You can drink the rainwater in Atlanta, Georgia, but that is one of the few places in the US that provides for the use of rainwater as a source of drinking water. A handful of states – including Arizona, Texas, and Virginia – have created tax credits to reduce rainwater harvesting system costs.
Meanwhile water rates are rising at an average of 8% a year, and corporations are freely using “our” rainwater to increase their profits.
David Crawford, founder of Virginia-based Rainwater Management Solutions, attributes the limited US rollout to resistant utilities, relatively low water costs, a confusing melange of local codes and ignorance about the practice.
“There’s these municipalities that say, ‘Oh, no, we don’t want you to flush our toilets with rainwater because we’ll lose budget money on it,'” Crawford said. “The reality of it is they don’t have the water to sell in many cases.”
While Texas offers a number of incentives for rainwater harvesting, including allowing governmental districts to exempt such systems from property taxes, exclusion of harvesting from the new State Water Plan certainly slowed the trend.
Colorado hoodwinked the people when the Legislature passed a “rainwater harvesting” act, limiting the users to one project in Douglas County where, guess what, there is no river basin to be effected for a prior appropriation conflict.
Secondly, the user must be on a well and not connected to a water utility. People all over the state heard about a rainwater bill, and wondered if they could use a water barrel for their roses?
Under that law, nope. The same folks were encouraged by a mention of a gray water bill passing the Legislature, but oops, the bill passed, but the legalese precluded action until every county health organization in the state agrees to a yet to be written set of rules.
New national plumbing standards including dated rainwater harvesting guidelines now being finalized will help streamline the regulatory process, but a lot of rain will pour by before the potential of rainwater is fully embraced.
The October 2013 Water Quality Products magazine includes a special section on rainwater harvesting, only with a new twist. The piece details some new programs where the emphasis is on commercial rainwater harvesting, collecting water from the roofs of huge factories, warehouses, and computer server data storage buildings; to specifically generate a flow for water purification plants as well as a flow for direct agricultural irrigation.
Partial treatment of water not suitable for domestic drinking, but more than adequate for fracking, drilling, flushing, as well as irrigation applications, surely creates significant economic benefits for all concerned.
To protect themselves from water shortage or price increases, some of America’s largest companies – such as Walmart, Home Depot, and TD Ameritrade – have been installing their own projects at hundreds of branches.
Those water savings are likely to pay off quickly as utilities raise their rates across the country in response to rising demand due to everything from rising populations in some areas, new EPA stormwater regulations and the replacement of aging infrastructure. Nationally, the EPA expects maintaining existing water services to require $384.2bn – mostly for repairing and replacing transmission and distribution lines, now estimated to be leaking 16% of the water that passes through them.
Rainwater collection played a key role in getting several Australian cities through their recent “millennium drought”. But the practice routinely gets overlooked in most States.
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