Plenty Canada is currently developing an innovative water and waste management system at its head office location in Lanark, Ontario. We are seeking to incorporate and integrate methods and technologies into the renovation of our “Makwa Inn” (Bear Inn) multipurpose workshop space that will reduce consumption of potable water, reuse both water and nutrients, as well as release the used water in both a sanitary and ecologically sound way. We are viewing both water and nutrients as part of a cycle that should be cared for and designed to be resilient.
Across Canada there are many communities, many indigenous communities, that are experiencing a crises of contaminated drinking water. Neighbouring industry, farmlands, or municipalities are evacuating their wastes unsafely into environments and toxic levels of pollutants end up in ground water supplies and other water sources. In many rural environments far from open water, groundwater is the only accepted source of potable water.
In many urban environments we have built our cities water infrastructure to combine both sewage lines and stormwater into the same system, which gets sent to centralized treatment plants. In heavy rainfall events these systems can get overwhelmed and will either dump untreated sewage directly into open watercourses or will cause major damage to the system (such as in Merritt, BC, 2021 - when the entire city had to be evacuated because the wastewater treatment plant was flooded).
Increasing urban populations, poorly thought-out design considerations, as well as an increasing area of land covered by “hardscapes” such as concrete, accelerate the effects of heavy rains by shedding water quickly and leading to increased flows.
In Australia, more than three million people rely on rainwater for all their primary potable water needs, not only in rural environments but also urban environments. Many of these systems are very simple. There have been multiple studies done by multiple sources (Heyworth et al. 1999, Heyworth 2001, Rodrigo et al. 2010) comparing rates of gastrointestinal illness on populations relying on municipal mains water vs. potable rainwater harvesting and it was found that there was no discernable difference between the two. In fact, people drinking rainwater fared slightly better.
The creation of rain is a natural treatment process which results from evaporating water into the air – and leaving contaminants behind. The result is an inherently safe and potable water source which, if handled correctly, can easily provide a safe and clean supply of water to any home.
The creation of a new Canadian Standard (CSA B805) in 2018 seeks to encourage the proliferation of rainwater harvesting for a wider variety of uses than is currently common, including potable drinking water. A major bonus for homes in urban environments that switch to using rainwater as a primary water source is not only a reduction of utility bills, self-reliance, and less demand on municipal treatment plants, but also a potential for major reduction in the negative effects of heavy rainfall events which can overwhelm infrastructure. Taken en masse, thousands of roofs that once served as a “hardscape” now retain water and drastically reduce the potential of overwhelming storm infrastructure.
The potential positive effects of rainwater harvesting on rural populations with contaminated groundwater is obvious – bypass the polluted water entirely. Plenty Canada will be incorporating a potable rainwater harvesting system as a primary water source in its “Makwa Inn.”
— Garrett Johnson