Both commercial and residential rainwater collection customers are expressing more interest than ever before, which is a large part of the reason that RainBank Rainwater Systems has seen a 50% bump in growth over the last year.
Architectural and engineering firms are including rainwater collection systems in their designs. Cities, and counties throughout the state are beginning to understand the connection between stormwater management and rainwater collection.
Developers are saving money on large water bills with rainwater collection, while complying with he “Green Storm water Infrastructure” (GSI). Green building and low impact development are becoming more popular with the general public. Residential customers, new construction and retrofits are recognizing the long-term cost savings, water quality, and security of a more decentralized water system. As a whole, the public is becoming more environmentally aware of our environmental impact and are finding ways to make that impact positive.
County and City planners, building departments, and health departments need to have the tools to make proper choices of acceptance, promotion, code and permitting of rainwater collection systems. RainBank’s president, Ken Blair is the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association’s (ARCSA) Northwest regional representative and can schedule an ARCSA workshop for those civil departments, engineering and architectural firms this summer in Seattle. Interested parties please contact Ken using the contact form, or directly at Ken at RainBank dot info.
The GSI mandate or “Green Stormwater Infrastructure” can create unexpected costs for new commercial and residential construction. Controlling storm water through GSI compliance requires on-site infiltration and/or use.
Roof runoff, along with impervious surfaces, contributes to overwhelmed stormwater systems, which may result in pollutants entering our waterways and wetlands. A design using both methods of rainwater collection and infiltration can be the most cost-effective, while being beneficial to the environment.
Directing roof runoff for irrigation, toilets, laundry, or even pre-infiltration potable water, will reduce costs from municipal water supplies. During the rainy season, collected water can supply these uses while overflow from the cistern can be directed to infiltration. Irrigation in the summer months being supplied by the desired amount allocated from storage will enable the rain garden or infiltration system to be sized for a smaller amount of runoff while supplementing city water usage.
Is promotion of rainwater collection an opportunity for counties in Washington State to control stormwater?
As of October 2009, rainwater collection is legal in all counties in Washington State. Many county Health Departments are allowing collected rainwater for potable use as well. King County, the largest county in the state, allows for potable usage. Seattle Public Utilities offers rebates for rain gardens in certain areas of Seattle such as Ballard. The Rainwise Program encourages home owners to collect and use roof runoff to help control storm water. Many consumers have taken advantage of this program and are practicing good storm water control. The GSI or “green storm water infrastructure” mandate addresses the issue of storm water runoff for new construction by total infiltration of impervious surfaces on site.
But what about all the existing buildings and houses throughout our state including Seattle area, where stormwater runoff still overwhelms sewer systems, causing intentional sewage release into the Puget Sound during large rain events?
What can the counties and municipalities do to encourage existing building and home owners to control their runoff, thus reducing or eliminating these large releases? Public awareness is an excellent start. County and municipality funded education using media and public service announcements promoting rainwater catchment practices while offering incentives such as the Rainwise program would generate interest. A properly funded program of encouragement and incentives would create more public interest to adopt rainwater collection, as it has with the Rainwise Program, while money being spent to promote would be absorbed by the cost savings to the overwhelmed systems we experience now.
Rainfall collection and use can be part of the solution to Seattle’s storm water issue, augmenting the GSI mandate by addressing runoff, not only from new construction, but from existing buildings and homes as well. It’s fair to say that most Seattleites would welcome being part of the solution — if given the opportunity.