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Rainwater Harvesting for the LA Basin

H2O Storage Container Requirements

Require­ments For The Instal­la­tion and Pipeline Con­struc­tion For Safe Reuse Of Rain-Fall/Run-Off, Non-Potable Cis­tern Water and Urban Run-Off Water

When installing Rain bar­rels and cis­terns there are a few require­ments that need to be fol­lowed. These require­ments are listed below. (From County of Los Ange­les Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health and Envi­ron­men­tal Health.)Cross Con­nec­tion & Water Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Pro­gram • 5050 Com­merce Drive, Bald­win Park, CA91706 • Tel (626) 430‑5290 FAX (626) 813‑3025

Rain bar­rels and cis­terns are meth­ods of stor­ing rain­fall and runoff on-site for later land­scape irri­ga­tional uses. In semi­arid Los Ange­les County, rain­fall and runoff are resources and the reuse of the cap­tured rain­fall can reduce the amount of imported drink­ing water. For this rea­son and the rea­sons listed below there should be no rea­son­able imped­i­ment to stor­ing and reusing rain­fall and runoff, pro­vided such can be done safely and with pub­lic health in mind. As a result of an increased inter­est and ini­tia­tive to use untreated rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water and urban run-off water for onsite land­scape irri­ga­tion sup­ply this Depart­ment has found it nec­es­sary to develop the fol­low­ing require­ments for water pipeline con­struc­tion, instal­la­tion and safe reuse of these types on “non-potable” water sup­plies. The pur­pose of these require­ments is to pro­vide the nec­es­sary pro­ce­dures to acquire approval for the instal­la­tion of pipeline which will con­vey untreated rain-fall, non­potable cis­tern water and/or urban run-off water for irri­ga­tion use. More­over, it is intended to set require­ments for the pro­tec­tion of the potable domes­tic water sup­ply as well as pub­lic health.


Presently within the County of Los Ange­les there are no reg­u­la­tory def­i­n­i­tions of rain-fall or non-potable cis­tern water or urban run-off that would cat­e­go­rize them as either recy­cled water or any other reg­u­lated water source. Presently these types of non-potable water sources are cat­e­go­rized within the scope of alter­na­tive non-potable water. There­fore rain-fall/run-off, non-potable cis­tern and urban run-off water, for the pur­poses of these require­ments shall be rec­og­nized as an alter­na­tive non-potable water source and any reg­u­la­tion per­tain­ing to the pro­tec­tion of the domes­tic water sup­ply in rela­tion to an alter­na­tive non­potable water source shall apply.

The fol­low­ing require­ments are intended to focus on projects which inte­grate below grade pipelines, pumps and large capac­ity hold­ing tanks and not nec­es­sar­ily for rain bar­rels that col­lect rain-fall/run-off water from res­i­den­tial roofs and grav­ity fed to hand held hoses. For the res­i­den­tial types of projects which do not incor­po­rate below grade plumb­ing, pumps and large capac­ity tanks, please con­tact your local City Build­ing& Safety Department.

Treat­ment sys­tems for rain, gray and urban run-off water for reuse in toi­let flush­ing have been pro­posed but are not cov­ered within these require­ments. Con­tact Los Ange­les County Bureau of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion at (626) 430‑5270 for infor­ma­tion regard­ing treat­ment strate­gies and reuse.

These require­ments apply to onsite col­lec­tion and reuse for same site only. Dis­tri­b­u­tion of col­lected rainfall/non-potable cis­tern and urban run-off to other prop­er­ties shall be eval­u­ated by State Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health in con­junc­tion with State Regional Water Con­trol Board.


Rain-fall/run-off refers to water col­lected within a rain­wa­ter catch­ment sys­tem used to col­lect rain water run-off from a rain event, usu­ally, but not always, from rooftops. Depend­ing on the mate­ri­als used and the meth­ods of col­lec­tion the resul­tant stor­age ves­sel or cis­tern may be either potable or non-potable.

Cis­tern a large recep­ta­cle for stor­ing water; esp., a tank, usu­ally under­ground, in which rain water is col­lected for use.

Non-potable Cis­tern refers to a rain­wa­ter catch­ment sys­tem which cap­tures non-potable water run-off as in a BMP for the pur­poses of reusing the water in an irri­ga­tion sys­tem. Non-potable cis­terns are dis­tinct from Potable Cis­terns that are installed and man­aged as potable water reservoirs/storage.

Urban run-off
 – refers to non-potable water from a dry weather run-off catch­ment sys­tem used for the col­lec­tion of water run-off which does not nec­es­sar­ily come from a rain event.

