June 6, 2005

Workshop examines rainwater harvesting as a new approach to water re-use

In the first workshop of its kind in Canada, the city of Toronto and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) collaborated in bringing international experts in rainwater harvesting to Toronto to discuss new concepts in water re-use.

The workshop, held May 24 in the Metro Hall Council Chambers, featured presentations by Klaus Konig from Germany, Dr Peter Coombes from the University of Newcastle in Australia, and Dr Hari J Krishna, senior engineer with the Texas Water Development Board and president of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association. The three experts discussed the technical, regulatory, and financial components of rainwater harvesting programs, and their benefits.

Canada, long considered a water-rich nation, is currently the world's second-highest residential water user. At 335 litres per person per day, Canada's rate of consumption is second only to that of the U.S. and is double that of European countries including Germany, France, Austria, and Denmark.

Water re-use concepts, particularly rainwater harvesting, are becoming an accepted practice worldwide and this workshop, followed by key meetings which took place the following day, will begin to lay the groundwork for a national approach to water re-use in Canada.

"This workshop is an important first step in developing Canadian guidelines for water re-use, and to promote innovative green technology. Effective water re-use can help offset the costs that governments and homeowners might otherwise have to face," said Jim Robar, CMHC's director of technical research.

A 1996 report by the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy (NRTEE) estimated that water infrastructure costs in Canada will require at least $40 billion worth of upgrading over the next decade. "With all the challenges of managing the infrastructure needed for Toronto today and in the future, we're committed to looking at ways we can minimize the strain on the system," said Michael Price, general manager for Toronto Water. "This workshop and the resulting demonstration projects, will serve to motivate other facilities, developers and Toronto residents to start rethinking the way they use and waste potable water."

Increasingly stringent treatment and discharge requirements, aging infrastructure, and a growing urban population are key factors contributing to the rising costs of municipal water and waste services. Efficient residential water use can offer major energy and resource savings solutions.

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