Director's Message - Rainwater Harvesting Rules

Yesterday, I participated in the first stakeholder's workshop with the Department of Ecology (Ecology) regarding the development of new regulations for rainwater capturing. Ecology is genuinely interested in facilitating a resolution but in the end not much was resolved.

Results Depend on Answers
The Council needs some good examples of rainwater harvesting as a conversation measure on projects. The beneficial use of harvesting rainwater is not being discussed as much as it should be. In addition, answers from engineers and hydrologists would be invaluable. Comments from the tribes and environmental organizations went unanswered today. This workshop gave voice to many objections. It is difficult to nail down exactly what the resistance is, but it appears to be a fear that rainwater/stormwater harvesting removes such water from the ecosystem. We need knowledgeable sources to develop a response.

The Discussion
Tribal interest groups promoted a strict and limiting regulatory approach, but the remainder of the participants found some consensus. There was general agreement about allowing property owners with existing legal access to water to utilize rainwater harvesting. However, there is still debate about rainwater capturing without an existing water right or where rainwater is the sole source of water for a location. While even the tribes appeared to agree that roof-top capturing is acceptable, there remained disagreement about capturing from other surfaces.

Support from Environmental Groups is Oddly Missing
Negotiations with the environmental community will take some effort. An attendee who was affiliated with, though not an official representative of, the Washington Environmental Council (WEC) had negative comments on most proposals that authorized rainwater capturing. His statements were congruent with WEC testimony against rainwater capturing last session. However, that position would appear to be inconsistent with efforts to promote sustainable construction. It could be that representatives of the WEC who are interested in sustainable construction are unaware how impactful this issue is.

Codes need to be Addressed
During the discussion it was noted that the Uniform Plumbing Code currently is prohibitive of recycling grey water. However it was stated that changes are in the works that would treat grey water and rainwater as the same for purposes of plumbing. Interestingly, the International Plumbing Code was noted as being more progressive in the way it deals with these issues. If legislation is pursued in 2009, inclusion of a codes section may be needed.

Next Meetings
The next stakeholder meeting is July 1 and the final meeting is July 11. Open house meetings are scheduled June 17, 18 and 19. The open house sessions are an important place for architects, engineers and hydrologists to speak up. I encourage your participation at these meetings.

Stan L. Bowman, Hon. AIA/WA,

Executive Director for the AIA Washington Council and the AIA Northwest & Pacific Region

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