Rainwater can be collected from an impervious surface, such as a roof, or from a pervious surface, such as uncompacted soil. Once harvested, the water is routed to where it is beneficially used. Rainwater can be harvested passively or actively on a residential or commercial scale. Consult Rainwater Harvesting: Guidance Toward a Sustainable Water Future for information regarding local rainwater harvesting options.
Passive rainwater harvesting systems use land shaping and other techniques to direct, collect, and infiltrate rainwater into the soil for beneficial use. A typical passive system consists of a catchment surface, infiltration area and overflow structure. Examples of passive rainwater harvesting systems include rain gardens, bioretention swales, porous pavement and other strategies.
Installation of passive systems usually requires consultation with staff at the City of Bellingham Planning and Community Development Department and/or Public Works Stormwater Division. Special considerations apply to sites located in the Lake Whatcom Watershed or other areas that are near impaired water bodies. Consult with City of Bellingham staff for more information at (360) 778-8300.
Active rainwater harvesting systems use equipment to collect, filter, store and deliver harvested water. Active system storage extends the time when harvested water can be put to beneficial use. Collection systems can range from 55-gallon rain barrels to meet a portion of outdoor watering needs to 10,000-gallon or larger tanks to meet greater domestic and landscape water needs. Unless water is delivered via gravity flow from an aboveground tank, active systems require energy to pump and deliver water.
Using rain barrels and/or cisterns to collect water from your roof for outdoor use saves money on your metered water bill, conserves drinking water and reduces stormwater runoff.
The Water Use Efficiency Program is sponsoring up to $2,000 in funding for demonstration rainwater systems in active community gardens. Funding can be used for materials such as gutters, downspouts, tanks, pipe fittings, and base materials. Non-profit organizations, community groups, schools, and neighborhood associations located within city-limits are all eligible to apply. The community garden must be in existence or under development and used to provide a service to the public and/or a community group. Gardens must be active, maintained, and have an established or clear plan for oversight. Entities wishing to apply need to fill out an application, answer questions, and prepare a project proposal. Applications will be accepted for fall from August 10-26, 2015.
Please contact the Operations Division of the Public Works Department if you would like more information about Water Conservation.