From Whatcom to Wahkiakum, rainwater collection is gaining popularity in most Washington counties.
Whether potable or non potable, rainwater collection and use is proving to be a solution to new, stricter storm water codes throughout Washington State and elsewhere. The 2016 storm water code became effective in January 2016 and its regulations are to protect people, property and the environment from damage caused by runoff. The new code is in compliance with the new Stormwater Discharge National Pollution Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES).
The new Stormwater Code addresses;
- Drainage control submittal and plan review requirements
- Where stormwater from your site needs to go
- On-Site Stormwater Management best practices (previously known as Green Stormwater infrastructure)
- Erosion control requirements
- Flow control and treatment requirements
- Enforcement of the code
In keeping with the 2016 new Stormwater code, a Drainage Review for your project is required if you are;
- Disturbing more than 750 square feet of land
- Adding or replacing more than 750 square feet of hard surface
- Adding or replacing more than 750 square feet of a building
Rainwater collection and use can help mitigate the hard surfaces such as pavement or roof area for new construction or remodels. On site infiltration by the way of rain gardens, drywalls, irrigation and retention of rainwater is an effective practice used in stormwater management. The use of rainwater for toilet flushing, laundry facility, wash down, cooling towers, and domestic household potable use can reduce the amount of storm water run off and a reduction of city water usage. The benefits environmentally and finically for the property owner and city can be recognized as a viable solution and is excepted as part of the reduction of storm water run off.
If you’re located in or around the Seattle area – from Wahkiakum to Whatcom, for further information on the new stormwater code, visit: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/codes/stormwater/
Is Seattle implementing Rainwater Collection as part of its Stormwater Management Program (SWMP)?
SWMP applies to the municipal separate storm sewers owned and operated by the city. SWMP address the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and is permitted by ecology. Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is the lead city department responsible for implementing permit coordination in SWMP.
“The City of Seattle is required to develop, implement and enforce a program to prevent and control the impact of stormwater runoff from new development, redevelopment and construction site activities.” (SWMP Jan. 2015)
Part of the “minimum performance requirements” of SWMP is to “incorporate and require Low Impact Development (LID) principles and its Best Management Practices (BMPs).” The Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) is part of the stormwater code and requires that any new construction, commercial or residential, infiltrate runoff. SPU’s “Rainwise Program” offers education to the general public on infiltration of stormwater and rebates of implementation as long as requirements are met.
The city of Seattle Health Department allows rainwater collection for non-potable and potable use.
Unfortunately SWMP does very little to encourage rainwater collection, even though it is promoted by Ecology. The Rainwise Program addresses infiltration, not use of a rainwater system, while rainwater collection and its use offers more advantages than simply infiltrating. The use of collected rainwater for toilet flushing, laundry, and when properly filtered and disinfected, potable use, not only helps mitigate roof runoff, but helps supplement our water supplies.
The demands of our water supplies nationwide are becoming strained and will continue as population growth continues. Costs of expanding and upgrading current water infrastructure will cost billions locally in the next 20 years, while a more proactive approach of a supplemental, decentralized water system addresses both issues of stormwater and water demands while keeping costs down.
While Seattle is addressing stormwater runoff, they are missing the boat on rainwater collection promotion. More information and comments to Seattle City Council links are provided below.
For More Information
According to the World Water Development Report by the United Nations “A 40% shortfall of freshwater would be experienced as soon as 15 years.” Eight cities throughout the world were cited to witness severe fresh water shortages due to failing infrastructure, saltwater intrusion, sewage and plumbing failures, population growth, and pollution. The report went on to recommend actions of capturing rainwater, recycling waste water, repairing and upgrading sewer and water conveyance, and education on conservation as methods to curtail this threat.
Seattle was brought up in the report as having a sustainable amount of rainfall to support rainwater collection. As stated in an earlier blog post, I wrote that the Puget Sound region would face 6.2 billion dollars in costs to upgrade, retrofit,and expand its freshwater infrastructure in the next 20 years.
Seattle has been progressive in recent years by requiring infiltration or use of stormwater runoff for new construction for residential and commercial projects. But, more can be done in the way of incentives or tax credits for rainwater collection and infiltration for all existing buildings and homes. Retrofitting existing structures is relatively easy but does have costs. Rainwise rain barrel programs create awareness, but fall short on actual conservation. A much more progressive program of promoting rainwater collection and education would recognize positive results in stormwater reduction, demands on freshwater infrastructure, and water consumption. Water districts should recognize that augmenting the water districts’ demands with rainwater collection would be beneficial rather than looking at Rainwater collection as a threat to their revenue. With Seattle’s fast growing population, demands on the infrastructure will rise accordingly. By offsetting demand with supplementary, private rainwater collection systems, demand will be reduced — as well as costs involved with supply.