Rainwater Harvesting Systems for Vancouver Island

Jamie Wallace/Owner


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Rainwater in the news...

Waiting for the Rain in Kathmandu...

Posted by raindrop on August 6, 2013

Waiting for the rain

  • Rainwater harvesting can help preserve Kathmandu’s groundwater and combat the city’s increasing water crisis.




  • How many of you have installed a Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) system in your home? This question was asked by the facilitator in a programme I attended recently. An RWH system simply collects rainwater for household purposes, including drinking. So much water can be collected this way that most of it may not even be used. But since the monsoon season lasts for five months only, there is always a question of what can be done to fulfill water needs for the remaining months. This is why RWH has been linked to the term ‘recharging’, which essentially means letting the ground absorb water, which can then be extracted during the dry season.

    Everyone in Kathmandu is aware of the city’s water scarcity. Kathmandu Upatyeka Khanipani Limited is unable to fulfill the city’s total demand even in the wet season and groundwater is heavily extracted to compensate for this. While a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 1990 stated that the extraction rate of groundwater should not exceed 15 million litres per day (MLD) in Kathmandu, the current rate of extraction is much higher. As a result, Kathmandu’s groundwater level is decreasing by at least 2.5 metres per year. Monsoon rains are crucial to recharging groundwater but with buildings springing up like mushrooms on previously green fields and homeowners paving their compounds, we are preventing a huge amount of rain from entering the ground. This water often ends up on the streets and due to the poor drainage system, forms instant ‘swimming pools’. Water that could have been put to good use is left to stagnate, attracting insects and causing inconvenience to both pedestrians and motorists.

    However, there are measures in place that encourage the use of RWH. Those constructing new houses in Kathmandu can get a 10 percent tax rebate on their building permit fee if they include a RWH system in their design. The installation cost of RWH is certainly not cheap but in the long term, it can be quite beneficial for your finances. The payback period is usually ten to fifteen years and after that, you can enjoy free water supply. If you include a recharge pit, you will be doing a service to the entire community by replenishing groundwater and making sure you have enough water to pump out from the ground during the dry season. You don’t have to fear your well going dry or having to dig another deeper boring due to the diminished groundwater in the near future. Another good idea is to use permeable pavers for your compound and parking lots, which cost just as much as ordinary pavers but allow groundwater percolation and even plant growth while also minimising water logging. There are people who have installed RWH and recharging systems and are managing their water needs without the government water supply line. The harvested water can be used for everyday purposes and even for drinking after purification.

    The average annual rainfall in Kathmandu valley is as high as 1,600 mm. As per UN HABITAT, Kathmandu’s water need can be met by collecting water in just one fourth of the Valley area. However sad it might be, the truth is that Kathmandu today is characterised by dry stone spouts and empty places that were once ponds. RWH and recharging wells can be used to bring these parched structures back to life. Many still depend on these public taps and wells for water. A serpentine line in front of public water sources, especially during the dry season is a common sight. So RWH and recharging is bound to help the entire community. Fortunately, some communities, one in Bhuikhel pond near Swayamb-hunath for instance, have already taken up this practice. However, more communities need to embrace the system to bring perceptible change.

    Most of us are aware of the benefits of RWH and recharging, as well as the looming danger of water scarcity and land subsidence. So why is it that so few of us have RWH-recharging systems installed in our houses? It is time to ask ourselves if we are really putting our knowledge to use or are we just waiting for the government to introduce stricter laws? Should the government make RWH and recharging mandatory? Coming back to the programme that I attended, in case you are wondering how many hands were raised after that first question was asked, the answer is none.


    Pyakurel is a student of environmental science at Tribhuvan University

    Posted on: 2013-08-06 08:58

Use of rainwater wins city award

Posted by raindrop on August 4, 2013

Use of rainwater wins city award

A system that uses the city’s ample supply of rainwater to make ice at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre has received provincial recognition.

The City of Abbotsford, together with the District of Mission, has accepted a Union of BC Municipalities award in leadership and innovation for the project.

The award was part of a joint Abbotsford/Mission Water and Sewer Commission project that installed a rainwater harvesting system at the rink. It is the first professional indoor ice arena in the world to use harvested rainwater to make ice.

The estimated municipal water savings is 830,000L per hockey season. The water tanks are stored in the boiler room and fed through an internal gutter system. The water is pre-heated from ambient heat exchange in the boiler room, further reducing energy use.

The estimated energy savings of this system are approximately $3,200 per year.

The project costs were shared by partners Barr Plastics, Saxon Mechanical, the AESC, Tiger Purification Systems, Excalibur Electric and the water and sewer commission.

