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Rainwater Harvesting Think Tank

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May 25, 2012

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Water shortages; we all know they’re coming, but we’re doing very little to stave off the inevitable. Water is the new oil. Climate change, pollution and population explosions have rendered the supply of fresh water the most precious commodity on earth. Water shortages not only affect health and hygiene, they also affect food production and energy generation. You can help to reduce your own consumption and that of your business by collecting and using rainwater.

The facts

Here are some water facts for you:

If you’re thinking that water shortages don’t apply to you because there’s plenty of water where you live, you’re wrong. Just take a peek at your utilities bill and you will notice the sharp increase in pricing over the last decade. Increases in water prices mean you’re paying more for food, energy and for the products of every industry that uses water in its manufacturing process.

Rainwater collection

Although rainwater collection is not a mainstream practice in North America, large parts of Europe and Asia incorporate it into building design as a matter of course. Rainwater collected from the roofs of homes and businesses can make an important contribution to fresh water reserves. Rain runoff from your roof can be collected and stored in rain barrels or other storage units. This water may not be suitable for consumption as your roof will contain impurities, bacteria and chemicals. However, it can be put to use in toilets and showers, for laundry and dishes, when washing cars and watering the garden; activities which account for most of the water consumption around the house. Using rainwater can save about 70% of your household consumption. This means that costs from installing and plumbing a rainwater collection system are recovered in no time at all.

Water harvesting; sometimes it’s illegal!

In the US, some states (like New Mexico) mandate water catchment systems as part of new building construction while in others, (like Colorado) rain harvesting is against the law. In some areas, rainwater is the property of the state. One might expect that local governments tabled these laws to protect the integrity of the water aquifers that supply surrounding towns and cities. However, a 2007 study of rainfall in Douglas County discovered that 97% of it evaporated or was absorbed by plants which meant it never made it to a river or underground aquifer. If you plan on installing a rain harvesting system, ensure that you meet with local legislative demands.

Benefits of rainwater harvesting

There is a plethora of advantages for your home and the environment that go beyond saving money on your utility bills.

  • Rainwater can supplement municipal water, thereby reducing processing costs for local infrastructure.
  • Reduced water demands in urban areas save local municipalities money.
  • When rainwater is harvested, it puts less pressure on storm drains during rainy seasons.
  • Rainwater harvesting systems are not expensive and require very little maintenance.
  • Having an independent source of water is helpful during droughts.
  • Harvested rainwater provides a source of relatively clean water when natural disasters strike.

Harvesting rainwater is a great choice for your pocket and for the environment. You can make your collection system as elaborate as you like or as simple as a bucket under your downspout. Whatever your system of choice, make sure that you join the movement to harvest more rainwater.

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