Potable Water refers to water which is fit for con­sump­tion by humans and other ani­mals. The U.S. Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) iden­ti­fies con­t­a­m­i­nants that may adversely affect pub­lic health that occur in drink­ing water with a fre­quency and at lev­els that pose a threat to pub­lic health. The EPA estab­lishes max­i­mum con­t­a­m­i­nant lev­els (MCLs) (both bio­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal) per­mis­si­ble in drink­ing water. These MCLs become enforce­able stan­dards that deter­mine the pota­bil­ity of water.

Non-Potable Water refers to water which is not intended for human con­sump­tion. Two dis­tinct vari­a­tions are inclu­sive in this def­i­n­i­tion: Non-potable water from a potable source, via a ded­i­cated back­flow pre­ven­tion device vs. untreated non-potable water from col­lec­tion meth­ods that never orig­i­nated from a potable source. The term non-potable water is all inclu­sive with respect to the var­i­ous non-potable water sup­plies men­tioned within these requirements.

Rain-fall/ Non-potable Cis­tern Water refers to the har­vested rainwater/stormwater col­lected within a cis­tern from a rain event and/or urban run-off. Cis­terns in Los Ange­les County serve as a sec­ondary source for appli­ca­tions that do not require potable water, such as land­scape irri­ga­tion, which can dra­mat­i­cally lower the potable water demand and reduc­ing off-site rain-fall runoff.

Gray water refers to untreated waste water which has not come into con­tact with toi­let waste. Gray water includes used water from bath­tubs, show­ers, bath­room wash basins, clothes wash­ing machines and laun­dry. It does not include waste water from kitchen sinks, photo lab sinks, dish­wash­ers or laun­dry water from soiled diapers.

Recy­cled water (aka, reclaimed water) refers to tertiary-treated water pro­duced from the three-stage treat­ment of munic­i­pal waste­water. Recy­cled water is allow­able for full-body human con­tact but not for direct human con­sump­tion. Pur­ple pipe is the des­ig­nated pipeline mate­r­ial specif­i­cally allowed to con­vey ter­tiary treated recy­cled water. Other non-potable water sources as men­tioned in these require­ments shallnot use pur­ple pipe. Untreated stored rain-fall/runoff should not be con­fused with ter­tiary treated waste­water, defined in Title 22 of the Cal­i­for­nia Code of Regulations.


  1. Plans and spec­i­fi­ca­tions for the rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water cap­ture, dis­tri­b­u­tion, use and oper­a­tional prac­tices shall be sub­mit­ted for review and approval to the County of Los Ange­les Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health prior to imple­men­ta­tion. Build­ing & Safety Depart­ments hav­ing juris­dic­tion shall also be noti­fied for approval.
  2. County of Los Ange­les will check for safe resuse prac­tices, cor­rect label­ing of pipelines and appro­pri­ate sep­a­ra­tion from potable water sup­plies and san­i­tary sewer lines.
  3. Prior to com­menc­ing new or retro­fit con­struc­tion the Con­trac­tor or installer shall con­tact the Los Ange­les County Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health, Cross Con­nec­tion and Water Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Pro­gram, to arrange for inspec­tion of all on-site rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water and potable water work. No exca­va­tion or open trench may be back­filled with­out first secur­ing Health Depart­ment approval. If any pip­ing, rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water or potable, is installed prior to plan check approval and/or inspec­tion, all or any por­tion of the sys­tem may be required to be exposed and cor­rected as necessary.


In order to min­i­mize con­struc­tion acci­dents result­ing in pipeline breaks, infil­tra­tion of rain-fall/nonpotable cis­tern water from leak­ing water lines into domes­tic water lines, or acci­den­tal cross-connections between rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water and potable water sys­tems, max­i­mum attain­able sep­a­ra­tion of rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water lines and potable water lines shall be practiced.

Par­al­lel con­struc­tion: there shall be at least a four foot (4’) sep­a­ra­tion for all pres­sure mains, all dis­tances mea­sured from pipeline out­side diam­e­ter. In restricted areas where dis­tances can not be main­tained at four feet, the use of sleeved pipe is required.

Cross-Over con­struc­tion: Per­pen­dic­u­lar pipeline instal­la­tion is set at a one foot (1’) sep­a­ra­tion, with potable above rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water; full pipe length cen­tered over cross­ing. Alter­na­tive Cross-Over con­struc­tion (dis­tance not main­tained): Either the rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water may be sleeved with the same class pip­ing (usu­ally sched­ule 40 pvc) for one full pipe length (min­i­mum four feet) cen­tered over the cross-over.

