Like many people who live in the desert, you may be concerned about water use. A rainwater collecting system can provide fresh water for your plants – or with proper purification – water for cooking. Following the five tips below provides a great foundation for creating a rainwater collection system.
COLLECT THE NECESSARY EQUIPMENT
The main elements of a rainwater collection system are a harvesting system and a collection vessel. Rainwater collection will most likely take place through the gutters and downspouts attached to your home’s roof. Commercial rain barrels are available in a variety of sizes, but any clean, non-toxic vessel will suffice. You will also need a net or mesh screen to place over the top of the barrel to keep leaves and debris out, and a spigot to draw rainwater out of the barrel. If you plan to use the rainwater for cooking, drinking, or to water your food garden, you’ll need a filter or purification system.
DETERMINE THE COMPOSITION OF YOUR ROOF
Asphalt roofing is generally unsafe for collecting rainwater because of the toxins that drain off the shingles. On the other hand, roofs constructed from steel sheets and tiles (glazed, concrete, clay, or cement) are certified for rainwater collection. Rainwater collection from these roof surfaces is especially well suited as graywater. Graywater is often used for irrigation of nonfood gardens, watering lawns, or other uses that do not require potable water.
AVOID OPEN STANDING WATER
Standing water is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. Open rainwater collection containers are also subject to contamination from bird droppings, falling leaves, and other debris. Keep your rainwater collection system closed as much as possible to avoid hazards such as bacterial growth.
PURIFY RAINWATER FOR DRINKING AND COOKING
You will need to filter or otherwise purify rainwater that has been collected for drinking, food gardens, and cooking. If you are unsure about the quality of your collected rainwater, have it tested for contaminants before consuming it, using it for cooking or watering food plants.
MAINTAIN YOUR RAINWATER COLLECTION SYSTEM
Proper maintenance will ensure that your rainwater collection system works efficiently and that the water collected is safe. Clean gutters, barrels, diverters, and rain heads regularly. Filters should also be changed frequently whether water is used for drinking or not.
Collecting rainwater can reduce your water bills while ensuring that your garden and lawn always have abundant water. You’ll also benefit from knowing that you’re doing something beneficial for the environment.