Atlanta potable rainwater ordinance a step closer to passageAtlanta moved one step closer this evening to approving a landmark ordinance that would allow potable rainwater systems in single-family homes. After a public hearing of the City Council’s Utili
Atlanta moved one step closer this evening to approving a landmark ordinance that would allow potable rainwater systems in single-family homes.
After a public hearing of the City Council’s Utilities Committee, both members present said they were strongly in favor of the legislation, which would give homeowners a way to get permits for systems that catch rainwater, store it and treat it for drinking, bathing and dishwashing.
Potable rainwater treatment system inside the basement of an Atlanta home. Photo courtesy of Bob Drew.
“It makes sense from an environmental point of view. We have to be good stewards,” Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean said after the meeting. “I’ve gotten a lot of letters of support, and I haven’t really heard of any opposition.”
… Atlanta would become the first city nationally to write its own ordinance enabling home owners to use rainwater for drinking, washing and bathing, said Jenah Zweig, Office of Sustainability project manager. Portland, Ore., operates under a rainwater ordinance that was approved by the state.
The biggest questions about the ordinance still revolve around its proposed fees. Because water from potable systems almost always is discharged into sewage systems, the legislation includes a “flat, tiered annual fee [schedule] based on the size of the rainwater cistern,” according to Jenah Zweig of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.
Under that schedule, a homeowner with a 325-gallon tank would have to pay a $45.52 annual sewer fee, while one with 3,400 gallons of capacity would have to pay $444.86. A typical single-family home is likely to require a tank somewhere between those two sizes.
Zweig said the schedule would generally result in lower sewer charges than the monthly fees most homeowners pay, based on their metered water use. (The permitting and fees don’t apply “non-potable” rainwater systems that are used only for irrigation or flushing toilets.)
But some advocates for the legislation said the fees could work out to be higher for people who are good at conserving water, regardless of tank size.
Jarrod Loadholt, a Troutman Sanders lawyer who represented Midtown’s Stonehurst Place at the hearing, noted that his clients installed a system three years ago that still they had to stop using because of the permitting problem. The bed-and-breakfast’s system is capable of converting much of the rainwater it uses into irrigation water; in other words, most of it doesn’t go into the sewer line anyway, so Loadholt says they shouldn’t be penalized.
Advocates said they’ll continue to push for some adjustments in the fee structure as the ordinance moves forward before the full Utilities Committee meeting on Tuesday. It could reach the full Council as early as mid-August, said Utilities Chairwoman Natalyn Archibong, who closed the meeting by saying she’s “very supportive” of the legislation.
Despite concerns about the fees, the speakers endorsed it as well. Among them were representatives of the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and the Southface Energy Institute.
“Our only request would be to take a look at a temporary waiver or perhaps look at a rebate offer for those early adopters” of green technology, Southface’s Joy Hinkle said.