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BenefitCostAnalysisofRainwater
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HarvestingforStormwater
Management
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12/13/2011

FeraydoonJ.Farsi

Abstract:
While the water consumption is increasing worldwide, the amounts of fresh water resources are
decreasing. Water can be conserved by using different methods such as rainwater harvesting system.
Collection and storage of rainwater can be used for domestic purposes and replace the fresh water. The
benefit cost analysis of implementing the rainwater harvesting system for a commercial building in
Pleasanton is an overall look for replacement of fresh water needs in the building. Such method can
further be accompanied by the extensive research, survey and analysis to determine the economic
feasibility of stormwater management system in different projects. These techniques can result in
conducting a solution for water shortage problems worldwide. A rainwater harvesting system can also be
an alternative environmental solution for reducing the fresh water consumption in public and personal
properties.
The data was collected from the World Climate and the City of Pleasanton. After a complete data
collection process, the cost benefit analysis was completed. Overall economic cost and benefits of the
project was compared to investigate the result of implementing a rainwater harvesting system for this
commercial building. The analysis determined that this change is not economically feasible for this
building. It should be also consider that if the design was incorporated in to a different building, there is a
possibility of economic feasibility of the project. The result should be further studies and environmental
impact should be considered.

Table of Content

1. Introduction ........ 1
1.1.

Rainwater Harvesting System

1.2.

Stormwater Management

2. Objective .... 5
3. Methods .. 6
4. Analysis of Rainwater Harvesting Potential .. 6
4.1.

Case Study

4.2.

Sizing the Harvesting System

5. Cost-Benefit Analysis ... 8


6. Result . 9
7. Conclusion 11
References ...12

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1. Introduction
Water supply is scarce in many areas of the world and the excess demand for supply is rapidly increasing.
The practice of collection and usage of rainfall has been used for years. The early practice of rainwater
harvesting can be used in our current-day water supply system. Rainwater harvesting systems capture,
deter, store and release rainfall for different future use. The collected rainwater that falls on the rooftop is
transported into a storage tank for non-potable water usage such as flushing toilets, landscape irrigation,
building facades, fire suppression systems and others. Many households in the United States use rooftop
rainwater for landscape irrigation which is low cost practice by using the water supplies. Also recently
there has been increasing interest in usage of harvested rainwater in commercial buildings, landscaping
and toilet flushing. The RWH system is becoming a viable and sustainable supply option for commercial,
residential and industrial buildings and projects. Capturing and usage of the rainwater can expressively
decrease storm water runoff volumes, flood possibilities, topsoil loss and pollutant loads by holding
rainwater on the site. The collection and usage of rainwater has many practical and qualitative
advantages. Some of the practical advantage are consumer ability to control the quality, run-off reduction
and erosion, reduction in outside utility control on availability and cost, not subjected to the seismic,
reduction in mosquito ground breading, and etc. On the other hand, the qualitative advantage of the usage
of this system is the purity, mineral reduction, sustainability, supply is chlorine and pesticides free.
1.1. Rainwater Harvesting System
Continuous decrease in the groundwater has been a leading subject for many years which has resulted in
development and construction of different RWH systems. The rainwater harvesting systems usually
consist of three parts;

The capture system

The storage system

The delivery system

The capturing and storage parts consist of rainfall collective channels, water conveyance system, cover
for green houses, and tank with an appropriate size to manage any overflow. The water reuse and delivery
part is made of an irrigation facilities and pumping systems. Based on the volume and usage there are two
types of RWH System:
1. Rain Barrel (Less than 100 gallons). This simple collector system is used to gather and store a
small fraction of the runoff roof water which consists of two parts, a small storage tank and a
hose that connected to the irrigation system. (Figure 1.1)
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Figure 1.1 Rain Barrel

System
(www.cityofberkeley.info/sustainable)

2. Cisterns (Greater than 100 gallons). This is a larger system to hold more water which also may
contain pumps to direct the rainwater for indoor usage, flushing toilet or outdoor usage,
landscaping irrigation or fountains. The Cisterns can be more complex systems with different
structural work such as plumbing, soil excavation and electrical work. (Figure 1.2)

Figure 1.2

Cisterns System
(http://rainwatermanagement.com/)

