U of G Researchers Aim to Make Rainwater Harvesting Mainstream

July 04, 2007 - News Release

Home buyers can now add rainwater harvesting systems to the list of choices to make when it comes to purchasing a new house.

A team of researchers with U of G’s School of Engineering has designed and piloted a household system that collects rainwater from the roof and pumps it into the home to be used to flush toilets, run the dishwasher or water the garden.

The innovative approach has captured the interest of municipalities and developers across Canada as a possible solution to the mounting fears about water shortfalls, said Khosrow Farahbakhsh, an engineering professor who is leading the research team.

Farahbakhsh has received $250,000 in funding and in-kind support over two years from the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) program, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), the City of Guelph and his private-sector partners to explore rainwater harvesting.

In Guelph, Reid’s Heritage Homes has incorporated the technology into a model home set to officially open Thursday. The house includes other green features such as solar panels and recycled building materials.

Farahbakhsh said designing a system that can be easily incorporated into new homes is part of a nationally-funded project aimed at making rainwater harvesting a “mainstream” practice in Canada.

“Having it as an option for all new homes will make rainwater harvesting a common practice and not something that is on the fringe,” he said. “In most applications, one could meet over 50 per cent of household water demands with rainwater harvesting. That’s significant when you consider the growing concern municipalities have about finding ways to supply water to their growing populations.”

The rainwater harvesting system is a modern twist on yesterday’s rain barrel, but on a much larger scale. It consists of a pipe that collects rainwater from an eavestrough running along the roof. The collected rainwater goes through a simple filter to remove debris and is stored in a 10,000-litre tank that can either be buried in the backyard or sit above ground. The water is then pumped into the household as needed. The price tag of the system can vary from several hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the size and whether it is placed above or below ground, he said.

Farahbakhsh’s research group is also studying rainwater harvesting systems currently installed in seven buildings in the Guelph area, including his own home, to determine what barriers need to be removed to make the environmentally friendly practice more popular.

“In order to build capacity for large-scale rainwater harvesting in Canada, you need to determine what the appropriate technologies are, what policies, regulations and building codes are required and what needs to be done to make it economically viable and publicly accepted,” he said. “This project is not just technical but considers all aspects of introducing rainwater harvesting to the public.”

Farahbakhsh’s next proposal is to study ways of incorporating systems into Canadian industries. Besides relieving pressure on water-supply systems, rainwater harvesting can mean substantial savings in the long run, he said.

“Industries looking to expand are sometimes unable to do so because of the demands the expansion would place on water supply. Rainwater harvesting is an alternative solution and one that makes a lot of sense.”

Official opening of Reid’s Heritage Homes’ model home:
When: July 5 at 2 p.m.
Where: Goodwin Drive, Lot 30, in Westminster Woods, Guelph

Khosrow Farahbakhsh
School of Engineering
519-824-4120, Ext. 53832

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1