Rainwater Harvesting Options for Homeowners
Water is a precious commodity none of us can live without. Depending on where you live, your water bill can be one of your larger monthly expenses, especially during the summer. With the help of landscapers, you can set up a rainwater harvesting system that will save you money and reduce the demand for water in your community.
Common Rainwater Harvesting Systems
Rainwater harvesting systems can be as simple as using a barrel or as complex as installing underground tanks. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to remember that your landscape design should prevent water from pooling around the foundation of your home. Also keep in mind that plain rainwater is non-potable, so you’ll need to set up a purification system if you plan to drink it.
The most popular rainwater harvesting options for homes include:
One of the simplest ways to harvest rainwater is with a barrel that catches water that runs down your gutter system. Rain barrels hold between 55 and 100 gallons of water and have a spigot near the bottom that allows you to connect a garden hose.
Homeowners who live in areas that receive a lot of rain may benefit from an above-ground cistern. A “dry” cistern is a like a large rain barrel that collects water from a gutter system. A “wet” cistern can be placed further away from your home, as it uses underground collection pipes that are connected to multiple downspouts. The tank inlet, however, must be lower than the lowest gutter on your home.
If you don’t want a large tank on your property, you can install an underground tank made of concrete, metal, fiberglass or propylene. While you’ll need to alter your landscape design to install an underground system, you can customize the size of the tank to meet the needs of your home and garden.
One of the latest innovations in rainwater harvesting, rain pillows are large pouches that hold 30 to 200,000 gallons of water, depending on the model you choose. Because the pillow lies flat, you can place it under a deck, porch or crawlspace. The pillow collects water from your gutters, and a remote-controlled pump sends the harvested rainwater where you need it.
Rainwater Harvesting Benefits
In addition to helping you save money on your water bill, harvesting rainwater helps conserve this natural resource because you create your own supply. Basic harvesting systems are relatively simple to set up, and you can use non-potable harvested rainwater for your landscape, water features, washing your clothes and filling the toilets in your home. Furthermore, when you collect rainwater, you help reduce storm-water runoff that sends pollutants and debris into the local water supply.
Of all the water in the world, only about one percent is safe for human consumption. If you purify the water you harvest, you can drink it and use it as a backup source in emergencies.
Rainwater harvesting is a simple, sustainable way to meet the water needs of your home and decrease your dependence on the municipal water supply. Before altering your landscape design to install a rainwater harvesting system, however, make sure it is legal to harvest rainwater in your community.
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Steve Stewart is president of Landscape East & West, in Portland, Oregon. Landscape East & West is an award-winning, full-service landscaping design and maintenance company specializing in sustainable services, organic lawn care, and rainwater harvesting design options for homeowners. The company was recognized as one of the Top 100 Green Companies to Work for in Oregon by Oregon Business Magazine.