Rainwater catchment makes things muddy

Nov. 30, 2012
CHICAGO — Perhaps a rainbow will appear by the time this issue is resolved. Will the plumbing and mechanical industry end up with two competing rainwater catchment standards? Do we even need or want two? While it may seem unnecessary, the industry has been well served by the competing International Plumbing Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code.  

CHICAGO — Perhaps a rainbow will appear by the time this issue is resolved. Will the plumbing and mechanical industry end up with two competing rainwater catchment standards? Do we even need or want two? While it may seem unnecessary, the industry has been well served by the competing International Plumbing Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code.

Proposals are in place at the American National Standards Institute for two different rainwater catchment standards. One of the standards is essentially finished and is out for comment. In fact, considering its previous iterations as a standard (although not as an American National Standard) the version that’s out for public comment is actually its second. A call for committee members has just been issued for the potentially competing rainwater catchment standard.

On one side of the issue are the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association and the American Society of Plumbing Engineers, the promulgators of ARCSA/ASPE Standard 63: Rainwater Catchment Systems. The standard is sponsored by the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials, meaning that IAPMO promotes and sells the standard, may reference it in its other codes and gets its logo on the front cover of the standard. On the other side is the International Code Council, which announced a call for Standards Development Committee members to continue development of an ANSI Standard dedicated to rainwater collection and conveyance systems.

ICC’s project title is “ICC 805, Standard for Rainwater Collection System Design and Installation.” The project began in April 2011 when ICC filed a Project Initiation Notification System (PINS) with ANSI. During the PINS phase, a public announcement notified all interested parties and stakeholders of ICC’s plan to develop a standard and asked for comments or identification of other standards developers that may have an interest in this area. No overlapping projects were identified within the ANSI-specified period, ICC noted.

ICC finished the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) and made it available for adoption in March 2012. It includes a section on water efficiency and conservation. In the 2012 code development cycle, ICC members and industry stakeholders worked to develop non-potable water provisions covering sources like rainwater, graywater and reclaimed water to support a comprehensive strategy. These provisions have been added to the 2015 edition of the International Plumbing Code.

ICC Standard 805 will apply to the design, installation and maintenance of rainwater collection systems intended to collect, store, treat, distribute, and utilize rainwater for potable and non-potable applications.

“It does appear as though, at the moment, there are two initiatives to create rainwater collection standards,” said Jay Peters, ICC’s executive director, Plumbing, Mechanical & Fuel Gas.

“Just as there are similar codes that meet the specific needs of one particular interest group or another, or appeal to an audience due to content, philosophy, or loyalty, it is of benefit that more people embrace the positives of public safety,” Peters continued.

“No matter how you look at it, these efforts bring greater attention to an important method of water efficiency and the more people that adopt either or both, the better.

“One way or another, as long as both efforts include a broad range of industry stakeholders, hold open meetings and follow consensus methods of development, it will bring an important method of water conservation and reuse to larger audience ad that is a positive,” Peters concluded.

The phrase that ICC used in announcing its Standard 805 initiative, “within the ANSI-specified period,” is important because IAPMO responded, noting its previous work with the ARCSA document, which has been incorporated into the IAPMO Green Plumbing & Mechanical Code Supplement. IAPMO responded to ICC’s PINS, however, two weeks after the ANSI-specified period.

The ARCSA standard was brought to the IAPMO Green Technical Committee by Bob Boulware, Design-Aire Engineering, Indianapolis, and a past-president of ARCSA. ARCSA/ASPE 63 has already achieved broad recognition by being adopted into the IAPMO Green Plumbing & Mechanical Code Supplement and the 2012 National Standard Plumbing Code published by PHCC-NA, as well as providing the foundation for rainwater catchment system criteria that have been recently added to model plumbing codes. Its text is part of the Uniform Plumbing Code but, due to a technicality, ARCSA/ASPE 63 is not specifically referenced in the UPC.

ARCSA/ASPE 63: Rainwater Catchment Systems is currently open for public comment until 11:59 CST on Jan. 18, 2013. To view the draft standard and submit a comment, visit aspe.org/publicreview.

In a statement, ASPE said that ARCSA/ASPE 63 will provide guidance in how to design, install, and maintain a healthy alternative to municipal water and to optimize rainwater utilization, while preventing risk to consumers from poor design, installation, and maintenance, or illegal work; reducing risk to the public from injury or loss of amenity due to a failure of the supply, installation, maintenance, or operation of the rainwater catchment system; and ensuring that the rainwater catchment system will assist in maintaining and enhancing the quality of the environment while helping to ensure compliance with the intent of relevant regulations and local government officials.

Those goals are pretty much identical to ICC’s. It’s up to ANSI now to decide whether to allow one standard or both. ANSI’s preference is that all of the interested parties work this out amongst themselves, but they have been doing that for almost a year without resolution, said Jim Kendzel, ASPE’s executive director and CEO.

ICC can rightly claim that it got its PINS in with ANSI first, but Kendzel, who was once on the ANSI Standards Executive Committee, said getting there first isn’t the end of the argument. Some groups put in project initiation notifications as a placeholder, Kendzel said, and then never developed a standard. That led ANSI to consider the project notice as just one of the factors it considers.

The industry could end up with both ARCSA/ASPE Standard 63 and ICC Standard 805. If the result is more contractors installing more rainwater catchment systems, then the industry has been well served.

About the Author

Robert P. Mader

Bob Mader is the Editorial Director for Penton's mechanical systems brands, including CONTRACTOR magazine, Contracting Business and HPAC Engineering, all of which are part of Penton’s Energy and Buildings Group. He has been  with CONTRACTOR since 1984 and with Penton since 2001. His passions are helping contractors improve their businesses, saving energy and the issue of safeguarding our drinking water. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with an A.B. in American Studies with a Communications Concentration.

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