Decatur housing unit will have state-of-the-art rainwater collection system

Written By: Daniel Beauregard DeKalb Champion December 5, 2011

A new complex being built by the Decatur Housing Authority will feature a state-of-the-art rainwater collection system. Photo by John Hewitt

For Bob Drew, recycling rainwater is one of the oldest ideas on the books, but today it seems old-fashioned.

“The ancient Romans and Egyptians did it, its nothing new,” Drew said. “What’s new now is that there are some technologies that make it better.”

Drew owns ECOVIE, a company that provides the design and installation of rainwater collection systems throughout metro Atlanta, and he is installing one of his systems in a new 80-unit housing development being built by the Decatur Housing Authority (DHA).

“It will be a varied cistern that will collect rainwater, from the rooftop and condensation from the air conditioners….it will then be pumped for irrigation and further treatment for the toilet facility,” Drew said.

Recycling rainwater is important to Drew because in most cases, he said, human beings are depleting their water supplies and re-using rain water is a relatively easy effort at conservation.

“During irrigation season we estimate that we’ll provide nearly all of their water, nearly 80 percent,” Drew said.

Don Dressel, program director for DHA, said he was first introduced to Drew’s company after researching greywater irrigation and coming to the conclusion it would be too costly.

“I think he was very adamant that things be done with this development in a more sustainable way than other developments,” Drew said of Dressel.

Greywater irrigation recycles water from washing machines, bathroom sinks and showers but Dressel found it required too much processing to clean the water and put it back into the building.

Dressel decided to go with ECOVIE because he thought it would be easier to install and maintain in the new development off Commerce Drive.

“I talked to some folks where its being done with other places [such as] residences and restaurants,” Dressel said, “and first of all, this is a green building, the whole project is.”

The new housing development is currently in its second phase—the first phase was constructed as housing units for families. The DHA is working with Earthcraft, a green building certification program serving states in the southeast.

“In the first phase we did a lot of energy conservation things but this time we decided to take it a step further on water conservation,” Dressel said.

According to Dressel, the payback period on the ECOVIE system is estimated to be anywhere from six to eight years, but he said that could vary depending on the city’s water costs over time.

“If we were to get into a situation where water spikes like in Atlanta, the payback period could be in two years, and that could happen,” Dressel said. “When you spread it out over 80 units and the total cost of the buildings, it’s a relatively low amount of money.”

Dressel said the second phase is slated to be completed in 2012 and a third phase will be finished in 2014. He said it would most likely be the last public housing project in Decatur for at least the next several years.

“We’ve got one more phase to do and we’re pretty much built out,” Dressel said, “but in the event we do more in the future we’re certainly going to look at it.”