Rainwater Harvesting Incentive Program - FAQ

RWH Guidebook
Rainwater Harvesting Best Practices Guidebook
Learn about the design and installation of Rainwater Harvesting Systems - download the guidebook for free! Limited number of hardcopies available from the RDN office and at the VI regional library branches.
UPDATE NOV. 8, 2017: The 2017 program is now fully allocated. This program will re-open in 2018, applications will be accepted starting in January, act fast to take advantage of the rebate program. Note: all work and invoices must be completed and dated the same calendar year that you apply for the rebate.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much money can I get?
This incentive program rebates up to $450 for a cistern that is rated for potable use and able to collect a minimum of 4,546 litres (1,000 gallons) of rainwater. In addition, there is up to $300 available for other eligible collection system expenses such as transport piping, debris traps, filters and installation costs. Distribution components (beyond the tank) are not covered under the rebate. This makes a total of $750 available per household for the purchase and installation of a rainwater harvesting system. There is only one rebate per household. The rebate is available on a first come, first served basis. Once funds are exhausted, the program will be finished for this year.
Who is eligible?
This rebate program applies to residential property owners installing or updating a rainwater harvesting system in existing or new homes in the 7 Electoral Areas of the RDN (A,B,C,E,F,G,H) as well as the 4 municipalities (Nanaimo, Lantzville, Parksville, Qualicum Beach). Only property owners are eligible to receive the rebate. Each property is eligible for one (1) rebate over the lifetime of the program.
How do I apply?
1) Applicants must first provide a completed pre-application form describing the system that is going to be installed, including “before” photos of the site (photos may be emailed to watersmart@rdn.bc.ca). Photos should have an indication of scale, such as a person or a meter stick. Pre-approved applicants will have $750 set aside for them. Upon receiving written approval from the RDN, the applicant will have 4 months to complete the purchase and installation and submit their documents to receive the rebate.

The minimum roof collection area in order to be eligible for the rebate is 200 square feet.

[ CLICK HERE ] to download the Step 1: Pre-Approval Application Form

2) The final document submission must occur within 4 months of the applicant’s pre-approval. It must include:

  • a sales receipt(s) or invoice marked PAID dated Jan 2016 and onwards, indicating the items applied to the rebate.
  • photo(s) of the system installed (photos may be emailed), clearly showing its connection to 1) an appropriate collection area including downspout and routing to cistern, 2) overflow diversion according to tank installation checklist specs, 3) cleaning access & 4) backflow prevention device (if connected to top-up source).
  • The completed Tank Installation Checklist (included in the Document Submission Form).
  • Also, if the installation involves the alteration of indoor plumbing or the installation of a new potable water line, a Building Permit is required and a copy of the Building Permit and Inspection Document from the relevant Building Inspection Department must be submitted.

[CLICK HERE ] to download the Step 2: Document Submission Form & Tank Installation Checklist

Applications can be mailed to the RDN, dropped off, or emailed to watersmart@rdn.bc.ca. The rebate is available on a first-come, first served basis.

