Rainwater collection is one of the most basic, obvious things to do when you are thinking about either decreasing your utility bills or being self-sufficient and living off the grid.
Once your rainwater collection system is set up, it is largely free and some would argue, healthier than city-treated water.
And as we know, water is essential. Without it, we die pretty quickly in just 2-3 days. It is very important to secure up a safe source of water for you and your family either to supplement city water, or to supplement your well or to be totally self-sufficient on the gift that falls out of the sky.
There are people living all over the USA who live entirely on rainwater collection alone with no city water and no well. Yes, even some who live in the arid desert.
It is all about some thoughtful planning and setting up reliable systems.
What Is Rainwater Collection?
Rainwater collection or rainwater harvesting is the ability to capture and store rainwater for landscape irrigation, drinking water and non-potable indoor use. It also helps ease storm water overflow in some areas.
Harvested rainwater can be particularly useful when no other source of water supply is available, or if the available supply is inadequate or of poor quality.
Some people who start their homesteading journey will develop rainwater collection systems instead of drilling a well. Others do it to supplement a well and to conserve valuable resources.
It seems crazy to watch valuable water drift away when it rains only to then face water shortages the following month.
Check out this awesome video showing many places where rainwater collection can occur, some insights into costs and set up from someone who has lived entirely on rainwater for many years.
Is Rainwater Collection A New Practice?
Rainwater collection has been around since humans existed! There is archeological evidence that suggests that rainwater collection was widespread as early as 4,500 B.C. in India and the Middle East.
In China, rainwater harvesting was being practiced almost 6,000 years ago.
In Texas, Mescalero Apaches used natural rainwater catchment systems nearly 10,000 years ago to collect rainwater.
Water is a precious world resource. It is so precious that some predict that in the future, wars will be fought over water instead of oil!
Rainwater Collection Makes Sense Economically
It is important to be aware of not wasting water. Most people who live in cities never give a second thought to overfilling the bath, taking too long in the shower or not fixing a leaky tap.
The first step is awareness and to start to look for areas where you can start to reduce wasteful consumption of water.
The next easiest step is to start rainwater collection.
You can start with a bucket or buy a simple tank. Then use that source to water the gardens or give to the animals.
Starting is the first step. Even if you are still connected to city water, you can start to reduce your reliance on municipal water.
Eventually, you can expand into a system of gutters, downpipes, tanks and pumps collecting water from the roof, direct from the sky or from the ground storing it and using some directly or filtering some to use for cooking or drinking water.
Yes there is a set up cost to rainwater collection, of course which I will discuss that later on but imagine never having to pay a water bill again!
It may take a few years but eventually you will come out ahead by far!
The cost will vary depending on how simple or complex you make your system. It will also depend on how much water you wish to collect and whether you simply use it for gardening or decide to make it your main source of water and pump it into your plumbing system.
Rainwater is practically free- there is only the minimal cost is to collect and treat it. There will be a small maintenance cost to care for and check the rainwater collection system from time to time.
Plants thrive on rainwater irrigation. They love it as it is largely chemical free.
The zero hardness of rainwater helps prevent scales build up on appliances, thereby extending their life.
Water also tastes far better due to less chemicals in the water. There are many people who are against compulsory fluoride and chlorine in our city water for health reasons.
Rainwater Collection Makes Sense From A Self-Sufficiency View
As water is essential to life, it is common sense to control your own supply.
What if an unknown person out to do harm manages to poison the city water supply?
No problem to those who control their own water.
What if the city water has a problem in the pumps, the tanks or cuts you off for some reason?
Of course these scenarios are unlikely but it is possible.
Also it is so easy to collect your own, so why wouldn’t you?
Rely on and protect your own trusted source.
Rainwater Collection Is Environmentally Responsible
Looking after the environment is not just about using less plastic bags or recycling glass bottles but why not collect and use the free resource that falls out of the sky instead of watching it run down the drain?
It’s better than signing petitions or going on marches.
Supplementing at least some of your own water reduces overall demand on the municipal systems to clean, treat and pump water out to every home.
It is also a good idea to install low flow shower heads and low flush toilets.
Rainwater collection can reduce stormwater runoff from a property. The elimination of runoff can reduce contamination of surface water with pesticides, sediment, metals, and fertilizers.
It also plays an important part in reducing erosion and flooding.
