September 18 , 2007
Rainwater is channeled from the roof to a screen before entering the cistern.
I recently was asked to do a segment on rainwater harvesting by a local TV station (How timely is that with all the rain we have been having?), so I thought now would be a good time to re-explore rainwater harvesting.
As you may or may not be aware, our house has a rainwater collection system. For those of you who are new to our web site, here's a review of some of the journal entries regarding our rainwater collection system:
- Cistern Installation
- System Design
- Plumbing of both well and rainwater systems
- Cleaning out the cistern
Here in the upper Midwest well water is plentiful and most people take for granted turning on their taps and pouring a glass of cool, clean drinking water. But, there are problems even here where water is so plentiful.
Studies in the La Crosse, Wisconsin area have revealed that some of the wells in the area over the past few years have become contaminated with Mississippi river water. This has occurred because of a drop in water table levels has allowed water from the Mississippi to drawn through the river banks into the wells.
In La Crosse County alone, over 19 million gallons of water are removed from the water table every day. It is being withdrawn at a greater rate than it is being replenished.
This same scenario is repeated throughout the United States and for that matter, the world. With the world's population continuing to grow, this problem will continue to grow—just as oil is a finite resource, so is water.
The average American household uses 350 gallons of water per day according to the American Water Works Association. So what can we do to help preserve this natural resource that is crucial to life on this planet?
- Fix leaks (One faucet, 1 drip per second will use 2,777 gallons of water per year.)
- Buy low-flow shower heads (U.S. regulations now prohibit shower heads that produce over 2.5 gallons per minute.)
- Take a showers instead of bath
- Invest in a energy efficient, front-loading washing machine
- Run washing machines and dishwasher only with full loads
- Use a water-saving toilet
- Water lawns at night, or not at all
- Use rainwater for watering plants and/or consider using rainwater for other needs
- Think about your consumption of water every time you use it
If you are interested in learning more about rainwater harvesting systems, here are a few links to get you started:
- Texas A&M Rainwater Harvesting Web site
- The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting (88 page pdf manual)
- Home-built system in Portland, Oregon
NOTE: Some of the system designs use above-ground tanks which are only suitable in climates in which cold weather is not a factor. Cisterns should be placed below ground in northern climates.