Rainwater Harvesting 101: Making the Most of Our Natural Resources

Any gardener knows that planting it is just half of the task. Now you have to maintain it, which means you need an irrigation system that won’t send your utility bills through the roof. Even if you have planted a drought-tolerant and water-wise green corner, the need for regular watering still exists. Could rainwater harvesting be the answer? Today we talk out this effective way of taking advantage of our natural resources in such a way that you won’t ever have to pay for irrigation again.

What Is Rainwater Harvesting?

Harvesting rainwater is a simple enough process which allows you – the homeowner – to collect and reuse the rainfall run-off. Whether you redirect from a building (such as the roof) or you store it in barrels for subsequent use, harvesting rainwater is not complicated nor expensive. The conventional technique simply involves collecting the water dripping off a roof.

The simplest method of rainwater harvesting involves channeling the water that collects in gutters towards a storage vessel of some kind. However, if you want to cover the water demand of the entire household, you can use a harvest system more elaborate, which collects water into large enough cisterns.

But whatever you choose for your own needs, you should know that rainwater harvesting represents a viable option. It isn’t just something people living in rural Australia use to supply their households and farms with. Many European countries, Germany included, use rainwater harvesting as the norm. Hopefully, the green movement will encourage more Americans to adopt the usage of this eco-friendly, natural resource.

ALSO READ: [7 Eco-Friendly Raised Garden Bed Ideas for Your Green Corner]

Rain Barrels

Buying a commercial rain barrel for your rainwater harvesting system is quite affordable. However, if you want to save money, here are the instructions on how to make a DIY rain barrel. But before you start building, you have to know how much water you may expect. In general, a roof of 1,000 sq ft will produce about 600 gallons of water. And because rain barrels usually hold 55-80 gallons, you should plan to connect more than just one to the roof’s downspouts.

Is Collecting Rainwater Safe?

Some people worry about the safety of using water collected in rain barrels. To determine how healthy it is, we need to look at the type of roof you harvest the run-off from. Rolled roofing and roofs made of porous asphalt shingles are less advantageous than, let’s say, steel. Rainwater harvesting is also undesirable on roof made of wooden shingles covered in chromate copper arsenate.

However, these concerns only apply if you plan to use the rainwater for drinking purposes. If you use the rain barrels only as sources of irrigations for your decorative garden, go right ahead, regardless of the roof type. Rainwater collected from roofs with the aforementioned materials should not be used to water a garden that produces edible plants. Garden beds and decorative flowers, however, should be alright.

Rainwater Harvesting Techniques

There are many different ways you can collect the rooftop run-off, but we’re going to cover just two of them today.

• Rooftop Catchments

This technology lends itself to the most fundamental principle. Simply place a vessel – or more, depending on the size of your building – at the roof’s edges. For a more effective system, collect the water in gutters that drain into the harvesting barrels via pipes. After collection, the water in the storage jar becomes available for domestic use. In this case, the rooftop represents the central catchment area, which means the quality of rainwater relies on the roofing type.

What roofing materials give fairly pure rainwater?

  • Galvanized corrugated iron
  • Aluminum
  • Tiles & slates
  • Asbestos cement sheets

If laid in the right inclination, thatched roofs paired with bamboo gutters will also produce a sufficient amount of run-off at a lower price. However, we don’t recommend installing a rainwater harvesting system on a bamboo roof because of the health hazards involved. At the same time, avoid roofs with coatings such as metallic paint, as they could lend unwanted tastes to the rainwater.

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• Storage Tanks

Installing storage tanks as part of rainwater harvesting systems comes with some precautions. Whether above or underground, these tanks must be fitted with adequate enclosures. This safety measure reduces potential contamination from animals and other environmental elements. A sealed cover will also help prevent unwanted algal growth and it won’t attract mosquitoes.

There are many types of rainwater storage tanks on the market. Mortar jars and cylindrical ferrocement facilities are among them. When deciding upon the storage capacity of the storage tank, make sure you also consider the volume of rainfall in the area, the possibility of dry spells, and the water consumption per capita. Also, keep in mind that winter months may be quite dry, lacking in rain for consecutive weeks.

ALSO READ: [10 Natural Garden Fertilizer Ideas for Green Living]

Rainwater Harvesting Benefits

  • Rainwater is not just reasonably clean but also a free water source.
  • No one can restrict your water supply and you hold the control over how much you use.
  • In addition to being socially acceptable, collecting rainwater also proves environmental responsibility.
  • It conserves water and boosts the self-sufficiency of your household.
  • Because it’s not chlorinated beforehand, rainwater helps your garden and landscape plants thrive.
  • It provides free water and prevents drainage problems.
  • It is inexpensive and doesn’t require substantial maintenance.
  • Rainwater can be the main source of water of the property or an alternative source, in addition to municipal water or wells.
  • The system can easily adapt to an existing building. Because they’re very flexible, the entire rainwater collection procedure allows relocation, expansion, or reconfiguration.
  • Roof run-off provides a wonderful back-up water source in case of emergencies.

Importance of Rainwater Harvesting 

In addition to the benefits we have already presented, rainwater harvesting is also important because it helps homeowners who have already maximized their indoor water management gains. If you dry your laundry on a clothesline, use an Energy Star washing machine, and minimize the water usage in the bathroom, installing a rainwater harvesting system may be the next step. Water is a priceless resource and this creative solution helps you make the most of it.

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Pablo Rodriguez

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