Reducing demand on the city water and reducing the amount of treatment and pumping required to get to your home reduces a ton of energy. Instead you use the water exactly where it was collected.
Rainwater Collection Requires Some Planning
Yes it is easy to get started. However to actually derive many of the benefits of rainwater collection, it is essential to carefully plan how to collect it, where to store it and where and how you will use it.
It is one thing to simply install a barrel under a down pipe but you will need to develop a system when you start thinking about relying on rainwater collection full time. Eventually you may wish to start pumping it into the house to supply to the dishwasher, washing machine, toilets, showers, cooking and drinking water.
Think about system and strategy. You will need tubing and downpipes systems, storage tanks and pumps. It is possible to do much of it yourself. However there are also plenty of companies and experts who do this regularly who can help advise you.
There will be some people already doing rainwater collection in your local area. Go and see them, check out their system and discuss the pros and cons they have come across.
How Much Will Rainwater Collection Cost?
Start looking around your property and see all the points where you could collect rain water- it is not just from the roof. What about the ground, what about the stables or the outbuildings? Garage? Workshop?
A complete rainwater harvesting system for a typical single-family home will generally cost between $5,000 and $10,000.
The single largest cost in a rainwater collection system will be the storage tank.
The cost will vary depending on size and its construction material. This can range from about 50 cents per gallon for a fiberglass tank to more than $4 per gallon for a welded steel tank.
Other components such as gutters, downspouts, roof washers, pumps, and pressure tanks will add to the cost of the system.
Professionally installed systems can further increase costs. If the intended use of the system is to collect water for drinking, costs for disinfection and filtration must be added to the total cost.
If you just have a simple tank to collect rainwater for the gardens and the animals, the cost will be much less.
The capital outlay for a rainwater harvesting system is typically higher than the cost of connecting to city water (if available).
However if you buy rural land and do not have access to city water, you will need to install a well. You can decide to set up rainwater collection systems instead of drilling a well, or set up both.
Plus factor in that if you do the whole system properly, you will never have to pay a monthly water bill again.
The cost of drilling a well is comparable to rainwater collection depending on the depth of the water table.
Some homesteads will choose to run both systems as a back up and to make sure they do not run dry.
As there are set up costs at the beginning in terms of setting up a reliable water source, septic system and plants, animals and so much more, it worthwhile to seek out owner financed land. This will allow you to secure your ideal parcel of land, start paying it off slowly while saving some capital for the initial set up costs.
As your finances improve with never paying any more utility bills and reducing your grocery bills, you can then easily pay off the land.
Is Water From Rainwater Collection Safe To Drink?
Collected rainwater is generally safe to drink. In fact it is the only source of water for much of the world’s population.
However, it is only as clean as the surface it lands on or the storage tank it sits in.
If you live in a densely populated city, the water will become polluted as it falls through the sky.
If it lands on a dirty roof and passes through dirty pipes, it may pick up microbial and chemical contaminants and particulate matter.
It is always safer to treat and filter water for drinking purposes. Boiling it will kill any pathogens or there are plenty of home filtration systems that you can use to ensure safe drinking water.
Rainwater from a potable rainwater collection system that has been properly filtered and disinfected is some of the best tasting water available.
How Much Rainwater Can I Expect To Collect?
Of course this will depend where you live and also how extensive your systems are.
An area with average rainfall with average annual rainfall of 32 inches might be able to collect 32,000 gallons.
An area with average rainfall with average rainfall 8 inches might be able to collect 9,000 gallons.
As a general rule, you could expect to collect 0.6 gallons of rainwater per square foot of roof area.
Are There Any Limitations To Rainwater Collection?
At the moment, there are no national standards or regulations for rainwater collection systems. It is impossible to monitor and check the regulations of every county in every state. So, as always, check with your local planning and zoning in your county if there are any rules around it. Also make sure to check if any health codes apply in your area.
One limitation that people always ask about it what if it does not rain for months?
Many people who live entirely on rainwater collection have survived droughts with no difficulty, due to good planning and water management.
You will need to inspect the tanks and piping from time to time and there will be maintenance or upgrades to do now and then.
Overall rainwater collection is worth seriously considering and seeing if it can work for you in your area.
Start slow and then gradually add to it.
Controlling your own water supply is a major step forward in your peace of mind and security.
Plus the ability to harness and use efficiently what nature generously bestows upon us is such an important part of the journey and so much more fun than turning on a tap and not having a clue where your water came from.
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