Rainwater as Potable Water Source

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, September 26 2018

The Province of BC may finally be creating a BC-specific policy to allow for the use of rainwater as a potable water source for small water systems - a policy that has been on the Regional District of Nanaimo agenda for a number of years.

That is the information gleaned from the Minister of Health, Adrian Dix, at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Convention (UBCM) by Howard Houle, RDN Director for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, DeCourcy).

Houle led a meeting with Minister Dix at the convention to discuss protocols for rainwater harvesting as a potable water source.

Currently, the only time rainwater is allowed to be used as a water source is in a single-family dwelling where the owner is the occupant.

Rainwater is definitely not allowed as a potable water source for commercial use under current health protocols.

Houle said, that in 2015, he was approached by a local business owner who runs their business totally on rainwater harvesting. 

“They have a very extensive treatment system but cannot get the water approved by the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA). 

“The problem is there are no guidelines or standards to use rainwater as a potable water source for small water systems.

“In 2016 I went to the UBCM and presented to the Ministry of the time, and again in 2017 with no further progress.”

“Now, in 2018, we recognize some advancement has been made and we are continuing to advocate for completion of BC-specific policy for potable rainwater systems.”

According to Houle, in early 2018 the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) published their first edition of codes and standards for rainwater harvesting systems (CSA B805-18/ICC 805-2018). 

“The BC Ministry of Health staff has informed us that these standards are being reviewed by them to help inform the development of a draft provincial policy for potable rainwater systems, taking into consideration the concerns and complexities unique to this type of source water.”

He said that with a comprehensive, research-based framework to guide rainwater source approvals, the work by the Province would improve the prospect of rainwater being used as a safe alternative drinking water source for small water systems in BC. 

He said, “We suggested that the framework could include: Rainwater Source Characterization Protocols; Rainwater Collection Infrastructure Guidelines; and Rainwater Treatment Objectives and Standards.”

Doing this would give local health authorities the basis to approve water supply systems that use rainwater collected from appropriate surfaces and treated in the appropriate manner, to effectively and safely augment small water systems’ public water supply. 

In turn, small water system operators would have a more straightforward application process to follow, so they can successfully purvey water safely and reliably in rural communities. 

“Ultimately this would reduce barriers to the use of rainwater as a potentially suitable additional water source to increase resiliency in rural areas. When these changes to the legislation are made it would also affect the whole province of BC.

“The Minister advised that rainwater regulation for small systems is now being worked on in terms of developing draft guidelines/paper to be sent to interested communities, so there is progress being made on this matter by the Province now that the Canadian standards have been released.”