The rain-fall/cistern water sys­tem shall be con­structed in con­for­mance with potable water sys­tem con­struc­tion stan­dards and in accor­dance with all other gov­ern­ing codes, rules and reg­u­la­tions. Unused or aban­doned potable water lines are to be sev­ered as close to water mains as prac­ti­cal, capped and a four-foot sec­tion of aban­doned line removed and the cap cemented under Health Depart­ment supervision.

Exist­ing On-site pip­ing – To the extent fea­si­ble, max­i­mum sep­a­ra­tion of rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water and potable water lines shall be prac­ticed upon sys­tem addi­tion or modification.


All rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water main lines, valve boxes and appur­te­nances shall be iden­ti­fied to clearly dis­tin­guish between rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water and potable water sys­tems. Spe­cific word­ing on iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tape shall be required. Eval­u­a­tion shall be on a case-by-case basis, but with the under­stand­ing that the min­i­mum require­ment for pipeline iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is per the Uni­form Plumb­ing Code. The fol­low­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tape will be accom­pa­nied with respec­tive tags of the same col­ors and word­ing for all valve boxes, vaults, con­trol valves, quick cou­plers, out­lets and related appur­te­nances, if applicable.

  1. POTABLE WATER – All potable water lines shall be installed in accor­dance with the Uni­form Plumb­ing Code and all other gov­ern­ing codes, rules and reg­u­la­tions. Buried potable water lines shall be iden­ti­fied by con­tin­u­ous tape with let­ter­ing on three inch (3’’) min­i­mum width green or blue tape with one inch black let­ter­ing bear­ing the con­tin­u­ous word­ing “Potable Water”. Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tape shall be per­ma­nently affixed to the pipeline at five foot inter­vals atop all hor­i­zon­tal pip­ing, lat­er­als and mains. Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tape shall extend to all valve boxes and/or vaults, exposed pip­ing and hydrants. Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tape is not nec­es­sary for extruded col­ored PVC with con­tin­u­ous word­ing “Potable Water” printed in con­trast­ing let­ter­ing on oppo­site sides of the pipe.
  2. RAIN-FALL/NON-POTABLE CISTERN WATER – All rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water lines (pressure/non-pressure) shall be iden­ti­fied by con­tin­u­ous let­ter­ing on three inch (3’’) min­i­mum width YELLOW tape with one inch black let­ter­ing bear­ing the con­tin­u­ous word­ing “Cau­tion – Non-potable Cis­tern Water, Sub­sur­face Irri­ga­tion Only” per­ma­nently affixed at five foot inter­vals atop all hor­i­zon­tal pip­ing, lat­er­als and mains. Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tape shall extend to all valve boxes and/or vaults and exposed piping.
  3. NON-POTABLE WATER – All non-potable irrigation/industrial water lines (pressure/nonpressure) shall be iden­ti­fied by con­tin­u­ous let­ter­ing on three inch (3’’) min­i­mum width yel­low tape with one inch black let­ter­ing bear­ing the con­tin­u­ous word­ing “Non-Potable Water” per­ma­nently affixed at five foot inter­vals atop all pip­ing. Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tape shall extend to all valve boxes and/or vaults, exposed pip­ing, hydrants and quick cou­plers. Non-potable water is water sup­plied from the potable water sys­tem through an appro­pri­ate back­flow pre­ven­tion device serv­ing a non-potable use.
  4. Tags, respec­tive of each water sup­ply, shall be iden­ti­fied with the appro­pri­ate word­ing on both sides with the inclu­sion of a uni­ver­sal symbol.


