Potable residential use of collected rainwater is on the rise since the statewide water rights laws were challenged in 2006 by the Washington Department of Ecology, allowing the entire state of Washington to collect and use rainwater for non-potable (non-drinking) use. San Juan County had been awarded an exemption to the 1800’s water rights laws and was already issuing residential building permits with rainwater collection as the only source of water. RainBank’s president, Ken Blair, was personally awarded a building permit in 2002 for his “water availability” being the only source of water for his household. It was not the first, but was certainly at the forefront of rainwater collection’s progression and, throughout the years, RainBank, has continued with that effort.
For close to 20 years, RainBank has shared its deep rainwater collection knowledge, working with many counties as they move toward increased adoption of potable residential rainwater collection systems for single family residences, and remains committed to providing quality engineered designs, professionally installed.
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RainBank has always been proactive in the advancement of rainwater collection. We designed and built the first potable system in Seattle, as well as the first potable systems in Skagit, Jefferson, and Whatcom Counties.
Additionally, we have been designing and building rainwater collection systems for potable and non potable demands for more than 15 years throughout Washington and Oregon.
RainBank began in San Juan County, which at that time, was the only county that allowed rainwater harvesting in the state. San Juan County had an exemption to the state’s water rights laws that considered rainwater a tributary and therefore not subject to those laws. It wasn’t until 2009 that Department of Ecology convinced the legislature that rainwater collection was beneficial and therefore should be allowed. More counties began to come on board to allow the use of treated rainwater for potable use, with King County adopting in 2011. Since then, many counties in Western Washington now allow the practice, but there are still those who have not.
We were recently contacted by a customer from Wahkiakum county in southwest Washington, who wished to use rainwater collection for potable use on his property. The spring that was grandfathered in did not pass the last well report and was deemed unsafe for consumption. I petitioned the county health department for acceptance of a sole source potable system and was told they never heard of the practice. I sent documentation from Department of Ecology, King County policies, ARCSA (American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association), a list of Washington counties that have adopted rainwater use, a few case studies, and our website.
I am pleased to announce that Wahkiakum County responded that they will consider a design for residential potable use for this project.
It is through experience, expertise and commitment that RainBank Rainwater Systems is the leader in Washington State’s rainwater catchment industry.
I have been designing and installing rainwater harvesting systems in King County and throughout Washington State for 15 years and am still amazed and dismayed at the misinformation that is presented to the pubic when inquiring about the legality, procedures, and permitting for rainwater harvesting.
TRUTH: Rainwater collection is legal throughout Washington State
Washington State Department of Ecology issued an interpretive policy statement clarifying that a water right is not required for rooftop rainwater harvesting. As described by Washington State Department Ecology, Clarifications of Washington State Rainwater Law Pol 1017 in reference to RCW980.03 & RCW90.54 and the Environmental Protection Agency’s paper on Rainwater Harvesting Conservation, Credit, Codes, and Cost Literature Review and Case Studies
False: Rainwater harvesting is not allowed for drinking water in Washington State.
It is up to each county and city in Washington State to allow for potable usage of rainwater. King, Jefferson, Whatcom, San Juan, Skagit, and Island are counties that currently allow potable use of rainwater for a single-family residence. It is the health department of those counties that are the typical authorities for regulations and permitting.
Here are some resources for gathering information about rainwater collection guidelines in Washington:
As Washington State counties are recognizing the benefits of rainwater collection and the fact that rainwater can provide a viable source of water for potable usage, other counties will adopt RWC as an alternative water source.
RainBank Rainwater Systems is the leader in rainwater collection system designs and installations in Washington State and president Ken Blair is the NW Regional Representative for The American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA). RainBank is committed to helping customers and counties understand the benefits, standards, and policies of rainwater harvesting in order to provide a clean, safe, viable source of quality water.
Seattle waterfront park photo is courtesy of Nicola under Creative Commons