Rainwater can be collected from an impervious surface, such as a roof, or from a pervious surface, such as uncompacted soil. Once harvested, the water is routed to where it is beneficially used. Rainwater can be harvested passively or actively on a residential or commercial scale. Consult Rainwater Harvesting: Guidance Toward a Sustainable Water Future for information regarding local rainwater harvesting options.
Passive Rainwater Harvesting
Passive rainwater harvesting systems use land shaping and other techniques to direct, collect, and infiltrate rainwater into the soil for beneficial use. A typical passive system consists of a catchment surface, infiltration area and overflow structure. Examples of passive rainwater harvesting systems include rain gardens, bio retention swales, porous pavement and other strategies.
Installation of passive systems usually requires consultation with staff at the City of Bellingham Planning and Community Development Department and/or Public Works Stormwater Division. Special considerations apply to sites located in the Lake Whatcom Watershed or other areas that are near impaired water bodies. Consult with City of Bellingham staff for more information at (360) 778-8300.
Active Rainwater Harvesting
Active rainwater harvesting systems use equipment to collect, filter, store and deliver harvested water. Active system storage extends the time when harvested water can be put to beneficial use. Collection systems can range from 55-gallon rain barrels to meet a portion of outdoor watering needs to 10,000-gallon or larger tanks to meet greater domestic and landscape water needs. Unless water is delivered via gravity flow from an aboveground tank, active systems require energy to pump and deliver water.
- City of Bellingham Permitting Flowchart (PDF)
- Advanced Methods and Materials (AMM202 – Rainwater Harvesting)
Rain Barrels and Cisterns
Using rain barrels and/or cisterns to collect water from your roof for outdoor use saves money on your metered water bill, conserves drinking water and reduces stormwater runoff.
- A Guide to Rain Barrels (PDF)
- Rain Barrel and Cistern Vendor List (PDF)
- Publication & Resource List( PDF)
- Rainwater Harvesting: Guidance toward a Sustainable Water Future (PDF)
The Water Use Efficiency Program previously sponsored rainwater harvesting demonstration systems for community members to visit and learn about. These systems range from 250-gallons to 2,500-gallon tanks and are utilized for irrigation in active community gardens. Up to $2,000 in funding was provided for materials. Awards were given to non-profit organizations, community groups, schools, and neighborhood associations located within city-limits.
Example Residential and Commercial Rainwater Harvesting Systems
Please contact the Operations Division of the Public Works Department if you would like more information about Water Conservation.