Rainwater barrels are both an old and modern practice. Collecting the runoff from your home’s drainpipe is a simple way to maximize natural resources and go green without straining your region’s water supply. Collecting rainwater is easy and can benefit both wet and arid climates.
What is rainwater used for?
It works best for watering your plants, shrubs and garden. Generally, rainwater must be treated to be drinkable. Rainwater is also free of additives like chlorine and fluoride, making it better for plants.
What’s the environmental benefit?
Harvesting rainwater obviously reduces the demands on your local water supply. But it also keeps runoff water from entering the storm drain system, reducing erosion and the amount of pesticides that wash into water systems. Harvesting can also keep your garden alive during summer months if your area undergoes water restrictions.
Is water from my roof safe?
Most roofs are fine to collect water from, but those made of treated shakes, copper and asphalt may add contaminants.
What are the downsides of collecting rainwater?
Two words: mosquitoes and algae. Avoid mosquitoes by fitting your barrel with a screen, or using Mosquito Dunks tablets. Prevent algae by using an opaque container and keeping it out of direct sunlight.
Can harvesting rainwater save money?
Yes, but do your math carefully. Simple rain barrels cost between $80 and $130 or more, and they hold about 50 gallons of water. You can buy multiple barrels to save more water, or make your own out of a clean plastic barrel to save money.
How much water will I collect?
The Saving Water Partnership at Washington State –– an area that’s no stranger to rainwater –– offers a calculation to find out how much rainwater you can expect to collect. First, multiply your home’s length by its width (in feet) to estimate its ‘footprint.’ Then, estimate the portion of your roof that drains into a single downspout. Researchers say that one inch of rain falling on a single square foot of surface yields about 0.6 gallons of water. So, the equation is:
Inches of rain X 0.6 X home’s footprint = Rainwater caught (in gallons)
While harvesting systems can be elaborate, basic ones are simple to construct or purchase. Even the simplest rain barrel should have the following:
- A storage barrel or container (preferably plastic).
- A device or system for diverting water from your downspout into the container.
- A device to direct overflow water into nearby soil, away from the house.
- A valve or spigot for attaching a hose.
- Rot-resistant construction and screens or filters to keep debris out of the water.
Did you know?
Rainwater harvesting dates back to the 9th and 10th century in Asian civilizations, where rain dripping off roofs would be captured in small jars or pots.