Harvesting rainwater in the United States is not a common practice due to relatively easy access to potable, running water. However, in recent years, intense, long-lasting droughts have become more common across the Western U.S., putting a strain on local water systems.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, if we continue emitting greenhouse gases at an accelerated pace, droughts could become much worse across the U.S. and globally. Furthermore, already drought-prone areas, such as California and the Southwest, could enter persistent megadroughts, having severe consequences on the availability of freshwater for drinking or agriculture.
Harvesting rainwater can help your region mitigate the effects of drought. For example, supplementing the main water supply can help mitigate flooding of low-lying areas and reduces the demand on wells, helping sustain groundwater levels.
If you are thinking about going (partly or entirely) off “the water grid,” there are several precautions you must take to make rainwater safe for consumption, cooking, bathing, or watering the plants intended for consumption.
- Rainwater could get contaminated before reaching your reservoir. This is especially true if you live in a highly air-polluted city where particulate matter and dust can make its way into your water storage.
- Roofing materials, paint, piping, and storage materials can introduce harmful substances such as asbestos, lead, and copper into the water.
- Dirt and germs can also enter your storage system, especially when the rain ceases for a day or two.
Now that you have the water, how do you keep it safe for drinking?
- You can boil the collected water to eliminate certain types of bacteria and germs. However, boiling will kill germs but will not remove chemicals.
- You should ensure proper filtration during and post collection. It may be necessary to chemically treat rainwater in some places.
- You can choose to use the collected water only for washing, cleaning, or watering plants (not intended for consumption).
- You can send a water sample to a lab for testing. Such a test can help determine whether your water contains any harmful germs, chemicals, or toxins.
- Ensure your tank, pipes, filters, and reservoir are cleaned regularly.
Whether you seek a more sustainable future, or you just want to save a few extra bucks on gardening, harvesting might be for you. All you need to get started is a rooftop, driveway or any other surface around your property to set up some gutters or water guides, and you‘re off to start collecting.