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1.2. Storm Water Management

Over the centuries and as the worlds population grows, human have been trying to develop and
incorporate different techniques for rainwater harvesting. These developments have been used to
fulfill the communities and residences water needs. Urban stormwater management tool in
rainwater harvesting is an innovation which focuses on three issues of stormwater management;
quality control to manage potential pollutants that the water is carrying, stream channel protection
which related to the timing and volume of the runoff water, and quantity control to prevent
flooding (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 2008; Atlanta Regional
Commission, 2001). Stormwater which does not get soaked into the ground runoff on surface and
flows to the waterways or get channeled to the storm sewers. Stormwater management is focused
on making the urban environments self-sustaining in water consumption by managing the
quantity and quality of stormwater. Best Management Practice (BMP) is an operational or
procedural practice which uses both engineered and structural control systems and devices to treat
the stormwater.
Scientists and engineers use hydrographs to show the timing and amount of the water-flow
passing from drainage or watershed in the rain event. For an undeveloped parcel, Flows and
timing of the passing water are plotted on a two dimensional graph to describe the runoff. (Figure

Discharge, Q (cfs)

1.3)

Time, T (hrs)

Figure 1.3- Hydrograph of a Watershed before Development

Developed and impervious groundcover such as buildings, roads and parking lots dont allow rain
water to infiltrate into the soil or slowly flow to the edge of the site. In this situation the additional
runoff is flow through the stormwater collection systems, streams, rivers and ground and cause
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overflow and flood. In this case the hydrograph evolves to a new shape. As it is shown in figure
1.4 the graph has higher peak. The overall volume increases while lower toughs from which
stream base flow is measured. (Figure 1.4)

Discharge, Q (cfs)

Development

Undevelopment

Time, T (hrs)
Figure 1.4- Hydrograph of a Watershed Undevelopment Vs Development
Managing storm water is a major challenge in most urban areas. Buildings, roads, and compacted soils
reduce absorptive capacity. Developed and impervious surface increase runoff which result in exacerbates
flooding and increases conveyance requirements. This change also result in less water left in the soil to
replenish wells, maintain base stream flows and recharge aquifers. To prevent this occurrence, engineers
have developed peak shaving technique. This technique analyses the onsite detention of peak flow
prior to site development to make sure the after development peak discharge doesnt exceed the before
development peak flow (VADCR, 1999). This is the main purpose for most suburban areas which use
stormwater management for developed sites. Recent trends have suggested that the most appropriate
method to achieve all three facets of stormwater management , quantity control, quality control and
stream channel protection, is to recreate the predevelopment hydrograph by mimicking the rate, volume
and duration of runoff occurring from the site prior to development (Prince Georges County, Maryland,
1999). Although completion of this study and analysis has proven to prevent flooding and help to reduce
the pollution of waters but the implementation of this technique is very difficult to accomplish. Land
value in an urbanized setting prohibits high usage of stormwater management while it is easier to
implement this recreational practice while developing greenfield sites. Also development and
improvement in the urban areas offer other substantial environmental benefits over greenfield
development such as decrease in urban transportation infrastructure. Stormwater management techniques
which is used in rainwater harvesting systems provides a promising tool to urban areas which helps to

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mitigates runoff volumes and peaks in this areas. Collected and stored water can be used for landscaping
or flushing toilet for households, businesses and commercial areas.
2. Objectives
It is important to understand the effectiveness, benefit and cost of the investments spent on different
rainwater harvesting systems. Managing storm water has been a major challenge for many years. Number
of accommodation and consideration influence how the rainwater harvesting systems should be planned,
designed and utilized such as Site condition: available space for the tank and any overflow, tank location
and site topography, available hydraulic head based on the water usage, soil study, rooftop material with
high quality and many others.
The expected advantage of using the rainwater harvesting system is the decrease in the amount of water
that runoff to the storm water drainage system. In the Blacksburg Motor Company (BMC) case study, the
planned rain barrels used for landscape irrigation system will result in 10% reduction in the rainwater
volume and nitrate-nitrgen load to drainage system. Also if the indoor use were installed for toilet
flushing, the load volume would be reduced by 25%. The rainwater harvesting systems also reduce the
potable water usage for the non-potable water needs. In the same case study, BMC, this change will save
51,000 gallons of potable water. Rainwater substituted for potable water would also reduce energy
requirements because less potable water would need to be treated and transported. Many other advantages
are also expected as a result of implementing this system.
On the other hand evidence has proven many down turn and issue involving the rainwater harvesting
system. The main issue is the quality of the collected water especially from the rooftop. The quality of the
water is influenced by substance it encounters and picks up on the runway from the clouds to the storage
systems. The longer the journey, the greater is the number and the concentration of the pickups that are
conceded by the water. Also the rooftop material has been a major debate on the rooftop harvesting
system studies that has been done in the past. The quality of runoff from the roof is dependent on the
material used to construct the roof and the roof maintenance. Also the rain may be acidic which has a
major effect on the quality of the harvested rainwater. The impact of the storage material quality is also
important in the harvested water quality. Although some of the studies which have be done on the storage
quality show that bacterial populaces drop with storage but some others have concluded an opposing
result. If the proper care is not taken during the harvesting process, the water can carry and contain
hazardous substances. There are many steps and additional cost involving this process which should be
considered prior to implementing a rainwater harvesting system.

