Share this article

print logo

Rainwater cisterns to help cut down on water use costs

Rainwater is going to be recycled in several Erie County locations, substituting the millions of gallons of potable water that municipalities pay for and use for things like watering public gardens and washing garbage trucks.

A $626,000 Green Innovation grant, from the state Environmental Facilities Corp., will pay for the construction of five cisterns in the towns of Tonawanda and Aurora, the Village of Orchard Park and City of Buffalo.

Two will be built in the Town of Tonawanda -- at the highway garage on Woodward Avenue and the senior center on Ensminger Road. The others will be built at the county highway garage in Aurora, Orchard Park's highway garage, and at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.

"Through these five cistern projects countywide, we are looking at two million gallons of water that we are going to be conserving," said Thomas R. Hersey Jr., coordinator of pollution prevention programs for the county's Department of Environment and Planning.

Hersey also is chairman of the Commission for the Conservation of the Environment in the Town of Tonawanda, where lawmakers signed off this week on an intermunicipal agreement for the design and construction of the cisterns.

The estimated cost of the project is $732,200. Communities are required to contribute 10 percent, but they can "pay" their shares with in-kind services, Hersey said.

"Nobody's coming up with actual dollars out of a budget," he said.

The design of the cistern systems, which will be installed underground, hasn't been finalized. "Our thinking, at this point, it's probably going to be a series of tanks," Hersey said.

Municipalities don't pay much for water, Hersey said, but he estimated the combined annual savings at approximately $100,000.

Rainwater now flows across roofs and into downspouts, some of which are tied into storm sewers. In the Town of Tonawanda, heavy rains occasionally have overwhelmed the aging sewer system, leading to problems with environmental regulators.

"We are not only going to reuse [water], that's over a million gallons of storm water that will not be taking up capacity in the town's storm system," Hersey said. Further, less water traveling through the storm sewers means less of an impact, such as erosion, on the natural waterways into which storm water flows.

The next step is developing a request for proposals, Hersey said; the goal is to have all five systems installed by the end of this construction season.