Why Everyone Should Care About Rainwater Harvesting
Categories: Rainwater Harvesting
(and How to Do It)
Rain, rain, go away? Don’t be so quick to reject the water falling from the sky. Turns out harvesting rainwater is an ancient practice with loads of modern-day benefits. Here’s the lowdown on the practice, and how to put the rain that falls on your home to good use.
What Is Rainwater Harvesting?
Quite simply, rainwater harvesting is the practice of collecting and storing rainwater (typically from the roof of a home or building) for later use. Rainwater harvesting systems range from the very simple—a rain barrel placed under the downspout of a building’s gutters—to more complex options that plug into a building’s plumbing system. The practice is popular across a wide range of demographics, from rural gardeners to people living in urban centers.
Even though rainwater harvesting has been practiced for thousands of years, it’s only beginning to inspire the formation of an organized industry. In recent decades the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, which promotes sustainable rainwater practices as a means of solving water and energy challenges throughout the world, has emerged as an industry leader. Despite its influence, there are currently no national standards regulating the collection and use of rainwater, although many states and municipalities have instated laws around its use.
The Benefits of Rainwater Harvesting
For those whose communities allow them to collect rainwater, the practice offers a number of environmental and economic benefits. For starters, harvesting rainwater helps control storm-water runoff, which reduces the risk of erosion in gardens and around downspouts, minimizes the impact on local storm-water infrastructure and combined sewer systems, and helps reduce the threat offlooding.
Not only does rainwater harvesting help environmental and human infrastructure cope with large amounts of rain (and save municipalities money), but it also puts that water to good use. Stored rainwater can be used for both outdoor and indoor uses, including landscape irrigation, watering plants or gardens, toilet flushing, laundry, washing cars or patio furniture, and even bathing or drinking (although using rainwater for drinking requires treatment prior to use).
Rainwater’s many uses can help people save money on utility bills—especially because the water is practically free (minus the cost of the collection system). The roof of a 1,000-square-foot house can collect around 600 gallons per one inch of rain—that’s enough free water to fill more than 15 bathtubs! Additionally, some communities offer rebates or reduced fees to homeowners who practice rainwater harvesting.
Another great benefit of rainwater harvesting is it decentralizes the water supply. That means instead of being completely dependent on municipal sources, consumers who choose to harvest rainwater have more control over how their water is sourced, treated, and put to use. In fact, some people are motivated to install rainwater-harvesting systems for the sole purpose of having a private, protectedsource of water in case of emergency or if the municipal water supply becomes contaminated.