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This project aims to explore the economic benefit of rainwater harvesting for two purposes: (1) to
conserve on-site potable water use; and (2) to meet local stormwater management requirements to
protect surface water quality and minimize flooding within Alameda County, California. Currently,
the County has not adopted a standard approach to facilitate rainwater harvesting designs. Thus for
this project, available resources from other counties combined with standard engineering techniques
provide the preliminary designs for cost analysis.
3. Methods
The above mentioned objectives were accomplished through three stages;
1. Examination of the hydrologic potential of the region and predicted water demand.
2. Development of preliminary engineering calculation and designs of one case study.
3. Economic analysis of the complied costs associated with case study design based on net
present values.
4. Analysis of Rainwater Harvesting Potential
For this case study, first it is necessary to establish an approach to calculate the size of the rainwater
harvesting systems which will be used. During this process we should address three objectives relate
to rainwater harvesting:
1. Potable water conservation
2. Surface water quality protection
3. Flooding risk reduction
The first objective, potable water conservation can be simply achieved by utilizing harvested waters
for potable water usage that can be replaced such as toilet flushing and landscaping. The collection
and storage devices and components should be large enough to capture and utilize the part of the
storm that would be otherwise treated as stormwater and runs through detention devices. After these
steps are complete the second and third objectives can be realized. By effectively meeting stormwater
management obligations through an appropriately sized rainwater harvesting system, a developer
realizes a financial benefit equal to the costs of constructing other facilities to meet local stormwater
management requirements for water quality and flood control.

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4.1. Case Study Attune Building @ 5776 Stoneridge Mall Rd, Pleasanton, CA
This Building is a three story commercial building. The total three floor gross areas are 91,000 sf and
approximate 33,000 sf of roof area is built on a 159,800 sf land. The total landscape area is about
10,000 sf. The building included 6 toilets,two on each floor, with the total of 36 flushing devices.
(table 4.1)
Table 4.1 Assumption
Occupancy 2006 Building Code

1 / 100 sf = 910

Water Closets 2006 Plumbing Code

3/50 Occ. = 54

Toilet Demand 2006 Plumbing Code

1.6 gallon / flush 54x3 per day 5 days a week

Irrigation Demand

1.5 inches / week

4.2. Sizing the Harvesting System


Complete data collection on rainfall for the area and prediction on potential water usage at the case
study building will help to start the cost-benefit analysis on the system implementation.
A. Supply
To complete a sustainable project, the average rainfall and the time of the year for harvesting
should be considered and rainwater fall charts and graphs should be studied completely.
According to Alameda county average rainfall for the year is showing in table 4.2.

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Total

5.0

3.7

3.7

1.8

0.3

0.1

0.1

0.1

0.4

1.5

3.7

3.7

24.3

68,000

68,000

33,000

5,500

1,800

1,800

1,800

7,000

27,000

68,000

68,000

447,000

Inch

Jan

92,000

Table 4.2- Alameda County Average Rainfall - http://www.worldclimate.com

90%
precipitation
over 33,000
sf (Gallon)

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B. Demand
Captured water can be used for landscaping or toilet flush in the building. Table 4.3
demonstrates the yearly water usage for the building in this case study.
Table 4.3- Water Usage for a Year
Toilet

Irrigation

Total

Ave Per Month

(Gallon)

(Gallon)

(Gallon)

(Gallon)

67,390

486,000

553,000

46,000

By comparing the water supply and demand in this case study a 50,000 gallons harvesting system will
be considered.
Assumption: for the cost and benefit calculation demand = usage = 50,000 Gallons
5. Cost Benefit Analysis
Managers need complete information on costs and benefit of implementing rainwater harvesting
system in stormwater management programs because of the related high expenses and analysis
involving the implementation. Some case studies focus on both economic and ecological costs and
benefits of stormwater management but in this case, the analysis has been done base on the economic
effect of the rainwater harvesting system. This modification is a result of the size of the project and
the impact of this change of the surrounding environment. The cost-benefit analysis included the
following items:

Costs:
o

Capital costs of the rainwater harvesting systems

Operation costs of the rainwater harvesting systems

Benefit:
o

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Water savings usage (City of Pleasanton Water Rate $2.29 CCF)

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Table 5.1 summarizes the water rate for Pleasanton area.