  1. Irri­ga­tion sys­tems uti­liz­ing untreated rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water shall only be my means of sub­sur­face irri­ga­tion. Mist­ing or spray­ing into the air is pro­hib­ited. Irri­ga­tion prac­tices shall be con­trolled to pre­vent sur­face runoff from lands owned or con­trolled by the user. For above grade spray irri­ga­tion the level of treat­ment would neces­si­tate stan­dards that would insure the removal of pathogens and those stan­dards are beyond the scope of the require­ments pro­vide
    within this doc­u­ment. Please con­tact Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health, Bureau of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion for more infor­ma­tion, (626) 430‑5270.
  2. Any pipeline other than potable water that is installed within a struc­ture shall con­form to all build­ing code stan­dards and shall be “bar­ber shop” wrapped with the respec­tive con­tin­u­ous iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tape and with­out any inter­con­nec­tions with the potable water system.
  3. Gray water sys­tems, rain-fall/runoff non-potable cis­tern sys­tems and recy­cled water sys­tems are not to be inter­con­nected. Each shall be stand alone sys­tems com­pletely sep­a­rate from one another.
  4. Cisterns/storage ves­sels shall be ade­quately cov­ered to pre­vent mos­quito breeding.
  5. Con­tact with untreated rainfall/non-potable cis­tern should be kept to a minimum.
  6. Dete­ri­o­rated or inad­e­quately pro­tected water well cas­ings shall be pro­tected against con­t­a­m­i­na­tion by untreated rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water by cor­rect­ing these phys­i­cal defi­cien­cies. Sur­face infil­tra­tion of untreated rainfall/runoff is allowed pro­vided it occurs at least
  7. feet from an unpro­tected foun­da­tion struc­ture, there is a least 10 feet of clear­ance to the sea­sonal high ground water table, and it occurs at least 100 feet from a water sup­ply well.
  8. An on-site water super­vi­sor hav­ing the respon­si­bil­ity for the pro­tec­tion of the potable water sys­tem from cross-connections, shall be appointed as pro­vided for under Title 17, Sec­tion 7586, Cal­i­for­nia Code of Reg­u­la­tions. The water super­vi­sor shall be respon­si­ble for instal­la­tion, oper­a­tion, and main­te­nance of the rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water and potable water sys­tems, pre­ven­tion of poten­tial haz­ards, imple­ment­ing these require­ments and coor­di­na­tion with the
    cross-connection con­trol pro­gram of the water pur­veyor and this Depart­ment. Autho­riza­tions for pip­ing changes or addi­tions to either the potable or recy­cled waste­water sys­tems shall be sub­ject to review and approval by the water super­vi­sor. The name and posi­tion of this indi­vid­ual shall be reported to the water pur­veyor and the County of Los Ange­les Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health.
  9. As-built plans shall be pre­pared and updated as nec­es­sary by the user show­ing the loca­tion of
    rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water and potable water sys­tem piping.
  10. To pre­vent sec­ondary expo­sure to rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water, hose bibbs and quick cou­plers shall not be per­mit­ted in order to pre­vent both the unau­tho­rized use of said water sup­ply and sec­ondary expo­sure of untreated non-potable water sup­ply. Quick-couplers are presently not allowed on non-potable cis­tern systems.
  11. Gray water and rain-fall/non-potable cis­terns are to be main­tained as sep­a­rate sys­tems due to gray water sys­tems direct con­nec­tion to the sewage sys­tem. Rain-fall/non-potable cis­terns are not to be directly con­nec­tion to a sewage sys­tem. For gray water instal­la­tion require­ments refer to Cal­i­for­nia Plumb­ing Code 2007, Chap­ter 16/Appendix G (DWR).
  12. A non-potable water backup water sup­ply line from a potable source via an approved back­flow pre­ven­tion device can be directly con­nected to the rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern dis­charge line to the irri­ga­tion sys­tem. Gray water sys­tems can­not be directly con­nected to a potable sup­ply with or with­out a back­flow pre­ven­tion device, air gaps only (2007 Cal PC, sec­tion 603.3.5).
  13. A pres­sure test/cross-connection test shall be per­formed to con­firm the phys­i­cal sep­a­ra­tion of the storm water/cistern water and potable water sys­tems. Said test­ing shall be per­formed in con­junc­tion with the Water Pur­veyor and this Depart­ment and con­ducted before the intro­duc­tion of rain-fall/non-potable cis­tern water.
  14. Con­tact the fol­low­ing agen­cies prior to construction:
  15. Los Ange­les County Cross-Connection & Water Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Pro­gram to ini­ti­ate the plan pro­posal, con­di­tional approval, con­struc­tion inspec­tions (Health & Safety Codes) and final.
  16. The City or County Build­ing & Safety Depart­ment for con­struc­tion per­mits and inspec­tions (Build­ing Codes).
  17. The local water pur­veyor regard­ing required back­flow pro­tec­tion at the potable/city water ser­vice connection(s).
  18. The mos­quito abate­ment dis­trict for con­di­tions of approval and to reg­is­ter the cis­tern tank.
  19. The City or County Pub­lic Works depart­ment for cis­tern tank over­flow dis­charge requirements.


Cal­i­for­nia Health & Safety Code
Cal­i­for­nia Code of Reg­u­la­tions, Title 22.
Los Ange­les County Code
2007 Cal­i­for­nia Plumb­ing Code.

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