Rainwater harvesting

The Alberta guidelines for residential rainwater harvesting systems are provided for the safe design, construction and maintenance of residential rainwater harvesting systems.

The guidelines provide information not included in the current plumbing code and supports conformance to CAN/CSA 128.1 Design and Installation of Non-Potable Water Systems/Maintenance and Field Testing of Non-Potable Water Systems.

The Alberta Building Code and the National Plumbing Code requirements have precedence over these guidelines.

Reclaimed wastewater

There is growing interest in using reclaimed wastewater for domestic applications, to supply water closets, urinals, and directly connected underground irrigation systems that only dispense water below the surface of the ground. However, there may be health and environmental risks associated with using reclaimed wastewater.

Reclaimed wastewater is not the same quality as the potable water. Reclaimed wastewater may contain substances and micro-organisms that pose a risk to public health and the environment.

The risk to public health can result from direct contact with, or through, surfaces contaminated by reclaimed wastewater. Research shows these risks also apply to grey water, which is household wastewater from washing machines and bathtubs. It does not include wastewater from toilets, urinals or kitchen sinks.

In Alberta, there are no regulations or codes to lower these risks and ensure that reclaimed wastewater is used safely. The government established the reclaimed water working group to develop regulations, water quality and technical standards for the safe use of reclaimed wastewater.

Reclaimed wastewater from any source cannot be used domestically unless it is approved and meets water quality testing and monitoring by the local municipality.

Public Health Guidelines for Water Reuse and Stormwater Use offers information to consider that will help applicants create a water quality management plan (WQMP) to support their project application.

Legislative and regulatory requirements

The plumbing code allows approved reclaimed wastewater systems to be used for toilet and urinal flushing or underground irrigation.

The Alberta Building Code and the National Plumbing Code require every sanitary drainage system, including the drains from every sink, bathtub, shower and washing machine, to be connected to a:

  • public sanitary sewer
  • public combined sewer
  • private sewage disposal system, other than approved reclaimed wastewater system with clearly defined water quality

These requirements limit the risk to health and protect groundwater from contamination. Any plumbing system that does not meet these requirements violates the codes and may present a risk to public and environmental health.

Water quality, technical standards and guidelines help ensure using reclaimed wastewater is consistent with the codes. These codes are intended to limit the probability that:

  • a person in or next to the building or facility will be exposed to a risk of injury due to hazards – caused by exposure to hazardous substances
  • a person in the building or facility will be exposed to a risk of illness due to unsanitary conditions – caused by exposure to human or domestic waste, consumption of contaminated water and/or contact with contaminated surfaces
  • a person will be exposed to a risk of illness due to unhygienic conditions – caused by exposure to disease-causing micro-organisms


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