Rain… Bad or Good for Business?

Rain-related opportunities abound for the onsite industry, specifically, stormwater management and rainwater harvesting. If you are an installer in the onsite industry, the rainy season can mean a muddy mess and work stoppage. On the other hand, if you are a pumper, it means things kick into high gear as leaky septic tanks and saturated drainfields need immediate and frequent attention.

Water Resources

While not discussed enough in our industry, water resources are a growing concern. The hydrologic cycle teaches us that water supplies do not increase or diminish but go around and around, evaporating, condensing into clouds, precipitating as rainfall, percolating into the ground and then surfacing either through extraction or runoff to begin the cycle all over again. Problem is, that our growing population and use of man-made pollutants are resulting in less good potable water for human consumption. Thus creating a big movement globally to capture, treat and reuse as much water as practical. The municipal wastewater industry is a big proponent, even reintroducing reclaimed wastewater into raw water sources for treatment and distribution back into the municipal water supplies. Yes, this is a stretch for the onsite industry, but there are a number of ways we can engage in onsite water reuse and at the same time pursue new business opportunities and create new jobs.

Recycling Water

Stormwater management is one of the most positive ways to reintroduce water back into local watersheds replenishing both ground and surface water supplies. Much of the technology used is similar, and in some cases the same as, to what we use in modern onsite wastewater “septic systems.”

Subsurface chambers are commonly used to intercept runoff and introduce it into shallow soils where the natural biology treats it and reintroduces it into the water table.

Sound familiar? This is the same concept as a properly performing septic system. This practice also reduces problems with stormwater runoff, subsequent erosion and high stream flows that often cause property damage. Biofiltration is another practice used where runoff from hard surfaces such as parking lots can be intercepted and naturally treated prior to being discharged by surface or subsurface means. In either case, the design, installation and service needs of these strategies is very similar to those we employ in the onsite industry.

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater Harvesting is another growing interest very relevant to the onsite wastewater industry. It can be as simple as raingardens that receive runoff and store it for short periods as it either percolates into the ground or transpires through ornamental vegetation. Berms and vegetative swales are also simple methods all involving site grading to control flows. Yes, this is just another method of stormwater management but involves aesthetic integration as landscape features.

For more beneficial reuse of rainwater, component systems are installed. Collections piping, pre-screening, tanks for storage, treatment and distribution systems are all elements of rainwater harvesting for reuse.

The collection piping systems are sized for flows, just like wastewater collection systems. Pre-screening devices take out larger particulate along the same concept as effluent screens. Tankage is sized according to average rainfalls and can either be installed above or below grade. Treatment practices can vary from filtration to full disinfection in areas where rainwater is approved for potable usages. And distribution can be anywhere from landscape irrigation to internal home uses.

So you can see the similarities between stormwater management and rainwater harvesting to onsite wastewater practices. Site grading for stormwater management can be done during the final grading of a septic installation. Excavation for tanks whether for septic or rainwater storage can be done simultaneously as can installation of other treatment and distribution components. Plumbing of stormwater or rainwater systems can be done in conjunction with plumbing for septic components. And routine maintenance needs can be scheduled for all systems during one site visit. All of this lending to increased business opportunities for all sectors of onsite practitioners, designers, installers and service providers.

Many onsite wastewater organizations are now including information on stormwater management and rainwater harvesting in their educational programs. If not, encourage them to check into the subjects. There are also stand alone stormwater and rainwater harvesting organizations that you can look into to come up to speed on your own.

Be aware though, the dots have not been fully connected between the industries so you have to pay attention to conflicting practices. I’ve seen training materials that suggest plumbing a building downspout into the septic system as a method of stormwater management. We all in the onsite industry know that is a big no-no as it causes hydraulic overloading, the number one cause of septic system failure as the septic systems are not sized for the increased flows.

Other practices in rainwater storage suggest no treatment of the stored water is necessary. Again, this is counter intuitive to what we have been taught for wastewater and greywater reuse. All in all, the industries are beginning to pay attention to each other and our visions and messaging are starting to align.

Stay ahead of the curve, learn what you can and grow your business in spite of the tight economic times. Water is something we cannot live without so efforts around reuse are a win-win solution.

by Kit Rosefield, SepticGuy.com


For More Information:
■ American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association: www.arcsa.org
■ California Onsite Wastewater Association: www.cowa.org

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