“We have already been speaking with other communities in BC who are interested in developing a similar project,”  said Coun. Patricia Ross, chair of the Abbotsford/Mission Water and Sewer Commission. “Harvesting rainwater is a great way for communities to reserve their potable water supply.”

The success of the project has resulted in the installation of rainwater harvesting systems in other parts of the communities. A 34,000-litre system was installed at the Abbotsford works yard to fill parks watering trucks; an 11,000-litre tank was installed for fleet vehicle washing; and an 11,000-litre tank was installed at Heritage Park in Mission and tied into the drip irrigation system for the rose garden.

RWH-Daily Commercial news

Posted by raindrop on August 4, 2013

RAINWATER HARVESTING – Daily Commercial News Article

June 8th, 2013 | Posted by CANARM Webmaster

Reposted from the Daily Commercial News. View the online article here. 

Real Estate — June 6, 2013

Rainwater Harvesting

OTTAWA, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – June 6, 2013) - For centuries, people have collected rainwater for drinking, washing and irrigation purposes. With the advent of municipal water treatment, rainwater collection became less popular in urbanized centres, though water storage cisterns can still be found in old farmhouses across Canada. But recently, rainwater harvesting has experienced an increase in popularity in countries around the globe as a result of droughts, water shortages and the rising costs of drinking water and stormwater infrastructure. Canada, too, is experiencing an increase in rainwater harvesting for lawn and garden irrigation, and many municipalities have begun to offer rebates for rain barrels. But larger, more sophisticated systems that capture, store, treat and redirect greater quantities of rainwater for other uses are still relatively new.

Rainwater harvesting systems use rainwater collected from the roof and should not be confused with systems that recycle treated wastewater or greywater (water from baths, showers and laundry). Rainwater that has touched the ground is generally not collected, as it can be contaminated with leaked automobile fluids, road salt, pet droppings, pesticides, fertilizers and dirt.

Some municipal planning codes now permit the use of non-potable (not safe to drink) water for toilet flushing and subsurface irrigation, while others permit the use of rainwater for laundry washing. Codes and bylaws will set out requirements for the appropriate materials to be used, sizing, supports, protection and marking, as well as the steps needed to ensure that non-potable water does not mix with potable (drinkable) water from the municipality or your well. Before installing a rainwater harvesting system, it is important to check with your municipality first to ensure the design and installation of your system will be in compliance with local regulations.

Depending on what you wish to use your rainwater for, your system can range from very small and simple to large and complex, with the cost varying accordingly. A general rule of thumb is that your system will cost $1/litre so that smaller 2000 litre systems will cost around $2,000. The first step will be to determine the quantity of water you will need for your intended purposes, the size of your roof catchment area and the amount of rainfall your area typically receives in a year. Based on this information, a rainwater harvesting system designer can work with you to determine how much rain you can realistically collect, how big of a cistern you will need and what you can use this water for. Cisterns have come a long way from the simple rain barrel. They come in different sizes (50 – 200,000 L), shapes (rectangular, square, cylindrical, bag) and materials (concrete, fibreglass, plastic, steel, wood) and can be installed above or below ground. Cisterns and related components should be insulated or emptied to avoid freezing in the winter months.

While there are currently very few regulations for rainwater quality, a rainwater harvesting system can include some level of treatment to stop the system from clogging up and to help ensure good water quality. Gutter filters, screens and systems that divert the “first flush” of rainwater are used to reduce the amount of leaf litter, insects, pollens, dust and other pollutants that can collect on roofs and get into the rainwater system. Screens are also used on access openings on the cistern to keep out insects, rodents, etc. Stored rainwater can also be treated with cartridge or membrane filters and then disinfected with chlorine or ultraviolet light prior to use. Check with your local health agency to determine what treatment (if any) is required in your jurisdiction. Once installed, it will be necessary to maintain your system as per the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure optimal performance. It is important to inspect and clean out gutters, check filters and check for leaks at least once a year.

In most cases, you will need a pump to deliver the treated rainwater from the cistern to the garden or your house. It is important to ensure that all plumbing and piping for the distribution system are adequately sized and installed for optimal flow. Consideration must be given to redirecting excess rain to a soakaway pit or infiltration trench to prevent the cistern from overflowing during heavy storm periods. Consider having your system designed, installed and commissioned by a professional.

Rainwater harvesting systems offer an effective way to reduce your water bills, use plant-friendly water in your garden and reduce your demands on local water infrastructure. To learn more about rainwater harvesting systems, visit CMHC’s website (www.cmhc.ca) to view the consumer guide to rainwater harvesting, or call 1-800-668-2642 to request a copy of the publication.

For over 65 years, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has been Canada’s national housing agency, and a source of objective, reliable housing information.

