5 Essential Rainwater Harvesting Tips for Homesteaders

5 Essential Rainwater Harvesting Tips for Homesteaders

Collecting rainwater is an easy and environmentally friendly viable option for saving water and money.

For anyone who is looking to collect rainwater for their commercial property, for their home, or simply for their garden, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when setting up a successful rainwater harvesting system.

First, choose your rainwater’s purpose.

Rainwater can be collected and used to fulfill any of the different purposes you typically use water throughout your day. That includes cleaning, laundry, bathing and, yes, even drinking!

However, deciding what exactly you will use your rainwater for can help you determine how to design your filtration system and methods. 

For example, if you are looking to collect rainwater for gardening purposes, there is no need to worry about water that is less filtered and still contains dirt and leaves. In fact, having a little bit of debris in your water can even act as natural compost that fertilizes your plants.

On the other hand, you certainly don’t want to bathe in, wash your clothes in or drink dirty water, and you will need to set up a more refined filtering system if that is what you intend to do.

Pro Tip: If you are a newbie, consider collecting for gardening purposes first to test it out and see if collecting rainwater is compatible with your lifestyle and water needs. Then, if you decide to start collecting for drinking water, you can always refit your catchment with a more refined filtering system later.

Check your local laws regarding rainwater harvesting.

Collecting rainwater is entirely legal and even encouraged in many states. In fact, in some areas, you may not need a permit to begin collecting rainwater. 

However, in some states, collecting is relegated to state laws and regulations. In fact, up until very recently, collecting in Colorado was entirely illegal and remains heavily limited to this day.

If you live in a regulated state outside of Colorado, your restrictions are most likely much more relaxed. You may have a limit on the amount of water you can collect or be subject to acquiring a permit based on the amount of water collected.

Before putting the work into setting up a harvesting system, take the time to check your local laws and regulations to make sure you are compliant. 

Pro Tip: Some states, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Oregon even offer incentives and funding to individuals who start a rainwater collection system. Check with your county for possible funding support.

Find the right equipment.

A water filtration system is a relatively simple setup that relies on a few major components.

The most important and largest piece of equipment you will need for your filtration system is the barrel component that holds the water.

Though this may seem obvious enough, many people who are just starting out in rainwater collection don’t realize just how much water they use and, as a result, they underestimate the size of the container required for collection.

You’ll need a lot more than just the few old buckets that you have lying around your property. On top of being too small for collection purposes, old plastic containers that are not food-grade can contaminate your water.

Pro Tip: IBC plastic tote containers are the perfect choice for a rainwater collection system for various reasons.

First, they are available in food-grade plastic for those who are looking to use their water for drinking and cooking. Second, many models can hold up to 275 gallons and come already equipped with a spigot and center top and side bungs. They are also fully enclosed, which keeps additional dirt and debris out of your hard-earned water.

Always keep safety in mind.

A 275-gallon barrel of water weighs more than a ton without the weight of the barrel itself factored in. If your rainwater barrel is propped up off of the ground, it is important that the construction holding the barrel is stable and can support more than the barrel’s maximum weight to keep it from tipping over at capacity.

If you are harvesting water for drinking and cooking, it is essential that you take every precaution to ensure that it does not become contaminated. Your barrel should be closed off to keep dirt, debris, and potential animals from entering.

Pro Tip: If you decide to start using your collected rainwater for cooking and drinking, set up a schedule of regularly testing your water once a week to ensure that it is 100% safe for ingesting.

Maintain your equipment.

Keeping your water as clean as possible comes down to a lot more than just buying a food-grade barrel: You will also have to develop a habitual yearly maintenance routine.

This includes committing to a schedule of cleaning out your barrel, the gutter, rain heads and water diverters within your system once a year, with monthly checks.

Pro Tip: When it comes to maintaining your equipment, don’t skimp on costs. Over time, various components of your system will need to be replaced, from the barrel down to the spigot. This is especially true in areas that receive a lot of sunlight, as the sun works to bleach out and weaken plastic quickly.

Replace components as necessary. Though this may require a few upfront costs, the amount that you save on your water bill can be substantial and entirely cover that cost over time.

Mistakes to Avoid

Some of the common mistakes to avoid with your rainwater harvesting system include:

  1. Neglecting to keep barrels covered
  2. Using the wrong kind of barrel
  3. Using a system that is too small
  4. Not using a barrel with a spigot attachment for water access

Final Thoughts

With the right equipment and these maintenance, safety and regulation tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to saving money on your water bill, becoming self-sufficient and using the world’s water resources in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

Author Bio

Cory Levins serves as the Director of Business Development for Air Sea Containers.  He oversees the development and implementation of ASC’s internal and external marketing program, driving revenue and profits from the Miami FL headquarters.

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