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Broken City Lab on the Metropolitan Planning Council Web site

The new bill just passed by the Environment Committee on Feb 24 will allow for rainwater to be collected for non-potable uses, such as flushing toilets.


Lean more about the rainwater harvesting bill by listening to an interview with Josh Ellis of the Metropolitan Planning Council.

Bill turns rainwater into toilet water

by CJ Holtzman
March 09, 2010

12 ways to save water in your home now

1.  Water your lawn early: You can reduce evaporation waste when you water your lawn in the early morning or early evening.

2. Make tuna cans do double duty: Your lawn only needs one-half to three-fourths inch of water at a time so put tuna cans around the lawn to measure this when your irrigation system is turned on.

3. Sprinkle your yard with care: Use water-efficient sprinklers that have rain scensors and will override the system when it rains.

4. Organize your surroundings: Group plants that have similar water needs in one area and then use mulch, which retains moisture and reduces weeds.

5. Avoid the buzz cuts and backaches: Put your lawnmower blades on the highest setting because longer grass has longer roots that can hold water longer.

6. Buy a nozzle for the nose of your hose: If you buy a shut off nozzle for your hose, you will reduce your water consumption by using only what you need.

7. Save time and save water: If your sprinklers aren't automated, use a kitchen time to remind you to turn them off because a garden hose can waste up to 600 gallons of water in an hour.

8. Meet your water meter: Check your water meter after a two-hour period when you have not used water because an increase can mean you have a leak wasting water.

9. Make a faucet washer a water saver: A dripping faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water each day so repair it by replacing the washer.

10. Use food coloring to save water: Put some food coloring in the tank of your toilet, and if that color appears in the bowl within 30 minutes, you have a leaking toilet.

11. Delay household chores: Only use your dishwasher when it is completely full and make sure to set it to the correct load size for efficient water use.

12. Shower yourself with savings: Use a low-flow showerhead that deliver 2.5 gallons of water per minute, instead of the old ones that use as much as eight gallons per minute. Also, keep your showers to five minutes.

Source: "12 Simple Ways to Save Water" comes from the Southwest Florida Water Management District

Save the Rain Campaign water facts

  • Up to 80 percent of treated water in offices, schools and other commercial premises is used to flush toilets.
  • A typical roof for a four-bedroom family home has the ability to capture more than 26,000 gallons of rainwater a year.
  • A typical family uses about 185,000 gallons a year flushing toilets, washing clothes and in outdoor use.
  • Dishwashers are more water efficient and effective than hand washing, when the washer is filled.


A bill passed by the Illinois Senate Environment Committee Feb 24 will make it easier for businesses and homeowners to collect rainwater to be used for non-potable uses, such as flushing toilets. 

The bill, Rainwater Harvesting for Non-Potable Uses, is co-sponsored by state Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Highwood) and state Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park) and if passed would require the Illinois Department of Public Health to develop standards for rainwater capture, ensuring that rainwater could not enter the public water supply.  

Currently non-potable water used in a home is treated drinking water, and according to Josh Ellis, at the Metropolitan Planning Council, this is a waste of treated water that could be used for drinking.  

Ellis said that this legislation would be inexpensive, allow communities to manage their water supplies, and create green jobs.  

“Good luck articulating to me why we need to flush drinking water down the toilet,” Ellis said, pointing out that toilets account for 20 percent of household water use.  

Diana Villamil, legislative director for Sen. Garrett’s local office, said the process began when the Lake County Forest Preserve received an exemption to collect rainwater and approached Sen. Garrett about a bill, wanting this to become a statewide practice. 

“It makes good sense,” said Villamil. “It is another way to conserve water, and water is a valuable resource.” 

She said anyone would be able to have a structure set up to do this, and it would be cost-effective. 

The forest preserve was not the first in the state to get a special permit for rainwater harvesting but pushed for the bill. 

 “We are probably not under the great water conservation efforts [as] in places where they are really short of water, like Arizona,” said Bob Speckmann, facilities development manager at the Lake County Forest Preserve. “But we felt there was an opportunity to save treated water from Lake Michigan.” 

When rain falls on roofs or pavements, it becomes storm water, which is wasted by going directly into the waste water system through sewers and can be costly to treat. 

Illinois would be the first Great Lakes state to pass a rainwater-harvesting bill, although states elsewhere, such as Oregon, have similar laws. 

The bill is just beginning its journey through the General Assembly. Next it goes to the Senate floor and then, if passed, to the House of Representatives.