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Rainwater Harvesting

What was old is new again.

Filling a bucket of water was not always as easy as turning on the faucet.  A few of generations of people reliant upon the city water supply have made it easy to forget that the city water main lines did not always run by the front door just waiting for a home builder to tap.  To obtain water, it was necessary to build wells, collect from streams, and yes, harvest rainwater.  Imagine filling a bathtub with water that was collected by a hand pump and carried by the bucketful to the bathroom!  Collecting rainwater next to the home probably seemed like a very easy thing to do.  Folks used various containers to store rainwater including basins, cisterns, tanks, and whiskey barrels.  There are still many who live far enough from the city water source that they must manage their own water supply.  Today, there are a growing number of people choosing to reduce and even eliminate their reliance on the city’s treated water.

Why Collect Rainwater?
So many people; so little water.

There is a finite amount of water on this planet.  The great majority is stored as saltwater in the oceans; great for fish, problematic for man.  Less than 1% is suitable for man and animal hydration.  We only need remember our third grade lesson on the hydrological cycle to realize that the quantity of water on the earth remains the same; only it’s form changes.  Therefore, considering the high estimates in population growth, it is only natural that the question be asked: Where will we find the necessary water fundamental to sustaining the population growth?  Remember the lesson?  There is no new water.  Therefore, we must learn how to protect our lakes, streams and reservoirs and manage our water more wisely.  One way that we can truly effect a change is to collect rainwater.  Why use chemically treated water on a landscape that will perform better with rainwater?  It’s easy, it’s free, it’s good for your plants and it’s the right thing to do.

Rainwater - just what the plant doctor ordered.

Water that has been treated for human consumption is not healthy for plants.  Along the path to the treatment center water comes in contact with and collects soil, minerals, and pollutants.  Treated water is harsh with additives such as chlorine.  Watering with treated water can cause a buildup of salts which can severely impact plant growth and development.  Rainwater is soft and free from most of the pollutants and salts that are found in most surface waters.  Plants that are suffering from salt and other mineral buildup due to the use of treated water can actually be revived with the use of rainwater. 

A penny saved.

Rainwater is free!  How many things can we say that about today?  The wonderful resource that is rainwater is yours for the taking. 

Many communities are feeling the pressure on their water supplies due to population growth, drought conditions, or both.  Water rates are increasing and municipalities are adding surcharges to consumers who use more than their fair share.  Residential landscapes account for 30 to 50 percent of a home’s water usage.  It is necessary to question why we use water, specifically treated for potable purposes, for our landscapes.  The plants don’t like it and it costs a bundle!  Rainwater is best and it’s free!  Any questions?

There’s a storm a-brewing.

As homes, residential communities, and commercial properties are developed there is one goal in mind when it comes to rain and storm water.  Get it off the property as quickly as possible!  The attitude about rain and storm water should be exactly the opposite. 
When water pours off the roof and sweeps over the lawn and hardscapes, it collects substances with it as it speeds toward the storm drain.  Chemicals that are present in fertilizers and insecticides, animal wastes, debris, oils and other substances from vehicles, and soil and silt travel with that water and make their way to the streams, rivers, and lakes that often are the sources for our drinking water.  These chemicals and other substances harm our water and the wildlife that resides in it.  The oxygen is tied up leaving less for the fish and the silt keeps adequate light from reaching aquatic plant life.  Then the municipalities must make extraordinary efforts to make this water potable for humans. 
If, however, the water was kept on the homeowners’ and commercial properties, the water would percolate down into the soil where the earth would act as a filter.  The soil has a remarkable ability to break down many of these harmful substances and decompose them.  The much cleaner water passes through to the ground water where it will recharge the aquifer and eventually make its way back to the rivers, lakes and other reservoirs.  The water that returns through this route is much cleaner, better for water life and much easier to prepare for human consumption.
So, keeping rain and storm water is very good for the earth and its creatures, and it is free irrigation.  Excellent!

Control your plants’ destiny!

Many communities have begun to experience the water restrictions that predictably occur when there are more people than water, especially in a drought situation.  There is no doubt that most people utilize much more water in the landscape than necessary.  For example, using an automatic spray sprinkler system uses up to 70% more water than a drip irrigation system.  For many municipalities, however, the utilization of rainwater and its delivery to the landscape by a drip irrigation system is exempt from the restrictions.  This does not mean, however, that caution is thrown to the wind and folks should water like crazy.  What it does mean, is that a young vegetable garden can get the water it requires, when it requires it.  Rainwater is also perfect to deliver water through drip or soaker hose to a home’s foundation in clay soils.  Caution - manage your newfound power judiciously.

Chose a card, any card.

There are many more wonderful reasons to collect rainwater; these are just some of the more common reasons.  To sum the preceding:  there is not enough treated water to go around with our current usage patterns; rainwater is very good for plants, rainwater is free; it is best to keep rainwater as close as possible to where it lands; and the decision of where and when to place the rainwater on the landscape or garden is in the hands of the homeowner.  Gotta love it.


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