Rain Water Harvesting
Sandy Springs has introduced a voluntary program designed to save water when building both homes and businesses.
The water conservation incentive program will grant fee rebates to developers, based on the measures they take to use as little water as possible.
If they go far enough to save and reuse water — such as creating rain gardens to filter groundwater and collect and filter water for irrigation — developers could end up paying nothing in building fees for their projects in the northern Fulton County city.
“This will go a long way to address this region’s water shortages and make us a leader in conservation,” Mayor Eva Galambos said.
The policy appears to be unique for the region, putting incentives in place of requirements for development. It drew support from such diverse interests as the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association and the Council for Quality Growth.
“We approve of this as a market-based solution,” said Joe Padilla of the home builders association.
The basic conservation measures are grouped in levels called turtles. The first, called a Bronze Turtle, requires new construction to include low-flow toilets and showers and landscaping using drought-resistant plants and techniques. There is no rebate for this level.
The next level, a Silver Turtle, requires those basics plus three stricter conservation measures such as keeping large areas of vegetation intact. In return, the city will give back 30 percent of building permit fees on residential construction or administrative fees on commercial projects.
The Gold Turtle level will give back half of the fees for developers who meet the bronze and silver requirements and add yet another three strict measures, such as an interior irrigation system.
Developers who reach the Platinum Turtle level must complete every measure available, including designing the grading to capture and slow water runoff and eliminate the use of potable water — water fit for human and animal consumption — in landscaping. Those builders will get back their entire building fee.
How much the city will lose on fees depends on each developer and the level they achieve. Although commercial building fees vary greatly from project to project, the basic fee for single-family homes is $1,390. That means the city could lose as little as $417 for the silver level, $695 for the gold or all of it for those who reach platinum status.
Supporters argue the incentives will be worth the loss of fees, because they say they will cut at least 10 percent of the water used.“These incentives are for both developers and homeowners,” said Jason O’Rouke, a policy analyst with the Council for Quality Growth. “They will absolutely make a difference in water usage for everyone.