|Rainwater Collection Could Save Urban Consumers $90 Million a Year
There’s a cheap, abundant resource that could help consumers save money and fight climate change: RAINWATER.
Residents in eight cities around the U.S. could collectively trim up
to $90 million a year off their water bills with simple rainwater
collection techniques, according to a new report.
Urban rooftop rainwater collection, often overlooked or discouraged
by complicated regulations in major cities and neighborhoods, could
help individuals and families save money while improving water quality,
says the Natural Resources Defense Council in a new report.
“Even under conservative assumptions, the study
demonstrates that each city modeled can capture hundreds of millions to
billions of gallons of rainwater each year, equivalent to the total
annual water use of tens to hundreds of thousands of residents.”
And the yearly savings could be far greater for Americans than $90
million. The eight cities profiled in the NRDC analysis are only a
snapshot of the different regions around the country.
Over 44 billion gallons of freshwater are used by public water suppliers
on a daily basis in the United States, with consumers representing one
of the highest individual daily usage rates in the world (between 100
and 165 gallons). As climate change and population growth drain some
regional water supplies, urban dwellers may be vulnerable to water
shortages or price spikes.
Much of the heavily treated, energy-intensive and perfectly drinkable
water is wasted on tasks that could be used for non-potable supplies.
For example, more than 11 percent of residential and 25 percent of
commercial drinking water is spent on flushing toilets — over 2 trillion gallons a year.
NRDC has found that non-potable residential and commercial rooftop
rainwater collection, which has been utilized in some regions of the US
for some time to supplement residential outdoor activities, could be
expanded to supply large cities with between 21 to 75 percent of their
yearly water use.
The report lists four major benefits of capturing urban rainfall:
- Inexpensive, on-site supply of water that can be used for outdoor
non-potable uses with little, if any, treatment, or for a variety of
additional uses including potable supply with appropriately higher
levels of treatment
- Reduced (or no) energy and economic costs associated with treating
and delivering potable water to end users because capture systems often
use low-volume, non-pressurized, gravity fed systems or require only the
use of a low power pump for supply
- Reduced strain on existing water supply sources
- Reduced runoff that would otherwise contribute to storm water flows,
a leading cause of surface water pollution and urban flooding
Lightly or non-treated, non-potable water, collected in rainwater basins, has the potential to replace nearly 80 percent of daily residential water usage (clothes washing, toilet flushing, and outdoor uses) that does not require drinking water.
Rooftop containment also has the potential improve water quality
around metropolitan areas by preventing excess storm water (often filled
with sewage, toxins, and chemicals that coat our sidewalks and streets)
from washing into rivers, streams, and beaches. In fact, the EPA views
urban runoff as “one of the greatest threats to water quality in the
country,” and one of the leading causes of surface water pollution.
Unfortunately, rainwater collection is often hampered by overlapping
and contradictory local regulations for non-potable indoor water use,
which makes rainwater containment “overly complicated.” By addressing
some of the simple rules than govern water use, rainwater collection
could be a major factor in our ability to mitigate and adapt to climate
by Zachary Rybarczyk
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