Rainwater collection or harvesting has a long history. The practice provided water for irrigation, met the needs of livestock and served as source of drinking water for people throughout time. It became such a benefit that evidence from the prehistoric record shows people adapted their housing to more effectively capture rainwater during times of drought.
While the practice faded as we became dependent on our community infrastructure, the sustainable and preparedness living trends have prodded a resurgence. Individuals are adding collection equipment to their own homes in increasing numbers just as people did in the past. There are even some cities, like Tucson, Arizona and Seattle, Washington, that require rainwater collection systems included in new home developments.
Rainwater Collection – A Prepping Essential
Flooding, due to overflowing rivers and hurricanes, contaminates and overruns water treatment and supply infrastructure. Earthquakes disrupt the very water delivery systems we all depend on. Droughts reduce and restrict available resources.
Collected, stored and filtered rainwater can replenish your drinking water stockpiles when depleted. Before and during a disaster it can be diverted for watering gardens or crops when resources are low to maintain food supplies. And in the event of long-term recovery when infrastructure is severely compromised rainwater is a valued commodity for bartering for supplies your family might need.
What is Rainwater Harvesting?
Rainwater harvesting simply means collecting rainwater and storing it for future use. From laundry to sanitation to crop watering to drinking – when filtered properly – rainwater has a multitude of uses that would otherwise deplete precious purified supplies needed for drinking and cooking. Just as varied as its uses, so are the manners of harvesting. The method can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose to make it, with numerous options tailored to your budget.
While methods range widely three components remain consistent for each one. Every system will require;
A Catchment Area
For most people, the catchment area is your roof. The best roofing materials for harvesting are aluminum or uncoated stainless steel. Other roof surfaces, such as asphalt or those with metallic coatings, could contaminate the rainwater. The amount you’re able to capture largely depends on the size and slope of the roof. The typical roof can average 600 gallons for every inch of rainfall.
A Means of Distribution
The distribution system, again, can be as simple or elaborate as you choose. Basically, it is any means by which the rainwater is diverted to a storage tank or cistern. Often, gutters or downspouts are the first set of distribution channels, directly catching the runoff from the roof. These can be easily altered to direct the water to a tank under the roof, or diverted to a central holding area you’ve designed. Installing screens to reduce the amount of debris entering your storage tanks is advisable.
A Storage Tank
Rainwater is diverted from wooden barrels to large 30-50 gallon plastic drums. These can be affixed with a means of draining the water for whatever use you intend for it. Install a faucet at the bottom to attach a hose for watering crops or additional piping to divert the contents into a filtration system and store for use in drinking or cooking. Again, the options are broad, allowing you to tailor them to your individual needs.
For those building their own systems, the supplies are easy to find at any home improvement or DIY store. Many people will opt for collection system kits, available from an ever-growing market of suppliers, with virtually everything needed to install your very own rain collector.
There are companies offering intricate systems that include complete catchment systems with separate filter chambers, above-ground and below-ground tanks and even back-up generators. Other customization varieties include 60-gallon rain barrels made of recycled materials, diverter kits which improve capture when rainfall is heavy, removable filters, connector kits that link barrels together increasing storage potential, and barrels with pre-installed spigots of different capacities for the mechanically challenged.
Don’t be caught off guard!
Some states and cities require permits for rainwater collection and greywater use. For the individual, this process is often simple and is meant solely to protect groundwater from contamination.
Remember, the time to start your rainwater harvesting system is well before a disaster brings your local infrastructure to a halt. There are simple techniques you can use now to ensure for a reliable water supply during difficult times. Even in the absence of a sudden disaster, climate changes crop up slowly. The effects of drought are not often felt until they well underway. Take advantage of the resurgence of the age old practice of rainwater harvesting and build a system designed to meet your household’s immediate and future needs.