I’d like to tell you the WHY and HOW of Rainwater Harvesting. Why? Because rain water is the only natural resource that has all of the following characteristics:
a) it’s FREE
b) it’s vital for life – yours and all other animals and plants
c) it’s available only on an unscheduled irregular basis
d) it’s unpredictable – once it’s stopped, you can’t get anymore when you want it
e) it’s easy to harvest – collect and store
f) it’s just as valuable stored as when it falls from the sky
g) it’s often undesirable if left unchecked – causes floods and soil erosion, and pollutes streams
h) it’s both challenging and fun to harvest
i) it’s easy to use after harvesting
j) and harvesting it saves you money…and helps the environment.
My goal is to help you make an informed decision about getting into the practice of harvesting and utilizing rain water! While conserving water is a good practice, you probably have more than enough water falling on your roof to provide most of your outdoor watering needs.
Are you new to rain water harvesting? I’ll tell you all about the 3 steps required to have a real rain water harvesting system, including:
1) Best ways to Collect the rain water
2) Various ways to Store the rain water
3) Easy methods to Use the rain water
I’ll tell you about the benefits of collecting rainwater (compared to just conversing water), the different types of storage devices, how to construct and install your own rainwater collection system (including accessories like downspout diverters, water storage devices, hose connections, drip irrigation systems, electric water pumps, etc.), and how to maintain it. And, we’ll even help you determine if a rainwater collection system is right for you.
There are two major uses for harvesting rainwater: internal use and external use. I’m not particularly interested in internal use, because the cost/benefit relationship makes it impractical. It’s way too expensive to route harvested rainwater into the house just to flush toilets. And most rainwater harvesting systems collect impurities from your roof that would be harmful if consumed by humans. So the collected water can’t be used for drinking, cooking, or bathing.
But collecting rainwater for outdoor use is our focus. Besides the environmental benefits of preventing (or lessening) the damages from floods, run-off and pollution, you can use stored rainwater to water your shrubs, trees, and lawn – even if your community has a water ban during drought conditions. Even during droughts, rain water falls in considerable amounts. During the past few years of drought in the southeast, we still had about 75% of normal rainfall. We were just using more rain than was falling, so we had to cut back or even limit or stop our outdoor use. And the problem will only get worse as the population increases.
However, the good news is that, we have the ideal situation for harvesting rainwater - particularly in the Southeast US. We usually have lots of rain that falls – even in seasonal droughts, but it often comes in deluges, not in soft steady rains. So we have more than enough water – but most of it goes down the storm drains.
When the weather is dry, you can water your plants and garden with your recycled rain water – for free.
And rain water is great for plants, because it's free of chlorine and other chemicals that are included in municipal water supplies. Harvested rain water will help you to have the healthiest plants possible - from roses to home-grown tomatoes.
Rainwater harvesting systems are especially useful during droughts and periods of municipal outdoor watering bans or actual water rationing or restrictions. It only takes a small amount of rain - usually 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch on an average sized roof - to fill up a 55 gallon rainwater collection device. Those 55 gallons will go a long way in saving a newly-planted tree or small garden. Need more water? Hook up a second or third rainwater collection device.
You can use a wide variety of water storage containers: wood, plastic or ceramic rain barrels, rubberized bladder tanks, or large underground or above-ground plastic water storage tanks.
Watering restrictions have become common in many areas of the Untied States (most famously in Atlanta) during the summer months. This situation will become increasingly common, because the primary source for fresh water (i.e. precipitation) is not getting more abundant, but the demand for fresh water is increasing every day. But you don’t have to let your lawn, garden, and plants dry up. With stored rain water, you can do all the outdoor watering you want.
Rainwater Harvesting Systems are also great for the environment, because they reduce pollution from water run-off. When it rains on our roofs, the water travels down our gutters and runs off our driveways or lawns before it's absorbed into the ground. And often our downspouts drain directly into the street. What a waste! In these situations the water carries fertilizers from our lawns and oils from our driveways and streets into our waterways causing water pollution. And this problem is getting worse with urban sprawl. By capturing rain water and releasing it slowly, the water is returned to the environment at the rate that nature intended.
Another added benefit to having a rainwater harvesting system is that you’ll have an additional outdoor faucet - maybe in an area that you didn’t have before. That can be a big convenience. And rainwater harvesting systems can also help relieve poor drainage areas. You can catch the rainwater from your gutter and direct it to other areas of your yard. Or, just release what your water later, at a slower rate.
Rainwater harvesting systems also reduce water bills, although saving money is not usually the number one reason people use them. Still, what a nice added bonus - free water!
Using a rainwater harvesting system is also fun – especially if you like to garden or conserve. To distribute your harvested rain water to your lawn, garden, or plants, you can use watering pails, rainwater electric pumps, garden hoses, soaker hoses or even homemade PVC pipe drip-systems.