The capture and harvesting of rainwater is such a simple and easy concept that it seems to go without explanation. But some people are still unaware of this practical and beneficial practice and here we will discuss the “hows?” and “whys?” of rainwater collection.
With the environmental green movement gaining traction around the globe, age old applications are being exposed to new audiences. People who never considered some of the world’s common methods are now seeing them for the first time repackaged as “green” technology and a way to be environmentally responsible. Though some societies have been doing it forever, this exposure to new cultures is expanding the undertaking and giving rise to improved technologies.
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Why Rainwater Collection?
Rainwater collection gives you a free water supply that is nearly immediately pure and clean. This can help reduce your city water bill for some of your water needs, eliminate it entirely if you are willing to go the extra mile, or if you are under different circumstances, may be your only source of water to begin with.
Water conservation is a popular reason for the modern rainwater collection movement, but there are other reasons to harvest your local rainfall that go beyond the simplicity of being a good steward of your local environment. Being such a simple technology and easy to build and maintain, the harvesting of rainwater for later use is getting a spotlight.
Through the desire of augmenting your “green” responsibility, or through the necessity of not having a readily available water source, rainwater collection is becoming a more popular practice in growing locations, rural townships and large cities alike.
The Utilization of Rainwater Collection In Various Scenarios
People around the globe are already putting rainwater collection into action in daily use. Many locations don’t have any alternative choice to it. Out in extreme rural situations, small villages, or distant homesteads, there are no city water lines running out into the wild parts of the country where some people choose to live.
The local river or well may be too far or too polluted, and rainwater collection may be the only practical solution for having fresh water at the ready. After all, why travel to the water supply when you can manufacture a water supply to exist where you are? Less expenditure of your energy and an efficient system close by that remains under your control.
Other people may collect rainwater for preparations rather than necessity. Off-grid building for isolated living is a popular movement and the ability to maintain a self-sustained water supply is important for these preppers and survivalists. Another water collection preparation need may be in times of an expected natural event such as building up a water supply before a seasonal drought, or gathering the rainwater in safe containers during a hurricane, flood, or tornado season that may interrupt or disrupt the local water supply.
You can use your collected rainwater where there are broken water main pipes, flooded reservoirs, and other occurrences that could cause concern for those that rely on the city pipe.
The Benefits of Rainwater Harvesting
Supplementing your existing water source is a great use for rainwater collecting. You can sustain your water activities without incurring the additional costs of increased water usage. Bypassing the city water meter for everyday uses where collected rainwater will fit the bill can save you some serious money at the end of the monthly statement from your municipal utilities.
Collected rainwater is exempt from those water restrictions some communities place during the summer months so you can still water the yard and fill the pool while you watch the neighbor’s lawn turn brown. When they ask “what’s your secret?”, you can tell them all about the benefits of rainwater collection.
Though the idea of capturing your rainwater for later use may be a new concept for some of us, much of the world has been collecting rainwater as part of the norm. In cultural centers of Europe, many large cities encourage rainwater collection for the very same reasons we recommend it.
Some of this comes from traditional lifestyles being passed down through the ages and adapting to a new technological world with old world sensibilities, and other reasons may be a more modern incorporation of the environmentally responsible movement where rainwater collection makes good sense.
Geographic Benefits of Rainwater Collection
In other parts of the world, rainwater collection is a fact of life not by choice but by necessity. As you travel through parts of Asia, Africa, remote portions of Europe, both North and South America you will understand how rainwater collection gives people living away from large municipalities a clean source of water. On islands large and small, from Australia to Puerto Rico, the large blue barrels of water for capturing rainwater are commonplace.
You can see that rainwater collection is important to many people whether they face drought conditions or if they have plenty of precipitation.
National rainfall statistics show where rainfall can be expected, and you may see local citizens erecting a rainwater collection system in dry Los Angeles to capture the paltry 15 inches of annual rain, or on the damp coastal regions of Oregon where it rains nearly 120 inches per year. Harvesting the falling rain can be beneficial to anyone no matter what their precipitation situation may be.
Unexpected Pros Associated with Collecting Rain Water
You may ask why someone who gets over 120 inches of rain would bother to capture their rainwater and that is a sensible question. But rainwater collection isn’t always about immediate use, or even the reuse of the water at all in some cases.
Where you have sudden and drastic downpours, a rainwater collection system can reduce the deluge of storm water flowing into your yard and reduce the impact on the drainage system. Sequestering a portion of the rainwater and purging it after the saturated soil dries may be the critical act that keeps you from being flooded when you live in a wet climate.
We have also tapped out all the low hanging fruit when it comes to being more sensible with out water source. Clean water is an immensely important piece of civilized society and we are keenly aware of how close we are to the edge of running beyond our capabilities.
We have improved our water usage through improved efficiencies in the devices we use, but the limitations of efficiency is nearly at the peak and we need to start thinking about alternative sources of our water supply and rainwater collection is a sensible solution.
