Rainwater collection — it’s not just for gardens anymore

We noticed an interesting discussion over on a LinkedIn Group called “UN-Water,” about the collection of rain for use as drinking water.

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There are a number of ways to collect, store and filter rainwater. This image, found on the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association website, shows a system used in Texas that can hold 5,000 gallons.

 As one commenter stated: “Collecting rainwater on concrete surfaces and collecting it in underground tanks for drinking use … has been a popular practice in a number of areas in western Rajasthan India.”

 However, the poster went on to say, many people in urban areas are wary about drinking water that has been collected in such a manner. For some, it’s a fear of airborne pollutants that get picked up by the water droplets on their way down. For others, it’s concern about pollutants that are on the rooftops being washed into the collection basins.

In truth, we’re all drinking rainwater in some form or another. It’s part of the constant water cycle, which in its simplest form is: evaporation, condensation, sublimation, precipitation and percolation (for a more detailed look, click here). 

In the case of rainwater collected from rooftops, however,  it’s generally not the best idea to drink it without first treating it. Filtration, as one poster noted, can be as simple as a cloth-lined basket that holds several gallons of sand (replaced regularly) to trap particulates. There are other, more effective ways to filter rainwater — Mother Earth News has a good write up.

 And in a pinch — for instance, during a sustained power outage or after a natural disaster — it’s an effective method of collecting an emergency water supply.

There are even commercially available tank systems that can be tied into your house or business to supply water for bathing, washing clothes, flushing toilets and more. In fact, it’s becoming more common for businesses to utilize rainwater collection systems, often as part of LEED-certified builds. The idea has even taken hold at Starbucks  (though not for making coffee).

We’ve long advocated the use of rain barrels to collect water for your garden. With proper filtration, rain barrel systems can be used for much more — and, in the process, help save one of our most precious natural resources.