Using rainwater from everything from gardens to ice rinks in a city ideally suited to lead the rain-harvesting movement. Amy Logan / Metro

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Reaping the benefits of rainwater harvesting in Vancouver

Metro News
By Amy Logan, Metro, Published March 12 2017

All across the city, rainwater is being used in unconventional ways.

From watering gardens to washing cars and providing ice for hockey rinks, collecting the rain is increasingly becoming a part of the urban fabric. And with a yearly average of over a metre of rain, Vancouver is ideally suited to lead the rainwater harvesting movement.

Vancouverites are starting to see that rainwater is a valuable resource. As Adam Scheuer, President of WaterTiger, a local company that specializes in designing and installing rainwater systems, pointed out, “Over the last decade the concept of collecting rainwater has gained traction in the cities, both for residential and commercial purposes.”

He cites rain barrels for the backyard or garden, washing cars during water restrictions, and rainwater holding tanks as examples of home use.

Although many Vancouverites, seem to feel that there is plenty of water to go around, it is a limited resource. Scheuer noted that Vancouver’s drought-like summer of two years ago was a “wake-up call for a number of people.”

He suggested that by “reducing our dependence on the city to source, treat and pump over 1.5 billion liters of water per day, we can protect our water systems for years to come.”

Scheuer has noticed an increase in awareness and interest, with more and clients pursuing rainwater systems.

"Whether it’s a lifestyle choice, the desire to keep watering their plants during the summer, a necessity based on a low flow well, or a commercial LEED rated project, the rainwater industry is just getting started," he said.

WaterTiger has helped design high-profile commercial rainwater systems such as for LEED- rated buildings including the Olympic Village Community Centre, Telus Garden, and the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. The Abbotsford Heat professional hockey team played their last two seasons on ice made from collected rain.

Benefits of rainwater collection include "slowing the rate of discharge to the storm system during heavy rainfall, which reduces heavy loading on waste treatment systems, resulting in fewer contamination events in our waterways," said Schemer.

In 2016, a recommendation was put forward that Vancouver City Council adopt the long-term target to capture and treat 90 per cent of Vancouver’s average annual rainfall through the implementation of green infrastructure." Current measures include using rainwater to wash some city vehicle fleets.

The Van Deusen Visitor Centre, Creekside Community Centre, and the Vancouver Convention Centre are just a few of the city's LEED-certified buildings that use rainwater- capture systems to reduce water consumption.

Earthwise Society, an organization fostering sustainability through environmental education, hosts a Rainwater Harvest program. It aims to raise citizen awareness, encouraging residents to take personal responsibility for water sustainability.

According to the Society, the program helps homeowners to protect and conserve water, using native plants and installing rain gardens. Earthwise's upcoming Rain Day is a family-friendly celebration of rain.

Reaping the benefits of rainwater harvesting in Vancouver