Clients often ask us about resources for funding our harvesting systems for their projects. While conserving water through the use of harvesting systems is a great idea, the reality of installing large commercial systems can be costly. We’re happy to report that we are beginning to see some options out there that can help defray some – or all of the costs for a system. We see three good sources for funding: 1) grants, 2) loan programs and 3) stormwater fee discounts.
The first incentive, grants, has not been a common funding tool in the past. However, grants are becoming more available as the importance of water conservation is growing. Grants can be offered through government programs such as the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s Urban Watershed Stewardship Grant. The city of San Francisco recognized that in providing assistance, they were helping with the city’s overall stormwater management. New York’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program also helps to abate stormwater issues by providing funding to property owners, businesses and non-profits for rainwater harvesting, green roofs, rain gardens and bioswales. Grants can also be found through local community groups and private sources such as the One Percent Foundation.
Loans are also available for many sustainability projects, including water harvesting, through a variety of sources. One source is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This program provides loans for both large and small projects and while it has not traditionally been used for water harvesting, the number of green infrastructure projects is increasing. It is important to note that the EPA limits use to capital costs such as cisterns. Visit the EPA’s web site for more information on how to manage stormwater with green infrastructure.
Finally, when looking for financial incentives to install a water harvesting system, it can be beneficial to investigate if discounts are available for municipal stormwater fees. For example, the city of Portland, Oregon has the “Clean River Rewards” program. Customers who actively manage their stormwater runoff using methods such as rainwater harvesting, are eligible for a discount of up to 100% on their municipal stormwater charges. Similar to the theory behind the New York and San Francisco grants, the discounts encourage stormwater management by the property owners and lessen the impact on the community’s storm system.
Investing in a water harvesting system may seem expensive, but there are funding options available. It’s also important to remember that these systems have the potential to save hundreds of thousands of gallons of municipal water each year, saving real dollars of operating costs for the life of a building. And the USGBC has determined that a LEED certified building, with its lower operating costs and “green” credentials, can demand a market price of about 15% more than a similar non-LEED building, so the investment is worthwhile for the property owner and the environment. For more information on funding resources and other sustainability topics, visit the Wahaso web site.
Wahaso Marketing Manager
Many of our projects at Water Harvesting Solutions involve clients who are pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. This program, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, provides an independent, third party evaluation of a building to determine if it meets optimum performance in five areas:
- Sustainable site development
- Water savings
- Energy efficiency
- Material selection
- Environmental quality
Each performance area is assigned a set number of points which are accrued through meeting various criteria. These points are added up to determine if the building has achieved LEED certification. To certify a new building as “green” requires 40-49 points. More points are required to achieve the higher certification levels of Silver (50-59 points), Gold (60-79 points) and Platinum (80 points or more). Those higher certification levels almost certainly must include achievements in categories related to water conservation.
The water efficiency goals of the LEED program encourage smart water use both inside and outside of the building and can provide up to 12 possible points toward certification. In the area of Water Savings points can be accumulated in the following categories: 1) water efficient landscaping, 2) innovative wastewater technology and 3) water use reduction.
Harvested water can be a key component to obtaining LEED water savings points. For example, using captured rainwater or greywater for irrigation can provide points for the “water efficient landscaping” category. A 50% reduction of potable water for landscaping is worth two LEED points and a 100% reduction is worth four points. Water harvesting can also be used to gain two points in the “innovative wastewater technology” category. Reusing rainwater and greywater not only helps to reduce potable water consumption, but it also reduces the amount of water sent into the municipal storm system. Finally, up to four points can be awarded for overall water use reduction (irrigation is not included since it has a dedicated category.) A baseline for water usage is calculated for the building and the amount of points received corresponds to the amount of water saved:
- 30% reduction from baseline = two points
- 35% reduction from baseline = three points
- 40% reduction from baseline = four points
Additionally, water harvesting can earn points in the area of Sustainable Site Development. Harvesting stormwater for reuse can earn one point for minimizing run-off and one point for reducing the amount of contaminants that enter the storm system.
Our most efficient systems often capture multiple sources of on-site water for multiple uses. So a single system might capture rainwater, greywater and condensate to flush toilets and irrigate landscaping, saving as much as 90% of the total municipal water an office building would otherwise use. These systems can earn points from all four categories and help boost a project into the Gold or Platinum point levels.
The benefits of LEED certification are both environmental and financial. Not only does reducing water consumption help to conserve a vital resource, but it also reduces costs for municipal water use and stormwater management. LEED certification is also shown to increase a property’s resale value, making the investment in a water harvesting system a winning proposition.