ARCSA 2005: Focus - Rainwater Harvesting
by Anitra Accetturo

July 13-15, of 2005 the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) hosted the North American Rainwater Harvesting Conference in Seattle, Washington. The three-day conference focused on design, installation, and components of rainwater harvesting systems featured in presentations and exhibits.

Approximately 140 people attended from Texas, Maryland, Hawaii, Arizona, New Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Libya, and New Zealand. The first day of the conference was kicked off with an optional tour of rainwater harvesting systems in the Puget Sound area, featuring innovative and progressive water harvesting and sustainability techniques designed and utilized by the city. (See accompanying article:"Seattle Highlights Rainwater Harvesting During ARCSA 2005")

ARCSA is a non-profit organization in the state of Texas and 501 (c) (3) educational organization that was founded in 1994 by Hari J. Krishna of Austin, Texas.

ARCSA Objectives

ARCSA's objectives are to:

  • Promote rainwater catchment systems through conferences and workshops
  • Provide networking and information on rainwater harvesting systems
  • Provide a forum for discussion of new methods and techniques
  • Develop informal publications on rainwater catchment systems
  • Help establish acceptable guidelines for construction and operation of rainwater harvesting systems

The foundation of the conference was built upon the shared belief that the ancient practice of rainwater harvesting can be used for present-day water supply systems to help alleviate strains on municipal treatment and distribution centers. Examples of applications that have been designed and installed around North America and abroad were shared over two days through slide presentations.

Since ARCSA's inception in 1994, membership has been increasing annually, with approximately 275 members in 33 states and 3 Canadian Provinces at present. The top 5 states for ARCSA members are Texas, Washington, Arizona, California, and Oregon. The organization's accomplishments include developing guidelines for rainwater harvesting systems (RWH) for potable and non-potable uses, providing technical assistance to RWH communities in the US and Canada, and developing informal publications on RWH systems.

Board members and officers of ARCSA include:

  • Hari Krishna, Founder and current President
  • Heather Kinkade-Levario, President (newly elected)
  • Dr. Dennis Lye, Vice President
  • Tim Pope, Secretary
  • Chris Brown, Treasurer


Keynote speakers for the presentation portion of the conference were Hari Krishna, ARCSA President and Senior Engineer of the Texas Water Board, and Michael D'Andrea, Director of Water Infrastructure Management at Toronto Water in Ontario, Canada.

Krishna, who has presided over and championed the growth of the organization since its inception, reviewed the status of the association through its 11-year history, emphasizing accomplishments and the continuing need for rainwater catchment due to the growing water problems in the United States. He urged participants to demonstrate leadership in promoting conservation and use of our most precious natural resource - water.

Michael D'Andrea presented on the City of Toronto's approach and rationale for water conservation and rainwater catchment.

According to his presentation, the city has an abundance of water; however, due to growth, is experiencing increasing problems with the handling of water runoff. Consequently, the city had two main options: 1) Build new multi-billion storm runoff system or 2) Reduce storm runoff.

D'Andrea reviewed the city's current innovative program of installing berms, swales and removing curbs on one side of the street in targeted neighborhoods to slow down runoff and keep as much as runoff as local as possible. Although highly disruptive to neighborhoods during the construction phase, neighborhoods are now actively requesting that their street be updated. City officials are now evaluating nine other water conservation programs, including rain barrel programs and other incentives for residents to harvest rainwater.

Other Presentations

In addition, there were over 25 presentations lasting about minutes each, followed by quick question and answer sessions, including:

  • Jim Johnson of the Seattle Public Utilities presented on Seattle's "Raincatchers" program, which has been in use for three years.
  • Dr. Dennis Lye of the US Environmental Protection Agency presented on rainwater catchment trends in Kentucky and Ohio.
  • Dr. Michael Walmsley of The University of Waikato, New Zealand and the University of Washington presented on a device being developed in New Zealand called a "Tank Vac", which will be used to clean catchment tanks.
  • Bob Burgress of The Rainwater Connection presented an overview of rainwater harvesting practices in British Columbia's Gulf Islands.
  • Patricia Macomber of the University of Hawaii's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management presented on rainwater catchment systems in Hawaii.
  • Katrina Morgon of Mahlum Architects presented on rainwater harvesting at Washington Middle School in Olympia, Washington.

Exhibitors came from all over the US and British Columbia and showcased products including wood and plastic cisterns, filtration and pump systems, water treatment, and complete systems for residential and commercial applications.

The next Rainwater Harvesting Conference will be in 2007, near Hilo, Hawaii. If you would like more information about the conference or the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, please visit www.arcsa-usa.org.

Anitra Accetturo is a Water Conservation Specialist for the city of Bellingham, Washington.

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