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HRAI is working with allied associations including CIPH on a response to new proposed by-law amendments in Vancouver, BC that will affect plumbing and mechanical systems. To help with water conservation and enhance safety precautions for potable water, the city announced some immediate changes on May 31, and some additional proposed changes for January 1, 2019.

Immediate changes include a ban on single pass systems, especially: once-through cooling; requirements for low flow toilets, urinals, showerheads and faucets; strict requirements for irrigation devices; and a clarification on cooling tower discharges (originally announced February 1 directing the blowdown and other drains to an indirectly connected sanitary drainage system).


Proposed future changes include design rules for ‘alternative water systems.’ Specific guidelines were provided for design of rainwater and clear water waste, along with a request for feedback. The notice suggests that more measures are forthcoming for other alternative systems.


An incremental approach is being proposed to improve the design, construction, operations and maintenance standards of targeted building mechanical systems, to reduce the chance of Legionella growth. Proposed amendments include mandatory registration and annual operating permits for rainwater cisterns, building water treatment systems, cooling towers/evaporative condensers and decorative water features.


Perhaps creating the most discussion is the proposed ban on open loop ground water heat pump systems, and the use of methanol for geoexchange applications. HRAI is in discussion with GeoExchange BC to fashion an appropriate response. Jeff Quibell, Chair for GeoExchange BC, and others are meeting with the City of Vancouver this week to discuss open loop systems and the other announcements.

It may be that alternatives to an outright ban will be proposed. Quibell has pointed out that geological conditions in BC sometimes favour economical open loop systems. Although there is a potential for fouling, scaling or negative impact on water discharge, some observers say there are solutions to each of these challenges and that numerous open loop systems have been operating in the Vancouver area for some time.

HRAI will file a formal response to the City of Vancouver before the June 28 deadline and will provide further updates to members as discussions with the City and partner groups evolve.  Members are encouraged to provide input on the proposed changes to Martin Luymes via mluymes@hrai.ca.

For the full text of the City’s most recent announcements here.