By: Megan Nichols
Most people in the United States take water for granted. You turn on your faucet and it’s always there. But in recent years, increased usage, waste, chemical pollutants, and extended droughts have created a heightened awareness of the fact that there may be limits to this precious resource we once perceived as endless.
Rainwater collection is a concept that has been around for a very long time, and as our planet’s potable water sources dwindle, it’s once again gaining popularity. The reasons for harvesting rainwater can be as varied as the systems themselves. From simple rain barrels that catch roof runoff to complex irrigation systems, many societies and individuals utilize rainwater to supplement or even replace existing water supplies.
So what are the benefits of harvesting rainwater?
Here is a list of five things that may encourage you to act if you’ve ever thought about implementing your own collection system.
- It Reduces Groundwater Contamination.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, storm water runoff is a significant source of groundwater pollution. Contaminants like used oil, industrial waste, chemicals, bacteria and pesticides are washed directly into lakes, rivers and other water supplies as rain washes over streets, sidewalks, and other soiled surfaces.
Collecting rainwater reduces the amount of runoff that makes its way into our water supplies by rerouting it into designated storage containers. This in turn decreases the amount of these untreated pollutants, and reduces groundwater contamination.
- It Lowers the Risk of Flooding and Soil Erosion.
Research shows that rain drops can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour and throw soil up to five feet across, and two feet high. One rainstorm can wash away approximately one half inch of dirt, which adds up to a loss of about four billion tons of soil per year.
Capturing rainwater before it reaches the ground reduces flooding in low lying areas and helps control erosion caused by runoff. These results can be significant when utilizing a large cistern or high volume water storage system.
- Maintenance Costs Are Minimal.
After the initial setup, the costs of maintaining a rainwater catchment assembly involve little more than a bit of time and energy. Regular cleaning and periodic inspections to be sure there are no leaks or cracks will help keep your system in good working order.
And unless you plan to use the water for drinking, it’s not necessary to install any kind of purification process.
- It Can Lower Your Water Bills.
Every time you water your lawn or wash your car, your water meter spins, slowly clicking away the dollars, as wasted tap water flows into the ground.
By using collected water, you can decrease your tap water usage and replace it with a completely free resource, saving you money and reducing demand on the municipal water supply. For industrial complexes and farms, this can create significant savings and ease the burden during times when water shortages require limiting consumption from public water sources.
- There Are Many Ways to Use the Water.
Depending on the size and type of container you’re using, your collected water can be used for a number of different things. Here are a few ideas to utilize the rainwater from your barrel or cistern:
- Watering your garden, lawn or field
- Flushing toilets or washing clothes
- Washing your vehicle
- Supplementing the water supply in case of fire
If you plan to use the water for drinking or personal hygiene, you’ll need to implement some sort of purification system. This may also be a good idea if you plan to use it to water leafy plants or vegetables that are directly exposed to the water.
Before you begin your rainwater collection, be sure to check your local laws and regulations. The attitude of jurisdictions can vary greatly — from encouraging the practice though monetary incentives to those who execute an outright ban.
The use of a rainwater harvesting system provides the user with a number of benefits. Now that you’ve seen how it can make a difference for the planet, and even your bank account why not give it a try? In the end, you have very little to lose and whole a lot to gain.