Contact Information

For story ideas or to access CMHC information
CMHC Media Relations – National Office
(613) 748-2799

Rainwater harvesting offers innovative way to beat the drought

by Brix Fowler / KENS 5

Bio | Email | Follow: @kens5brix

Posted on August 1, 2013 at 10:26 PM



In his native Venezuela, Dr. Jorge Rincon says rainwater harvesting is common. So for him, it was natural to put a 65,000-gallon rainwater harvesting tank in his backyard.

"Conservation is something that needs to be done. And is an investment for me," Rincon said.

It's an investment that cost him more than $25,000.

"It's a system designed to catch water off a roof usually and store it in a tank and then pump it into either a house through filtration in a UV light for drinking or without the filters in the garden for irrigation," explained Benjamin Pedraza, from One Texas Water.

Pedraza is installing the tank. He said the high dollar investment could pay off almost immediately.

"One drought in the summer where you can't water your lawn, it could pay for itself. It could save all your landscaping," Pedraza said.

It's a lesson in conservation Rincon wants to pass on to his children.

"If water is being difficult this time, we know that as more people are moving into the state, more people are born into the state, then there's going to be less supply or natural resources such as water," Rincon said.

So Much Rain! Why Not Put It To Work

Posted by raindrop on July 30, 2013



So Much Rain! Why Not Put It To Work?

Exasperated that our wet winters turn into water-scarce summers? Get your own 1000-gallon rain barrel.

By Christopher Pollon, 24 Mar 2011, TheTyee.ca


Rain in Vancouver

Cordova Street, Vancouver. Photo courtesy of it caught my eye via Your BC: The Tyee photo pool.


DANGER: Drinking this toilet water could be hazardous to your health.

That's the message required above every rainwater-flushing toilet installed at Vancouver's Olympic Village, where water is collected from the roof, stored in a giant holding tank, and pumped as needed for each flush.

The sign is necessary, because bringing rain indoors breaches a fundamental orthodoxy of the North American plumbing world: behind the walls, pipes carrying potable municipal water mingle with those carrying potentially unsanitary rain. On paper, building codes for Vancouver and elsewhere in B.C. do not currently allow the practice of indoor rain water plumbing. In a post-Walkerton regulatory environment, there is immense discomfort on the part of building inspectors at the prospect of mixing private and public water supplies. (See sidebar.)

In spite of this, there are about 25,000 rain water capture systems operating across B.C. today -- used to water lawns and crops, flush toilets and provide drinking water for people and livestock. There are about 5,000 rain systems on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands alone, in areas where seasonal droughts and dodgy well water make it a necessity.

As municipalities and cities explore ways to work with the deluge of water that falls from the sky (more than a metre of rain typically falls annually in Vancouver), the most promising use will be for irrigation of lawns and gardens in the near future. This could be good and bad.

"I have a worry that rainwater is starting to get trendy," says Bob Burgess, a B.C. rainwater harvesting pioneer and founder of The Rainwater Connection which designs and builds all sorts of rain capture systems. "More and more people are doing it, and doing terrible jobs of it. It may not be too long before we have our little Walkerton for rainwater."


Looking to the skies

A basic rain harvesting system captures water from a roof and channels it to a storage tank, where it is then pumped to where it is needed. Along the way, the rain undergoes any number of different filters and cleaning methods depending on the end use: to make it potable for drinking, it will require filtration and any combination of UV sanitizing and chlorine-injection; water strictly for watering plants will be cleaned less.


The rain that falls across much of B.C. is very clean -- it's the roof that can be a source for contamination. Dirt, bird shit, and coniferous needles are often found there, the latter adding both acidity and discolouring tannins to the water.

Health concerns about capturing rain water persist because most rain systems are connected to a well or source of municipal potable water -- this is necessary to top up the storage tank with potable water in times of low rain or drought. This connection creates the potential to back-up untreated, potentially-dirty rain water into the potable supply. Concerns of just this are top of mind for municipalities and cities, and a reason why plumbing inspectors are often hesitant to approve such systems.

After Ontario's Walkerton disaster in of 2000 -- which killed at least six people when E. coli from cattle manure contaminated a municipal well -- regulators clamped down harder. The result has been strict rules about protecting the purity of municipal sources of potable water.

"If you allow Mr. Joe Public to connect his source of private [rain] water to the city, if everybody does that, there is no assurance that the domestic water that we all drink will be clean," says Vancouver-based engineer and building code consultant Kenneth Chow.

Estimated costs of rain water systems

According to Bob and Jean Burgess of The Rainwater Connection here's what you might expect to pay for a...

