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EPA co-sponsors workshop to identify current needs and innovative solutions for rain and stormwater collection and use for non-potable applications

Posted: April 23, 2013

EPA collaborated with Duke Energy, Cincinnati Regional Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, Cincinnati Green Umbrella, and the Confluence Water Technology Innovation Cluster to sponsor a workshop to identify innovative technologies for harvesting and using urban rain and stormwater for non-drinking purposes.

The workshop, titled Technologies and Innovative Solutions for Harvesting and Non-Potable Use of Rain and Stormwater in Urban Settings, was held April 24-25 in Cincinnati. The workshop originated from a proposal submitted by EPA research microbiologist Dr. Dennis Lye to EPA Cincinnati Water Technology Cluster Team , who was awarded funding for the workshop. EPA Cincinnati Water Technology Cluster Team is part of a greater initiative that supports water technology research and development in the Ohio River Valley region.

“During my career I’ve had the opportunity to study the collection and use of rainwater,” said Lye. “I currently work in a lab and look at microbes in water and the risks they may pose via various exposure pathways. I get a lot of inquiries from people in the southwestern and southeastern United States about what EPA is doing to characterize the risk associated with harvesting and using these waters. I thought this workshop would be a good way to address these issues.”

Workshop attendees included water reuse practitioners; members of the academic and research communities; representatives from municipal, local and state government agencies; regional water reuse entrepreneurs and technology developers; and staff from regional water suppliers, sanitation districts and health departments. EPA scientists Dr. Nick Ashbolt, Dr. Jay Garland, and Jatin Mistry also spoke at the workshop. Ashbolt presented on the characterization and quantification of microbial risks associated with rain water and stormwater use. Garland spoke on EPA tool development activities to determine the effectiveness of treatment and management approaches for mitigating these risks. Mistry spoke on regional water reuse activities, gaps and research.

Collection, treatment and use of alternative water sources, such as rain and stormwater, has gained increased attention over the past decade as they serve as potential approaches to deliver more sustainable water services to communities. The two-day workshop provided a platform for participants to address issues concerning innovative technologies, practices, and applications for harvesting and use of storm and rainwater for non-drinking purposes.

“There are still several obstacles preventing widespread implementations of rainwater reuse,” Lye said. “Lack of experience, information and education about alternative water sources at the local, regional, and state level remains a significant barrier.”

Other major obstacles include lack of general guidelines about the quality and safety of collected water; need for clarification in the design and installation of rainwater collection systems; potential risks posed by contaminants in various water sources; and effective and efficient treatment options.

Workshop plenary sessions, presentations and breakout discussions focused on current needs and innovative solutions that could lead to marketable and more widely accepted products and services for rain and stormwater reuse. The workshop also provided opportunities for collaboration among workshop participants and regional companies interested in local and national rain and stormwater reuse markets.

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