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Advocates applaud Gov. Quinn’s signature of HB 4496, which will lead to update of Illinois plumbing code

Update opens door for new tools, policies that will save water, encourage water reuse, reduce strain on aging infrastructure 

(Riverwoods, Ill.) ... Advocates for sustainable water use, including the nonprofit organizations Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and Openlands, applauded Ill. Gov. Patrick Quinn today as he signed into law Ill. House Bill 4496, which sets a deadline for the Ill. Dept. of Public Health to update the state’s plumbing code to be more consistent with leading technologies and methods that promote water conservation and safety. 

The Governor signed the bill at Ryerson Woods Welcome Center, which greets visitors to the Lake County Forest Preserve District's Ryerson Conservation Area. The welcome center boasts a rainwater harvesting system that feeds into the building’s toilets and other elements that educate visitors about water conservation. It is one of a handful of such systems in Illinois; current state plumbing regulations make installation of these systems cumbersome and time-consuming. 

By signing the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Carol Sente (D-Lincolnshire) and Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Highwood), the Governor kicked off the important process of updating the state's plumbing code and sets a deadline for the completion: By May 31, 2013, the Ill. Dept. of Public Health must submit proposed rules changes to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. 

"Illinois has always been a leader on environmental issues by supporting progressive ‘green’ initiatives that preserve our natural resources and keep our water clean and safe," said Sen. Susan Garrett. “Kudos to the members of the Illinois General Assembly who voted for this bill and to Gov. Quinn, for their good stewardship of all Illinois’ water resources." 

"We first ‘opened the hood’ on the state’s plumbing code in hopes of allowing rainwater harvesting across Illinois, a practice demonstrated right here at Ryerson Woods, which puts rain – a free resource – to use for things like flushing toilets and providing water for sprinkling systems," said Rep. Carol Sente. "I'm proud that we decided to craft a bill that would 'fix the whole engine' by updating the entire plumbing code." 

Many stakeholders – including the pipe trades, architects, public works officials, environmental advocates, and planning advocates including MPC and Openlands – will be involved in the process of updating the plumbing code. The update could address issues including, but not limited to, the following: 

  • minimum safety standards for re-use of non-drinkable water – such as rain or graywater from washing machines and bathroom sinks – for things like flushing toilets or outdoor irrigation;
  • improved efficiency standards for plumbing fixtures; and
  • waterless urinals. 

"This summer's drought has underscored why this code update is important: Communities need all possible solutions on the table to help them manage their water supplies," said Aurora, Ill., Mayor Tom Weisner. "The update will balance sustainability, public health standards, and infrastructure costs while creating new options for communities – for instance by allowing for the re-use of non-drinkable water when appropriate. About 30 percent of water used at home goes straight down the toilet. Does that really need to be treated drinking water? Water’s future must be more efficient!" 

For several years MPC, Openlands and other partners have been advocating to update the Illinois Plumbing Code to allow for rainwater harvesting for non-potable reuse, such as flushing toilets. Currently, no statewide minimum safety standards exist for rainwater harvesting systems, which forces property owners and developers who want to save water by installing such systems to seek variances from their local municipalities. This advocacy effort helped open the door to a more comprehensive update of the state’s plumbing code.

"Our state leaders deserve a great deal of praise for seizing the opportunity to update the state's plumbing code," said MPC Program Director Josh Ellis. "The updates can open the door for new tools and policies that will save a lot of water, encourage responsible water reuse, and reduce strain on our aging water infrastructure." 

"Congratulations to our state leaders and advocates for successfully moving the plumbing code update forward," said Openlands Policy Director Lenore Beyer-Clow. "We look forward to partnering with MPC and other stakeholders in the update process, leading to public health, economic, and environmental benefits." 

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For more information, contact MPC Communications Director Mandy Burrell Booth, at 312-863-6018 or mburrell@metroplanning.org; or Openlands Associate Director of Communications Brandon Hayes, at 312-863-6260 or bhayes@openlands.org.

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