Basic one-family rainwater potable drinking system: $35,000 and up;

Basic rainwater toilet system (supplying about 75 per cent of yearly flushing): ~$5,000-$7,000;

Basic rainwater irrigation system, with one 1500 gallon storage tank, custom-designed and installed system with pump: ~$5,000

Big municipal fleets are among the early adopters: White Rock currently washes some of its trucks with rain, as does Vancouver; the Regional District of Nanaimo captures rain off two large Parksville recycling transfer buildings and uses it to wash their interior concrete floors.

Commercial greenhouses in places like Delta and Langley have already taken rainwater recycling to a high art: many operations capture and use rain for watering, then continually recapture from the soil, filter and reuse.

Toilet flushing with rain is more complicated, often requiring a separate indoor plumbing system to move it within the building, as well as time-consuming consultations with municipal building officials to get approval. (See sidebar.) Such projects often occur in big "green" building developments like the Olympic Village. Developers often earn points toward LEED certification for such water conservation measures, providing the incentive to go through all the trouble.

Then there are those who use rain water out of dire necessity -- usually for drinking. As early as the 1960s, farmers in the Lower Fraser Valley and on Vancouver Island started to notice their groundwater was being contaminated by synthetic fertilizers and manure. Burgess still gets regular calls from farmers looking for cleaner sources of water for their cattle, horses, and families.

Many rainwater drinkers started out like Burgess himself: he retired to a piece of land served by a bad well (he lives and works on Thetis Island in the Gulf Islands) -- and looked to the sky for solutions.

He says 75 per cent of the people currently using rain for potable water in B.C. have no choice; another 25 per cent have the option of drilling a well (with no guarantee of success), but choose rainwater. There is also a tiny but growing number of people who want to conserve water for the sake of conservation -- a move that also provides more control over the contents of the water. (See sidebar for ballpark rain system costs, including potable.)

A barrel of possibilities

Burgess says using rain for irrigation holds the greatest promise in changing how residential consumers and many municipalities consume and conserve water.

Each summer, the demand for treated water almost doubles across the Lower Mainland, due almost entirely to lawn watering, at the very time when rainfall is lowest. Peak summer water demand typically occurs sometime in July each year, when the masses are soaking their lawns to keep their grass green. It is this peak demand that drives the costs of our entire water system -- everything from budgeting water needs to determining the size of our pipes.

"The single best thing municipalities could be doing is providing the means for Mr. And Mrs. Smith to have a 1,000 gallon rain barrel full of water in July," says Burgess. He says ubiquitous rain watering systems, fitted with a simple fixture to allow rain tanks to be topped up with municipal water as needed at night, would solve the costs and strains of meeting this peak demand.

Bushman tank rain irrigation system

A high quality rain irrigation system: rain travels down the roof, through a black debris box (which filters out fir needles and organics) into the 520 (imperial) gallon tank. The tank has an overflow to storm water drain, and a first flush diverter pipe (to same drain) to flush away the initial water that comes off the roof during a rain -- which is the most polluted water.

Many others agree. As lawn sprinkling rules get more onerous, rain harvesting is going to start making more sense, says Bruce Hemstock, a principle at Vancouver landscape architects PWL Partnership -- which designed the Vancouver Convention Centre's 2.4-hectare "living roof." "Summers are starting to get a little longer and drier, and we'll get to a point where we won't be watering our lawns [with potable water] at all."

What needs to change?

Kenneth Chow says rainwater irrigation has a bright future, and he should know. Chow is a "building code consultant" with Pioneer Consultants -- basically an enabler who helped Olympic Village developers earn the "equivalencies" required to get rain water toilets installed and approved. He says using rain for irrigation is much simpler, cheaper and safer than trying to put it in toilets -- and you don't have to post those silly hazard signs either.

"If we use rain harvesting for irrigation, it's very low risk, and much easier to control the hygenics of the water... if there's a mistake, the consequences are minimal. A plant might get a little water with bacteria in it, but there's already lots of bacteria in the soil."

He says regulatory agencies need to sit down with experts and "publish" the basic rules that will govern how rain water systems are designed and built -- instead of evaluating each system on a case-by-case basis, and forcing developers and other aspiring rain harvesters to devise custom "solutions" every time.

Discussions to this end are already happening: last year the City of Vancouver engaged in talks with Metro Vancouver, industry and neighbouring municipalities exploring sanitation standards for rainwater. This includes adding chlorine to stored rainwater to protect municipal potable water supply -- in the same way we currently use chlorine to treat water for swimming pools.

Burgess has practical suggestions of his own. "Allow the use of [rain storage] tanks as tall as the legislated fence height, (like this one) and make it so they can go anywhere within a foot of the property line. That one little change would take away a whole bunch of hassles for people."  [Tyee]