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Rainwater Collection Systems

Collecting rainwater for domestic water needs has become an important part of the environmental “green” movement. Collected rainwater is also an important source of water for those who live in areas where water use is limited due to scarcity or where surface and below ground water quality is poor. Even where water is abundant, using rainwater can help to significantly lower water bills. A system that collects rainwater is easy and inexpensive to install.

If you are thinking of collecting rainwater, consider the following:

  • A typical system consists of a collection area (usually a roof), a water conveyor (gutters and downspouts), a filtering device, a storage container or underground cistern, and a method of water distribution (pump or dipper).
  • Collected rainwater is most often used for watering the garden and lawn as this eliminates a lot of filtering and purifying that would be required to ensure that the water is drinkable. In fact, flowers, shrubs and trees really prefer to be watered with rainwater rather than tap water because of the chemical added to processed water. However, collected rainwater is not recommended for any plants that will be eaten unless special care is taken to insure that no contaminates such as asbestos from roof shingles or lead are in the water.
  • Other common uses for rainwater are toilet flushing, clothes washing and bathing. These require a filter that will screen out particulate matter before the water reaches the storage container.
  • A simple metal or plastic barrel will store water for garden use. Larger storage units can be constructed from concrete or fiberglass and can be located either above or below ground. Underground storage units should be periodically tested to make sure that harmful contaminants are not leaching into them.

Collected rainwater that is to be used for cooking or drinking involves a more
complicated processof testing for microbes and dangerous contaminants. Care should be taken to use only materials that are certified as safe when constructing a drinking water collection system. These include special filters, storage tanks, pumping systems, and water sterilizers that are available from manufacturers of environmental technology.

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