Spring and summer are rapidly approaching and we all know what that means – lush green lawns, sweet-smelling flowering planters, and overflowing backyard gardens. Along with all these warm weather favorites come dramatically increased water bills and usage, as all that green requires a constant flow of our most precious resource to thrive. And while most of us have access to the city water we need for drinking, flushing, and gardening, there is one easy way you can cut your water bill down quite a bit while potentially saving thousands of gallons of fresh water this season: by catching the water you need from the sky, free of charge.
Depending on where you live you may or may not be able to catch enough water to provide for all your watering needs, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. After all, with just small upfront investment and a small amount of labor you could be saving yourself money and water year after year! Who wouldn’t like saving money and the environment with such a simple tip? Certainly not you! So with that in mind, let’s talk about collecting rainwater and how to install various types of water catchment devices at your home.
Did you know that up until very recently harvesting rainwater was illegal in a few states, including Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah? Yep – it was illegal to put buckets out on your yard and prevent the water from landing (and thus flowing) naturally in the earth. The reasons as to why vary from state to state, but generally it was because of water-rights issues still in play from long ago. Thankfully residents have started standing up for their right to install water collection devices at their homes, and the laws have softened up, especially for small-scale systems. Most everyone now can collect rainfall for their own use around their property.
A typical rainy day may not seem to bring too much rain, but just 1 inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square foot roof with a harvesting system in place can collect 600 gallons of water. That’s 600 free gallons of precious water! To figure out how much water you can collect off your roof from just a single inch of rain, multiply the square footage of your roof x 0.6 and voila – that’s how many gallons you can save for future use. But just where will you store all that water?
Water Catchment Options
Rain Barrels – Rain barrels are generally available at most home supply stores or many stores online, and are the cheapest way to store and save the water you collect. From $50 and up (depending on how fancy they are), rain barrels are made of plastic or wood and have an opening at the top for your gutter downspouts to be aimed at or attached to and they usually have a spigot at the bottom which you can attach a hose to. Install a few of these at the bottom of each of your gutters over a weekend and the next rainy day could provide hundreds of gallons of free water.
Cisterns – Cisterns are much bigger than rain barrels and can be stored above ground or buried in the ground. Designed to hold thousands of gallons of water, cisterns are popular with people choosing to live off-grid or in desert locations where it rarely rains. One major rain storm in the desert may have to provide all the water a person like that may need for 6 months, so they need to be sure to collect as much of it as possible. For the typical homeowner, a small cistern could be buried in the backyard and collect enough rainwater for all gardening and lawn care needs. Cisterns are usually made from plastic, fiberglass, concrete or metal.
No matter how you choose to store your harvested water, you need to get it off the roof and into the containers. This can be done via normal household gutters and downspouts, elaborate, professionally-installed hoses, or attractive metal “rain chains”, which gently guide water off the house and roof and into storage. Most people just use the existing gutters on their home, as I did when I lived in New Mexico.
None of the equipment for collecting rainwater has to be too expensive and a system can be put in place in just a few hours. You could easily save hundreds of dollars each year on your water bill by installing a small rainwater catchment system at your home all while doing your part to protect Earth. So what are you waiting for? Summer is right around the corner!
So, do you have a rain water collection system? What do you use it for?
PS: Don’t forget to check out the new “Share Your Voice” section on the PET homepage.