurisdictional encroachment and capacity is determined by user preference. And it leaves the resources of the shared reservoir more available to all.

Finally, Page 13 of the report detail’s the Water Supply Task Force guiding principles, every one of which rainwater harvesting addresses.
Again, rainwater harvesting meets every single one of the “guiding principles” laid out in the report::
• GWSP should support local governments in their efforts to secure adequate and reliable water supplies. Rainwater harvesting is as intensely local as water supply gets. By supporting the efforts of property owners to capture the water from their own rooftops and use it for grounds irrigation and other non-potable uses, the state makes local public sources of water more available for potable consumption and helps municipal governments control storm water and flooding by reducing runoff.
• The GWSP seeks to use state funds in the most efficient and effective way to maximize water supply. Rainwater harvesting can provide quick, effective water supply benefits in the short term with modest incentives to property owners for installation. The bulk of investment in a rainwater harvesting initiative would be private.
• GWSP should tailor support to unique needs of individual projects instead of pursuing a one-size-fits-all approach. Rainwater harvesting is uniquely designed by property owners to their needs and preferences. They determine size and use with their own investment and in consultation with their professional installers.
• Regional cooperation is the preferred approach to addressing water supply needs. Rainwater harvesting respects and protects shared resources throughout the watershed, making shared resources more available to all and ultimately returning the captured water to the water table.
• State funding sources should be managed in a manner appropriate to promote fund sustainability and to help ensure long-term sustainability of local water resources. By reserving shared water resources for potable uses, rainwater harvesting makes them more sustainable. And by quickly extending the availability of existing supplies, rainwater harvesting offers local governments the time they need to site and build reservoirs for long-term security.

Rainwater harvesting doesn’t eliminate the need for reservoirs, but it creates more time to build them and makes the most effective use of both existing and future resources.

THE STATE OF GEORGIA HAS THE ADMINISTRATIVE VEHICLE IT NEEDS TO PROVIDE INCENTIVES FOR RAINWATER HARVESTING: SB 122
Under the provisions of SB 122, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs – which publishes the state guidelines for rainwater harvesting installation – could provide funding to local governments for grants to homeowners and businesses for rainwater harvesting installation. With a contract between the property owner and the government, specific amounts representing a portion of the cost could be provided to offset the initial investment in rainwater harvesting equipment. The contract would be contingent on an application detailing the installation’s adherence to state guidelines and the name and contact information for the installer.
In exchange, the property owner would promise to store rainwater and use it for allowed applications to reduce withdrawals from shared public water resources, as well as to reduce storm water runoff, for a specified period of years. The property owner would agree to maintain the equipment properly. For a relatively modest investment of the governor’s bond proceeds for water infrastructure, these incentives could support the installation of as many as 2,000 residential systems within a year and demonstrate the efficacy of rainwater harvesting as a water-supply resource.
Rainwater harvesting is a proven technology widely accepted and practiced in water stressed regions such as the American Southwest and Australia. Modest incentives, as described above, and heightened public awareness could stimulate enough adoption to produce significant results – as much as 27 MGD – in just five short years.
Finally, rainwater harvesting promotes economic development. In addition to system designers, suppliers and installers, the industry creates jobs for many Georgians hard-hit by the recent economic downturn such as plumbers, electricians and landscapers. And it protects the region’s economic climate, which stands to lose as much as $39 billion annually if demand for water outstrips supply as predicted, according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

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