Getting Started with Rain Water Harvesting

“Water, water everywhere,” begins the famous quote — and there is indeed water everywhere, in the form of rain. But whether your part of the country receives regular downpours or just the occasional treasured trickle, you can get the most of that atmospheric bounty through the simple technique of rain water harvesting. Let’s look at why you should bother — and how to get started.

Benefits of Rain Water Harvesting

You may be thinking, “Why do I want to collect rain water? I can get all the water I need out of my tap.” That’s true, you can — but you’ll pay for it. Think about the volume of water you use every day for everything from washing the car to washing the dog, from watering the plants to watering yourself in the shower. All those gallons can either come from the water company for a price, or you can grab them out of the sky for free. Since rain water tends to be “softer” (containing fewer minerals) than commercial water sources, you may find it more effective for bathing and clothes washing — and since it’s chlorine free, it’s healthier for your plants.


Rain water harvesting
Your garden will thank you for harvesting rain water.

How It Works

A rain water harvesting system can take any of several forms, but the most basic configuration consists of a collection area, a transportation device, and a barrel. Typically the water will wash from the rooftop into the gutter toward a downspout. You’ll need a debris filter at the downspout entrance to keep foreign matter out of your collected water. Some systems are also equipped with a “roof washer” that diverts the first few gallons of water (which are always the dirtiest) away from the water you actually collect. The downspout has a direct connection to the barrel, which is otherwise sealed except for a spigot toward the bottom. (If you’re collecting huge amounts of rain water on a regular basis, you can connect multiple barrels via hoses.) You’ll want to attach an additional screen where the downspout meets the barrel, just to make sure you get any stubborn debris.

Evaluating Your Options

The first step in creating your rain water harvesting system is figuring out how much water you want to harvest. Do you have a huge yard that requires regular watering, or are you content to collect sufficient water to making bathing, flushing, and laundering that much more cost-effective? An average-sized roof can be expected to dump some 600 gallons per hour into your gutters, and this amount will be divided equally by however many downspout/barrel assemblies you install. (A pilot project in Rhode Island anticipates an annual harvest of 113,000 gallons!) How much do you have, or can you make, for each 30-gallon to 55-gallon barrel? Whatever water doesn’t get collected will simply proceed through your existing downspout to the ground.


Rain water harvesting
The more water you harvest, the more savings you can enjoy.

Simple rain water harvesting systems require only low-tech materials and supplies. A garbage can works as an alternative to a barrel, while basic aluminum downspouts and downspout elbow joints are easy to find. But you want to make sure you’re using high-quality gutter filters and downspout screens to keep the water as clean as possible. Moonworks can help you select and install the most effective gutter filter options for your roof. Call 1-800-975-6666 for more information and advice on how you can make that rain water benefit both your home and your bank account!

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