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State creates new rules for increased water conservation measures

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This summer, the State Building Codes Division (BCD) approved four rules that allow alternative water conservation techniques for residential and commercial structures. 

The first of these rules addresses rainwater harvesting for non-potable uses.  Rainwater collected from roofs and other harvesting systems can now be diverted and used for gardens, flushing toilets, urinals, washing machines and in heating and cooling units. This rule applies to both commercial and residential structures.

The next two rules allow the option of installing a system that would treat and reuse wastewater from drains, such as bathtubs and showers.  This treated wastewater could then be stored and redirected for non-potable uses, such as flushing toilets.  These two rules address how to apply wastewater reuse in commercial and residential structures, respectively.

The fourth and final rule applies only to residential structures.  This rule allows 1&2 family structures to use harvested, treated rainwater for potable water uses. 

With a statewide building code system, these new methods are now available to use in all jurisdictions in Oregon, including Portland, and can be implemented immediately.  Each of the rules lays out prescriptive requirements that must be followed in order for the systems to be approved.  If an applicant wants to install a system that is different from what is allowed by the rules, an approved building code appeal would be required.  The following chart summarizes what systems can currently be used throughout the state:

 

Residential Structures (Houses, Duplexes and Rowhomes)

Use of rainwater for non-potable uses (irrigation, toilet flushing, washing machines, heating and cooling) Allowed through State rule OPSC 08-03
Use of treated rainwater for potable uses Allowed through State rule OPSC 08-01
Use of harvested, treated wastewater for non-potable uses inside the building (toilet and urinal flushing only) Allowed through State rule OPSC 08-02
Use of harvested, treated wastewater for non-potable uses outside the building (irrigation) Not allowed unless approved through the State DEQ
Use of harvested, treated wastewater for potable uses. Not allowed unless approved through the State DEQ

Commercial Structures

Use of rainwater for non-potable uses (irrigation, toilet flushing, washing machines, heating and cooling) Allowed through State rule OPSC 08-03
Use of treated rainwater for potable uses Not allowed, but could be considered through a building code appeal
Use of harvested, treated wastewater for non-potable uses inside the building (toilet and urinal flushing only) Allowed through State rule OPSC 08-04
Use of harvested, treated wastewater for non-potable uses outside the building (irrigation) Not allowed unless approved through the State DEQ
Use of harvested, treated wastewater for potable uses. Not allowed unless approved through the State DEQ

Note: “Wastewater” includes water from bathtubs, showers and bathroom wash basins, clothes washers and laundry tubs only. Use of any other wastewater is currently prohibited by State Law.

 

Some innovative green buildings and homes in Portland have already incorporated the re-use of rainwater into their projects by following the requirements of our Rainwater Harvesting Code Guide.  However, prior to these rulings by the BCD, the harvesting of rainwater for potable uses in of residential structures and non-potable uses in commercial structures was only allowed through the approval of a building code appeal.  The treatment and use of wastewater for any system was previously not allowed.   BDS anticipates updating the Rainwater Harvesting Code Guide in 2009 to reflect these changes.

To read the new rules and learn more about what is allowed please visit the state’s website.  If you would like more information about how to incorporate a water conservation system into your project contact Debbie Cleek, Green Building Specialist for the Bureau of Development Services at (503) 823-9651.

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