Catching Rainwater in Atlanta

ATLANTA, GA (WABE) – In a state where water is increasingly scarce, and a city with some of the highest water rates in the country, some Atlantans are looking upward for answers.

Mary Stouffer of Virginia Highlands was frustrated with her $100 dollar monthly water bills and a regular flooding issue around her home whenever it stormed.

Trained as an accountant, she crunched the numbers and decided to have installed two 3,400-gallon tanks that collect rainwater off her rooftop. Her water bills now regularly clock in at about $20-$30 per month.

“To me it’s like an investment that has a bit of a return versus just pouring money out for water on the lawn every summer. Plus we don’t have to worry about like if the kids want to wash the car or play in the water, we don’t have to say no to that.” says Stouffer.

Stouffer is one of a growing number of Atlantans using rainwater not only for outdoor purposes, like lawn and garden upkeep, but for indoor purposes, too.

In recent years, state guidelines have been set up to allow for rainwater use in toilets and for laundry.

And this September, the city of Atlanta passed an ordinance that – for the first time – allows single family households to turn rainwater into drinking water.

Stouffer uses her rainwater tanks for all the above. She pays an annual permit fee, and some additional sewage costs to the city.

Rainwater catching advocates concede that installing treatment systems for indoor use isn’t for everyone. Unless rainwater tanks are built during a home’s initial construction, it’s still a bit pricey.

But rainwater harvesting equipment, much like solar and wind technology, is getting cheaper and more efficient.

Steve Williams runs a local company named Greener Buildings that installs the equipment.

“The thing is, we have to find different ways to collect water just like with energy. To me, using municipal water for irrigation especially, it’s a waste of money and energy,” says Williams.

As state officials explore plans to deepen Lake Lanier and build new reservoirs, Williams insists that the individual use of rainwater is the state’s biggest untapped resource. © Copyright 2011, WABE

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