Believe It Or Not, We Are Now Allowed To Use The Water That Falls From The Sky

…also known as rainwater harvesting. Humans have been doing it for tens of thousands of years, of course. But until this month, it has been illegal to harvest rainwater for indoor use in Seattle. Given that rainwater harvesting has the potential to reduce both potable water demand and sewer system load, how did this odd circumstance arise in the first place?

The Washington State Department of Ecology controls water rights for the entire State, and it’s serious business. Water rights regulation was first established to keep tabs on water used for farming irrigation, and set limits on the amounts that can be drawn from natural sources. As I understand it, rainwater capture has been off limits because it may divert runoff from natural water bodies.

Kudos to Seattle and King County for hammering away at the WA DOE to get these antiquated regulations updated. Rainwater harvesting for non-potable use is now permitted in Seattle, though only on sites that drain to the combined sewer system. With this limitation, there will be no effect on stormwater that drains directly to natural water bodies such as Lake Washington.

Though I shouldn’t speculate because I really don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, speculate I shall: I’m guessing that in Seattle there would have to be scads of buildings harvesting rainwater before the local water bodies would be affected in any significant way. Scads, as in, it would probably take decades for us to ever reach that point, if we ever would. If my guess is correct (and don’t hesitate to shoot me down if you can), Seattle needs to keep pushing for rainwater harvesting rights that cover the entire City, cause even here in the soggy Pacific Northwest, water can’t be taken for granted.