Potential Drawbacks of Rainwater Harvesting
There are concerns about rainwater collection. We must make sure we are capturing and implementing this free water in a safe and secure manner. Some local districts have strict regulations regarding home rainwater collection. These regulations can be looked upon as a helpful reminder that rules are only ever put into place when we demonstrate the need for organized guidance.
Common sense concerns should be looked after when building your rainwater collection system. Concerns such as the cleanliness of your roof, the algae in your gutters, vigilance against naturally occurring bacteria, and not allowing your collected rainwater to sit stagnant and attract pests such as mosquitoes and other water borne troubles.
What To Do When You Have Your Rainwater Harvested
Once you have collected your rainwater, you can decide what you are going to do with it. Untreated and straight from the barrel you can accomplish just about every single one of your non-potable water needs. Your outdoor water features such as a garden waterfall or fish pond can dip low in the summer months and topping them off with your naturally collected rainwater is ideal.
Bird feeders and bird baths are another excellent example of places that would benefit from your harvest. Another great “refill” use is that large swimming pool you have in the back yard. Instead of having the garden hose top you off where you can almost literally see the water meter running, feed the pool some of your collected rainwater and cut that water bill down.
The fresh clean water is also an excellent way to water your vegetable or flower garden. Pure rainwater gives the garden all it needs without the addition of the tap water chemicals like chlorine that we put into our city pipes to keep the water safe for transportation and human consumption.
Landscaping and lawn watering also benefit from the unaltered water. Still on the outdoors of the house, washing the car or the family dog takes up a lot of water from that city-fed garden hose. Fido won’t know the difference and splashing the soap off the car with some collected rainwater is not only free, it is also less likely to leave those chemical stains and streaks on the finish.
Can I Use Harvested Rainwater Inside My Home?
If you’re going to pipe some of this water indoors, there are still plenty of uses for non-potable water inside the home. The easiest and most available is using collected rainwater for flushing of the toilets. Just open up the lid and pour a bucket of rainwater in the tank; simple and easy, especially if you are living off the grid. If you are knowledgeable enough and willing to do some piping work, you can connect the toilet to the rainwater collection reservoir to make this easier.
Once you begin piping your free water into the house, you’ll see that showers and clothes washers are another easy target of cutting off your reliance on the municipal water supply. Of course, if you are capable to run your rainwater collection through a purifier system of some sort, the limitations are removed and your harvested water becomes potable water free to feed every need in your house.
Rainwater collection can be a rewarding system for you and your water bill, but there may be questions about how you go about in the actual collection and harvesting of the water. It all comes down to the simple idea that rain falls everywhere, you see it fall in the grass and on your driveway, but you don’t consider your roof.
The most you think on that is the cleaning of the gutters once a year. Those gutters are a large portion of the rainwater collection system. Because your roof is not flat, the surface area protecting your home is much larger than the standard calculation of your home’s square footage.
All of that rain pounds down on the roof, flows into the gutters, collects at the downspout and flows out into your yard. You interrupt this process at the downspout point and redirect the rainwater into a collection point.
Different Methods of Rainwater Collection
Barrel At The Downspout
The single “barrel at a downspout” system is something you may have seen in old television westerns and it is deceptively simple. It really is as easy as a barrel at the end of the gutter’s downspout catching the rainwater that would have been spilled out into the yard.
This is a simple technology, easy to build and maintain. You can expand it to include other downspouts, or move your barrel to a more productive downspout as needed. This easy and non-intrusive collection is appealing for those wanting to try rainwater collection without committing to building an infrastructure.
The single barrel is easy, but is limited by factors of how large the barrel is. Once the barrel is full, any additional rain overflows and spills out into the yard. You must also make sure you use or stir the water once the rain has stopped as still water turns stagnant and attracts pests.
Dry Collection System
If you’re looking beyond the “trial and error” of a bucket and ready to make rainwater collecting a part of your regular routine, it is time to invest in a dedicated harvesting system. “Dry Collection” is really just an improvement upon the downspout and bucket system.
As much or as little as you are willing to build, a dry system is the incorporation of your roof gutter system all flowing into one single repository or tank. One of the negative factors in having a dry system is that everything is exposed. The tank is close to the house and all the gutters, downspouts and piping is plain to see.
This makes it easy to maintain, but can give an “industrial” appearance to your home. Not a problem out in rural locations, but could cause problems if you are trying to maintain a certain “look” or dealing with a homeowners association.
Wet Collection System
Alternatively, a “Wet Collection” system can be more subtle but is more cumbersome to install and maintain. Rainwater collection into a wet system is certainly a more dedicated and long-term solution for those looking to incorporate rainwater collecting as part of your home’s water source.
The roof and gutters all feed into a single pipe much like it does on the dry system rig, but then it drops down into an underground feed that runs away from the house and into a large tank or cistern that is often recessed into the yard, or even completely underground.
This makes for a more attractive installation but is more useful in locations where it rains regularly. Wet systems need to have regular rainfall moving the sitting water through the pipes otherwise the stagnant water can become a problem. If you are in a location with sparse or rare rainfall, a dry system would be a better option for you.
Wet, dry, or barrel system, rainwater collection is a great way to take advantage of this free precious resource literally falling from the sky.