MPC in Springfield: It's unanimous! Rainwater harvesting bill through Senate, on to House - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MPC in Springfield: It's unanimous! Rainwater harvesting bill through Senate, on to House

Aquascape Inc.

Aquascape employees installing a rainwater harvesting system in Oswego, Ill.

Yesterday afternoon Ill. Senate Bill 2549: Rainwater Harvesting for Non-Potable Uses was unanimously approved by the Senate and will now move to the House. This is great news. MPC applauds the bill's chief sponsor, Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Highwood), and its six co-sponsors for their persistence and commitment to improving our water supply and stormwater management. In the House, the bill will be sponsored by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park).

In a recent blog post and in this Medill report, I had the chance to focus on the water supply and stormwater benefits of harvesting rain for non-potable uses like flushing toilets, but that's really only one side of the story.

Legislation like SB 2549 puts the private market to work on solving public problems, and in so doing creates tax revenue and, more importantly, jobs.  We surveyed a handful of Illinois-based firms that could immediately enter this niche market once the Dept. of Public Health issues minimum safety standards for these systems, and here's what they have to say about job creation.

  • The average cost of a basic residential rainwater harvesting system and installation is $5,000 to $12,000 and would require seven jobs: five installation, two supplier, and  two manufacturing.
  • Commercial systems will cost $40,000 to $150,000, and require 16 jobs.
  • A recent German study showed that, in 2005, when 35 percent of new buildings constructed in Germany were equipped with a rainwater collection system, 5,000 jobs were created. 

Moreover, once some pilot systems like the one at HSBC's Mettawa, Ill., campus are initially installed, a whole host of ancillary services will benefit, from system maintenance to landscape design.  Ideally, some of the maufacturing firms that build cisterns and other component parts might also set up shop in Illinois.  Australia's BlueScope Water Tanks recently moved some of its production to Texas, where rainwater harvesting for non-potable uses is supported through state tax incentives.

So, let's create opportunities to put people to work, reduce water waste, and prevent rain—our only free water—from becoming costly stormwater.  In a year full of bad news about budget crunches and job losses, this just makes too much sense to pass up.


  1. 1. Timothy Maggenti from Woodland, California. USA on July 7, 2010

    It is great to create jobs but who can afford this kind of system with all the foreclosures, and lowered wages. I understand your trying to create jobs, but I just do not see people investing that much money in this kind of system for their house since it just lost over half its value?

  2. 2. Mandy Burrell Booth from MPC on July 9, 2010

    Timothy, thanks for your comment. Like most new technologies, we suspect the price will be high initially because it's such a niche product. However, as more people/developments install them, the price will come down, such has been the case with organic foods. Institutions could be leaders here: For instance, in metro Chicago, the Lake County Forest Preserve District went out of its way to get a variance to install a system because it is a steward of the land. It's also more likely homeowners will install them in new homes, rather than in retrofits. If we pass the bill now, when the economy picks up we'll be in a position to install them legally.

  3. 3. Portland Landscaping from Beaverton, Oregon on November 28, 2010

    I'm not sure I buy the math on how many jobs this creates. Seems like fuzzy math to me. Each of these so called "jobs" that are created for each system installed are not permanent. Some of the "jobs created" couldn't even be considered temporary. For instance, the "two supplier" jobs created. Really? How many hours do you think the 2 guys are the supply house had to work to get that material to the installation crew. I'll tell you - maybe 2-3 hours. Probably less. You'd have to be installing tens of thousand a year in order to really be creating any jobs at the supplier level. But more power to ya. I am all for the idea. Just not sure I buy into how many jobs you say it creates.

    -Jim Lewis, Lewis Landscape Services - A Portland Landscaping Company

  4. 4. Josh from MPC on November 29, 2010

    Job creation is a tough thing to estimate, and so the critique here is certainly warranted. The first two bullets came from a local firm that has installed a handful of rainwater systems, and the third is a German study. Opening up a niche plumbing market will create some jobs, which is more than no jobs, but of course it all depends on how many systems get installed. The Ill. Environmental Protection Agency actually has some grant funding that would help reduce installation costs for rainwater harvesting systems, at the same time as the Ill. Dept. of Public Health restricts them. The primary motivation here is to give communities and indviduals more freedom to manage water supplies and reduce stormwater runoff, which I think everyone here agrees makes a lot of sense.

  5. 5. Glen Hopkins from United Kingdom on January 11, 2011

    I think it is fine to use rain water. Using it promotes water conservation and you can also save your water bill when you are using rain water in the household except for drinking purposes.

  6. 6. Mac UC, Máster de Construcción from Chile on April 19, 2011

    very interesting, successful

  7. 7. eve isk from China on May 10, 2011

    I can install in my own home.

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