WHEREAS water is becoming a more valuable and scarce resource; and
WHEREAS new technologies are emerging for the safe use of reclaimed water; and
WHEREAS the Province of Alberta has initiated limited acceptance of new technologies for use of reclaimed water through application of deviation from code, however, on private systems, the Province mandates that the Local Authority must be prepared to ensure maintenance and monitoring is carried out and must manage the reporting and operation of the system with the owner;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal District and Counties urge the Province of Alberta to further develop legislation to accept the use of reclaimed water through the Alberta Building and Plumbing Codes for private systems, and that processes be developed that maintenance, monitoring, reporting and operation responsibilities flow from the owner of such a private system directly to the Province.
In the spring of 2013, Vulcan County was approached by a local church camp to be part of a pilot project to consider the installation of a private system that would reclaim grey water and reuse it for toilets, urinals and irrigation.
Through the process of exploring the potential of being associated with such a project it became apparent that under current Alberta Legislation the Local Authority is required to play a significant role in such an endeavor and assume significant risk and liability for same. Provincial departments made it very clear that the deviation from current codes and the responsibility for oversight and reporting were very much part of the Local Authority’s role in reclaimed water systems. While this role may be more appropriate where such a system is connected to a municipal or public water and sewer system, for private systems, it would be more suitable and in alignment with legislation on other private water and waste water systems that the owner is responsible for the system directly to the Province.
Attached are excerpts from communications on this matter with two provincial departments as well as an accredited Safety Codes Agency.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development: Environment and Sustainable Resource Development has the regulatory mandate for public wastewater or reclaimed water systems and systems with design flows greater than 25 cubic metres per day. The ministry does not have a regulatory mandate for small, private reclaimed water systems. The regulatory mandate for this matter lies with Municipal Affairs.
Municipal Affairs: The Government of Alberta (GOA) recognizes that there is a growing interest in using reclaimed wastewater for domestic applications, such as toilet and urinal flushing or landscape irrigation. However, there are health and environmental risks associated with using reclaimed wastewater, which is not of the same quality as the potable water commonly distributed through plumbing fixtures.
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 reclaimed wastewater or through contact with surfaces contaminated by reclaimed wastewater.
Research shows that these risks also apply to “grey water,” a term commonly used to describe household wastewater collected from sources like washing machines and bathtubs. “Grey water” does not include wastewater from toilets, urinals or kitchen sinks.
In Alberta, there are no regulations or codes in place to mitigate these risks and ensure that reclaimed wastewater is used safely for domestic applications.
The GOA established a Reclaimed Water Working Group, comprised of Municipal Affairs, ESRD, Health and Transportation, to develop:
At this time, water reuse, as described, is not permitted in Alberta, unless a specific variance for a specific site is issued.
The Chief Plumbing and Gas Administrator may issue variances to provide an approximate equivalent or greater safety performance to allow water reuse systems for individuals or municipalities. Because of the life safety issues, monitoring and management of these systems is critical. The involvement of municipalities in the management framework is essential. Municipal Affairs will be consulting on options for a proposed management framework for water reuse in 2014.
In fall 2014, the Government of Alberta released Our Water, Our Future: A Plan for Action, which identified action items resulting from the Water Conversations engagement in 2013. This includes supporting research and geographically distinct case studies in Alberta that will identify opportunities for flexibility in regulations to accommodate water re-use to meet regional needs. Although the AAMDC is encouraged that the Government of Alberta is moving forward on exploring this possibility, there is no indication that legislative changes will be made to address the request outlined in this resolution focusing on private systems. As such, the AAMDC assigns this resolution the status of Intent Not Met and will continue to monitor this issue.