The Beauty and Power of Water
City partners with University and local developers to explore alternative water supply

The City of Guelph has partnered with the University of Guelph School of Engineering, Reid’s Heritage Group, Evolve Builders Group Inc, the Ontario Centres of Excellence and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to study the feasibility and design of rainwater harvesting systems.

Project partners explain the study seeks to “build capacity” for large-scale rainwater harvesting systems in Guelph and across Canada, which means to identify and overcome barriers to adopting this technology and facilitating the transfer of information among researchers, home builders, policy makers and the public. Though rainwater harvesting has been studied elsewhere, the Guelph project is among the first to involve so many key stakeholders.

“This project aims to make large-scale rainwater harvesting a viable, alternative water source in Ontario and across Canada,” says University of Guelph engineering professor and project lead, Khosrow Farahbakhsh. “This is a truly collaborative effort that involves academics, municipalities, policy makers, developers, the public, and providers of the technology to work together to overcome barriers.”

“The City is pleased to be involved in such an important project that uses the expertise of the university and other partners and will have widespread implications on water management,” says Mayor Farbridge. “Water management is a key focus in Guelph and we must look at creative ways to make the best use of our local resources.”

The Guelph project began in December 2005 and includes the installation and monitoring of several rainwater harvesting systems in Guelph and surrounding communities, as well as a water quality testing program for these sites. The start of another crucial phase of the project took place today when Reid’s Heritage Group broke ground on its first home to feature a residential rainwater harvesting system. The house will be built on Goodwin Drive in Westminster Woods.

The residential rainwater harvesting system was designed by two graduate students from the University of Guelph School of Engineering, in collaboration with a local supplier of rainwater harvesting technology. Rainwater that lands on the home’s fibreglass roof will be collected in roof gutters and downspouts and diverted to a filtration device before it is carried to a 6,500 litre underground cistern. The stored water will be pressurized and piped into the home to supply water to three toilets, the washing machine, and the dishwasher. The collected rainwater will also supply water to an underground irrigation system. This would account for over 50% of water consumption in a typical home. The home will be unique in that it will feature a dedicated hot water system to provide rainwater for the washing machine and the dishwasher.

“While rainwater harvesting is a long-standing concept, it has new value in today’s environmentally sound building industry,” says Andy Oding, Product Development Manager at Reid’s Heritage Group. “The goal of this project is to identify both the cost and natural resource savings that can be realized by applying a safe, economical system in a community scale project.”

Once completed, the Westminster Woods home will serve as a show home and will allow university researchers to monitor the rainwater harvesting system’s performance and water quality. The house will offer residents a chance to learn about rainwater harvesting in the home, and potential home buyers will get to experience what it would be like to have a built-in rainwater harvesting system.
With the construction of Reid’s Heritage Group’s home underway the next steps in the project include collaboration on the construction of additional demonstration sites, an expanded water quality monitoring program, the development of design tools for end-users, and ongoing policy and economic analysis.

The home is also one of Canada’s first LEED–H (Gold) registered projects. Alternative energy sources, advanced building techniques, and sustainable materials will be showcased throughout the home alongside the rainwater harvesting system.

Rainwater harvesting is gaining popularity in Ontario as it provides an alternative water source and can help reduce peak water demands on the municipal system. The Guelph project partners are working to bring rainwater harvesting into the mainstream so that the benefits can be realized in Guelph and across the country.


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