Why is the incentive program available in these areas?
All of these areas pay into the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection service and have equal access to the funds available under this program. The funds will be limited once an area/municipality reaches the maximum of 30% of the total program budget.
Do I need a Building Permit to install a Rainwater Harvesting System?
You are required to obtain a Building Permit only if the installation will involve the installation of a new potable water line, the alteration of an existing potable water line, or the alteration of indoor plumbing. If you are unsure whether your project will require a permit, contact the RDN Building & Bylaw Department at 250-390-6530.
What about the Yellow Point Aquifer Development Permit Area requirements for rainwater collection?
In 2011 the Yellow Point Aquifer Protection Development Permit Area was included in the Electoral Area 'A' OCP to help protect and conserve water in the vulnerable Yellow Point aquifer. See section 12.9 of the Official Community Plan here. The development permit area establishes conditions to assess the impact development will have on groundwater and ensure water conservation through rainwater collection. Contact the RDN Planning Department for more information: 250-390-6510.
Why aren't you incenting rain barrels?
Rain barrels are relatively inexpensive and are not large enough to collect a sufficient supply of water for the long dry periods that generally exist between summer rain events in the Regional District of Nanaimo.
However, the City of Parksville is piloting a rebate program for rain barrels in 2016 to assist small property owners in collecting rainwater. If you live in the City of Parksville, please see their Rain Barrel Rebate Program.
What can 4546L or 1,000 gallons of storage do for me?
Please contact your local rainwater harvesting consultant or contractor to determine which size of system will best suit your needs. An online calculator can give you an estimate how much rainwater you can collect with a 1000 imperial gallon tank off of your roof area. Calculations are also available in a table within the RDN Rainwater Harvesting Best Practices Guidebook, at the top of this page.
Where do I purchase rainwater harvesting system components?
There are several local consultants, suppliers and installers, including:

If you know of, (or own) a business that should be on this list, please email waterprotection@rdn.bc.ca.

The Canadian Association for Rainwater Management (CANARM) is a resource for education and training on Rainwater Harvesting. If interested, please see their website at www.canarm.org

What is Rainwater Harvesting?
Rainwater harvesting (RWH) is the collection and storage of rainwater directed off roofs and buildings to be used at a later time. A rain cistern is much like a rain barrel only it is larger, can be above or below ground, and water from a cistern may be used outdoors for irrigating as well as for indoor use if it is properly constructed with the appropriate treatment and plumbing. Most cistern owners use the water for non-potable applications like irrigation and toilet flushing, as there are additional treatment costs to ensure the water meets drinking water standards. Cisterns for rainwater collection are in use in many areas in BC including Gabriola Island and in the Yellow Point area.
Why does the RDN have a Rainwater Harvesting Incentive Program?
As the population of the Regional District of Nanaimo continues to grow, reducing demand on water resources and water systems will become increasingly important.

Rainwater harvesting reduces stress on local aquifers and rivers, leaving more water available for communities, and environmental needs. By reducing extraction from aquifers and rivers in dry summer months, we help ensure that there is sufficient water left to maintain critical base flow in streams in order to protect fish and aquatic health. Reducing groundwater extractions can also help reduce salt water intrusion in coastal areas, as excessive pumping of wells along the coast can pull salt water from the ocean into groundwater.

The Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Action Plan identifies the need to promote rainwater harvesting under Program 5C. The RDN Innovative Options and Opportunities for Sustainable Water Use study, evaluates different options for incentive programs and prioritizes them based on their ranking on fifteen criteria. Four of the top five recommended incentives support the use of cisterns for the collection of rainwater.

Prioritized Applications:

  1. neighbourhood cisterns/ stormwater (rainwater) detention and centralized reuse;
  2. water-saving toilets, showers, laundry, dishwasher;
  3. cisterns for toilets and laundry;
  4. neighbourhood cisterns and centralized irrigation reuse; and
  5. cisterns for outdoor watering
Are other governments doing this?
Many local governments across Canada have implemented incentive programs offering rebates on rainwater collection devices. Several local governments provide incentives for the use of rain barrels. There is a great interest by Canadian municipalities in the area of rain harvesting and several other local governments including Comox Valley Regional District and the City of Guelph provide rebates of $150 to $2,000 for purchase and installation of cisterns or full RWH systems.
I bought my cistern and/or installed my system last year, can I apply for a rebate retroactively?
No, to be eligible for the Rainwater Harvesting Incentive Program, receipts must be dated on or after January 1st of the year you apply to the program. So for example, if you’re applying for the 2017 program, your receipts must be from 2017. It is highly recommended that interested property owners submit a Step 1: Pre-Application form to confirm their eligibility and the availability of incentive funds prior to purchasing components or starting their installation.
If you have any additional questions, please call 250-390-6560 or email watersmart@rdn.bc.ca