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.