Tag Archives: aging infrastructure

Are Decentralized Water Systems the Answer?

water-1587718_640As we shared in an earlier post, RainBank Rainwater Systems and Contain Water Systems Inc.  are attending the 16th annual American Rainwater Catchment Systems (ARCSA) conference in Las Vegas December 4th through the 8th.

While we’re working hard to learn new ways to bring the most modern rainwater harvesting products and practices to  you, here’s an oldie, but goodie from January 2015, that talks about decentralized water systems.

Rainwater collection, a simple source for decentralized water, can be the answer to our aging, centralized water systems. With expected increased demand from high density development and the high cost of upgrading infrastructure to meet those demands, water will become the new commodity. Much has been discussed about privatization of water districts in order to fund these expenses, turning these districts into “for profit” businesses.  Large corporations such as Nestlé are actively pursuing this new business model.

What effect will privatization and profit generating water companies have on water supplies? Will Wall Street play a part in the trading, much like oil or any other commodity? What then will happen to the average consumer? What level will supply and demand hold on the price and pricing of water?

Rainwater collection and use can play an important role in not only supply, but potentially help keep costs down for the consumer and water districts. Simple water conservation, along with  collection can decrease supply and demand by supplementing centralized water. A rainwater collection system used only for toilet flushing and laundry facilities can save the average home 50% of its use. Commercial buildings can supply their irrigation and toilet flushing needs with rainwater collection while saving thousands of cubic yards of centralized water consumption.

The supply and demand of centralized water can be mitigated with rainwater collection on a large scale by small supplementary rainwater collection systems for commercial and residential use.

If you can’t attend the ARCSA conference, be sure to stop back here for an update from us.

Why is Rainwater Collection Important?

rainwater-collection-diagramSimply put, Rainwater Collection is the practice of collecting and storing rain for future use.  A Rainwater collection system combines components to collect, convey, and store for beneficial use. This can be as simple as rain barrels or a more complex system for potable drinking water. Both are important and have large scale benefits environmentally and socially. 

The use of rainwater collection, or sometimes referred to as harvesting, is nothing new. Evidence as far back as 1700 BC on the Island of Crete indicate a sophisticated rainwater collection system. It is known that the Romans constructed reservoirs and conveyance throughout the Mediterranean. In more modern times, many of our grandparents collected rainwater in rural areas in the United States and Europe. During World War II, many of the South Pacific Islands occupied by US forces collected rainwater for beneficial use.

A modern, centralized water system in urban areas expanded into outlying areas and eventually into more rural communities. Large and small public and community water systems made life easier for the average person and costs were minimal to the consumer. However, with increased demands from population, commercial and industrial demands, new fresh water supplies are becoming strained. The technology, equipment, testing, and efficiencies of rainwater collection and a supplementary, decentralized water system are helping to reduce that stress on today’s resources. 

Expenses incurred to upgrade, expand, and repair our current centralized water systems will be high, but can be reduced by lessening the demand. The use of rainwater capture for non potable use, i.e.,  toilet and laundry facility, can reduce residential use by as much as 48%. The use of centralized water, disinfected to drinking water standards for irrigation of landscaping has a great impact on our resources. Along with better practices such as swales, drought tolerant plantings, passive on sight infiltration, pollution of our waterways are less threatened by stormwater runoff.

Groundwater levels at present are showing declines, excessive pumping, and other factors are causing wells to go dry or quality to decrease. Many locals are experiencing shifts in rainfall frequency and intensity. Declining habitat due to impacts of development, pollution from runoff, and declining river flow rates can be minimized by preventable, best practices such as rainwater collection, use, and infiltration.

Cost vs. the Value of Water

coins-1015125_640Humans cannot survive without water.  But, how much should water cost?

Below is a throwback Thursday post about the cost of Seattle water:

The Seattle water system is a good one, provided by Seattle Public Utilities. But, as the demand grows with urban development and population, the cost of Seattle water will need to rise to support expansion.

A recent article by Gene Balk in the Seattle Times makes some interesting points.  Balk mentions “…bafflingly — drought-stricken Fresno, Calif., has some of the cheapest water in the nation. At a 50-gallon-per-person usage, a family of four would pay just $41.63 — less than one-quarter of the cost in soggy Seattle.”

Balk goes on to write: “Seattle has such high rates because we’ve invested more than most places in our water infrastructure in recent years. We relocated our reservoirs underground, in compliance with federal mandates, to keep our drinking water safe from contaminants. “

We can clearly see that it’s not the amount of Seattle water that is the generator of costs, it is the infrastructure required to convey and treat the water to potable standards.

Approximately 70% of household water demand is for non-potable usage. Irrigation, water closets, laundry, and wash down account for this non potable use. Rainwater collection can mitigate non potable use of city water and have a positive effect on our centralized water system and environment.

The commercial building owner and the home owner can enjoy healthy savings on future Seattle water bills by utilizing rainwater collection. Stormwater reduction could be significantly recognized through on site filtration if buildings and homes in the urban environment adopted rainwater collection.

Seattle is a progressive city in many ways and rainwater collection is part of that progression.

This article was originally published under the title The Cost of Seattle Water at RainBank.info