Table 5.1 City of Pleasanton Water Rate - http://www.ci.pleasanton.ca.us/

Flooding, erosion, and the flow to stormwater drain risk reduction equal to the cost of sizing an
onsite detention system.

Surface water quality protection equal to cost of water treatment. ($1.25/ ccf). National Metal
Finishing Resource Center (NMFRC, www.nmfrc.org)

Discount rate of 5% for 10 years

6. Result
A. Cost
a. Capital Cost
Table 6.1 Rainwater Harvesting System and Plumbing Costs
Item

Price

Source

50,000 Tank

$72,000

www.darcoinc.com

Excavation

$10,000

Plumbing & Overflow protection (include irrigation and

$25,000

toilets)
Pump & Level Control

$5,000

www.graineger.com

Booster Pump

$3,000

www.graineger.com

Total

$115,000

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b. Operation Cost
Table 6.2 Rainwater Harvesting System Operation Costs
Item

Price

PV (r=5, n=10)

Mucking Tank (every 5 years)

$2,000

$5,800

Pump Replacement ( every 10 years)

$5,000

$8,200

Poster Pump (every 10 years)

$3,000

$4,900

Misc Repair (every 5 years)

$2,000

$5,800

Total

$24,700

B. Benefits
a. Capital Benefit
Table 6.3 Capital Benefits
Item

Price

Source

Flood Control (50,000 Detention)

$70,000

www.darcoinc.com

Construction

$20,000

Total

$90,000

b. Operation Benefit
Table 6.4 Operation Benefits
Item

Price

PV (r=5, n=10)

SWMQ (50,000 gallons/month treat every years)

$1,000

$13,300

Water Bill Saving ( every years)

$1,800

$24,300

Total

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$37,600

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C. Calculation
A review of cost and benefit in this project result in below;
DP/DC = (90,000+37,600) / (115,000+24,700) = 0.91 <1
7. Conclusion
Although there are many benefits resulting from implementation of rainwater harvesting for stormwater
management but the case study had shown that the economic benefits doesnt overcome the cost. The
result may vary and cause more saving for larger commercial building. Different method and system also
can be use which may have an impact on the collected result. This case study, suggest that the benefits of
incorporating rainwater harvesting into building designs do not justify the cost of implementing this
technique. The result shows cost benefit of the project is really close and modification in the collection
system or changes in the demand may result in different conclusion. The quick overall look at the project
similar to the above case study provides a summary on the monetary benefit and cost of implementation
of rainwater harvesting in stomwater management but it is important to consider the damage to the soil,
drainages, quality of the surface water and degradation of habitat resulted from rainwater runoff.
Although stormwater management can be costly but considering the above facts and evaluating the
success of stormwater management effort may support the beneficial aspect of this practice.

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References

American Rainwater Harvesting System website


http://www.arcsa.org

Bill, H. (2008) A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Rain Water Harvesting at Commercial Facilities in


Alington County, Virginia Master Project Nickolas School of the Environmental and Earth
Sciences Duke University

Caleb, M. and Ataur, R. (2007). Rainwater Tanks: Cost and Benefits Issuses, 79-41

City of Pleasanton website


http://www.ci.pleasanton.ca.us

Dana, G. and Tamim, Y. (2008). Feasibility of Rainwater Harvesting BMO for Stormwater
Management VWRRC Special Report No. SR38-2008

Darco Inc underground water tank website


www.darcoinc.com

Douglas, M. J; John B. B. and Thomas. P. (2006). Downstream Economic Benefits of


Conservation Development. Journal of Water Resources Planning and management, 132(1), 35

Graineger website
www.graineger.com

Harvesting Manual City of Berkeley website


www.cityofberkeley.info/sustainable

John, B. B. and Douglas M. J. (2004). Downstream Economic Benefits from Storm-Water


management Journal of Water Resources Planning and management, 130(6), 498

National Metal Finishing Resource Center (NMFRC) website


www.nmfrc.org

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Rainwater Management Solution website


http://rainwatermanagement.com/

T, A and S. A. A. (2011). Source of Pollution in Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting System and


Their Control, Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 41 (2097), 2167

Virginia DCR Stormwater Design Specification. (2011). Ver 1.9.5

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