Skip to main content

The Connector Logo

MPC in Springfield: Rainwater harvesting bill passes first hurdle

Broken City Lab

We're excited today at MPC because Ill. Senate Bill 2549: Rainwater Harvesting for Non-Potable Uses passed out of the Senate Environmental Committee this morning, its first hurdle toward ultimate passage. 

SB 2549 is one of those pieces of legislation that just makes sense — it won't cost much, it will put the market to work solving problems, and it will give individuals and communties more choice in how they manage their water supplies.

Rain is the only water that is actually free.  It just falls from the sky, some of it watering your lawn and recharging surface water supplies in the process.  However, once rain hits roofs and pavement, and runs off into sewers only to mix with wastewater, it suddenly becomes stormwater, which is a costly nuisance. At the same time, every other water source — Lake Michigan, underground aquifers, or rivers like the Fox or Kankakee — comes with a bevy of pumping, treatment and distribution costs. 

So ... why not do something to prevent rain from becoming stormwater?  Why not turn this nuisance into a resource?

One way to do that is make it easier for people, businesses and communities to harvest rain and use it for non-potable uses, most notably flushing toilets.  Toilets account for about 20 percent of household water use.  There's really no good reason to flush treated drinking water down the toliet, but we do it every day (overall, we only drink about 10 percent of our so-called "drinking water.")  The more you think about, the sillier this becomes.

Fortunately, Illinois is on its way to being the first Great Lakes state to make rainwater harvesting for non-potable uses easy, safe and straightforward. SB 2549 (chief co-Sponsors: Ill. Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Highwood) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park)) would require the Ill. Dept. of Health to establish minimum standards for capture of rainwater on site and re-use for non-potable purposes.  These uniform standards would help plumbers, engineers and builders ensure that no rain water accidentally makes its way into public water supplies. 

Example standards already exist in several other states.  Because rainwater harvesting helps reduce stormwater runoff, wet states like Oregon use it, and because it provides an additional water source, dry states like Texas and Arizona use it, too. 

Stormwater runoff mitigation (particularly in the Lake Michigan diversion area, where stormwater runoff counts as water we "took" from the lake) and a rethinking of traditional water supplies are just two of the many recommendations in MPC and Openlands' recent report Before the Wells Run Dry.  They're also nicely consistent with the just-completed Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Supply Plan and the Great Lakes Compact

Feel free to contact me with any questions, and to contact your legislator to let them you know you support it. 

| Share


  1. 1. KDL on February 25, 2010

    Great news about SB 2549 passing out of Senate Environment Committee! And yesterday's unanimous vote bodes well for next steps. As you say, just makes sense and with “green” strategies emerging, Illinois should be more of a leader. A thanks to legislators, mayors and all the others for their support of this initiative.

  2. 2. Water baby on August 4, 2010

    is it true that some states have a law making rainwater harvesting illegal, on the basis that storing a small amount of rain that falls on your roof in rainwater tanks is 'stealing' water that would otherwise go to dams? Crazy

  3. 3. Robert Fransis on October 18, 2010

    The most straightforward solution is to have one system per dwelling unit and this is obviously possible in property developments with detached homes. This process of cleaning water may also protect our home from many types of cancer. However to gain from economies of scale, it is often cheaper to have large capacity storage to serve several dwellings.

  4. 4. plumber on October 23, 2010

    This brilliant idea will create work for many people, not least of all plumbers and other hard working tradesman who have been hit hard by the GFC

  5. 5. plumbers on March 3, 2011

    Rockford plumbers agree that one way to do that is make it easier for people, businesses and communities to harvest rain and use it for non-potable uses, most notably flushing toilets

  6. 6. plumbing services from new york on October 27, 2011

    While filling out these subscription cards, be sure to look for the billing options. Many times, it is required to send cash or a check when to certain magazines. You can also use money orders in lieu of cash, but it is best to use checks if available. In any of these cases, you need to securely seal the payment with a card in a properly addressed envelope with your return address added.

  7. 7. Dave cassidy (Arte) from Andover, UK on November 18, 2011

    Anything that cuts down the vast energy wastage of your chunk of the planet is welcome. Very applicable over here in the UK too.

  8. 8. brian from LONDON on June 15, 2012

    we fully agree with this article! The water is precious, potable water should not be wasted on the toilet or to water the garden! We support the
    useful structure made in Illinois.
    Plumbers London

Post a comment

Won't be displayed

Type the characters shown above:

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments FAQ.

About The Connector

The Connector is MPC's blog, written primarily by MPC staff members, with occasional guest posts from volunteers and partners. 


Contribute to The Connector

MPC on Twitter

Follow us on Twitter »

Blogs MPC Loves

Latest popular keywords

Browse all keywords »

Browse by date

2009 5 7 16 21
2010 13 20 29 21 17 24 19 21 20 12 19 9
2011 20 16 11 16 12 9 13 18 12 16 8 11
2012 16 18 14 11 7 22 26 19 15 16 15 9
2013 19 15 15 14 16 17 13 15 21 26 10 11
2014 8 9 20 12
Metropolitan Planning Council 140 S. Dearborn St.
Suite 1400
Chicago, Ill. 60603
P 312 922 5616 F 312 922 5619
Helping create competitive, equitable, and sustainable communities

For 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area’s toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

Donate »