A Guide to Using Rainwater for Simple Living

(Last Updated On: January 17, 2023)

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One of our most valuable natural resources is water. However, the majority of the water that falls during a rainstorm is collected in storm drain systems and must be treated before being recycled.

Ancient open rainwater cistern.
Ancient open rainwater cistern.

However, it is possible to design systems that will allow you to collect and use rainwater where it will be most beneficial. By following a plan for your household’s use of rainwater, you can also save money and natural resources.

The Advantages of Using and Storing Rainwater

Rainwater collection and use has numerous benefits. You gain from it, as does the environment around you. This is not a novel concept; people have long stored rainwater.

As we’ve learned how beneficial it can be, its popularity has only increased recently. You can decide to start using rainwater by making a decision after learning more about these advantages.

First off, keeping rainwater on site prevents erosion and flooding that your gutters’ downspouts might otherwise cause. By doing so, you can maintain the attractiveness of your yard and keep water from entering storage drain systems.

Saving money is another benefit of collecting and using rainwater. Water used to wash your car or irrigate your lawn is typically a consumable that requires payment. On the other hand, if you save rainwater, you can use it for nothing.

Using rainwater to water your plants will actually give them better nutrition. Naturally occurring minerals in rainwater are beneficial to plants. Additionally, it is free of the contaminants and chemicals found in regular tap water.

If you live in a region that is susceptible to drought, collecting rainwater now can give you access to water later on. While there may be restrictions on city water use during a drought, you will still have access to your rain barrels.

Ancient rainwater cistern/well with a roof.
Ancient rainwater cistern/well with a roof.

In terms of the environment, freshwater is a very scarce resource. Water that can be used for drinking and other domestic purposes makes up just 3% of the total water supply in the world.

Natural water sources in industrialized nations are starting to dry up due to high water consumption. By collecting rainwater, one can conserve a renewable resource and keep contaminated water out of storm drainage systems.

Establishing a Rainwater Storage System

In recent years, catching rainwater has gained popularity as a water-saving technique. That’s good news because it has made it possible to find a variety of storage systems.

Utilizing a rain barrel is one of the most preferred and affordable strategies. The water from your home’s gutters can be collected in large containers called rain barrels. Large trash cans or buckets can be used to make them.

rainbarrel
Rainbarrel

Additionally, you can buy ready-to-assemble commercial kits made specifically for storing rainwater. Once you’ve established a system, your bucket will start to fill each time it rains.

It’s crucial to take safety precautions when using a rain barrel. For instance, the top needs to be pet- and child-proof so that small children can’t fall in.

In order to keep debris from entering the barrel with the rainwater, you should also have a filter at the top. If you discover that this system is effective for you, you can even add more barrels to ensure that there is no overflow during a rainy season.

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In order to drain the water, most rain barrels have a tap at the bottom. Some of them let you connect a typical garden hose so you can use the water in your yard.

Always make sure that the materials you use to construct your rain barrel are of food-grade quality. The water will be safe to use because it won’t leach dangerous chemicals into the water.

While rain barrels are the least expensive and easiest to install, there are more sophisticated systems available if you’d like to have more water storage and can afford the higher cost.

A rain barrel typically has a capacity of 50 gallons. To hold more water, you can have more than one barrel. But you’ll need a different kind of collection system if you want to store a lot more. The Rainwater Pillow is one option.

The Rainwater Pillow is a system that uses a fabric container to hold 1,000 gallons or more of water. Depending on the size you choose, it will hold a certain amount. The original 1,000 gallon capacity is adequate for the average homeowner.

This system is much more expensive, costing thousands of dollars, but if you use a lot of water in your home for farming or gardening, it might be a wise investment for you.

Alternatively, you could spend money on an underground system that collects rainwater and enables you to pump it out for use. You can buy a system that can be used to flush toilets as well as supply water for your lawn and garden.

Due to its size, underground location, and materials, this system is considerably more expensive than alternative solutions. However, it can eventually pay for itself by reducing your reliance on other water sources.

You should search in your neighborhood for a business that specializes in this kind of system if you want to have one. Your area’s cost and your particular requirements will vary.

For the Cleanest Water, Use First Flush Systems

One worry that people have when using a rainwater barrel system from the rooftop is that as the rainwater travels to the gutters, it may become contaminated by materials on your rooftop.



Rain Harvesting WDDS98 Downpipe First Flush Water Diverter Kit.

The first flush of water from the roof can contain significant amounts of contaminants, sediments, and residues. Instead of flowing to the water tank, these pollutants are diverted with the initial flow of water into the chamber of the water diverter.

The water diverters from Rain Harvesting utilize a dependable ball and seat system – a simple automatic system that does not rely on mechanical parts or manual intervention.

The water in your barrel could become contaminated, so this is a serious concern. Utilizing a first flush system is a fantastic remedy for this. As debris is washed away by the first rain, it is typically the most polluted.

The first five or even 10 gallons of water are stored and separated from the remaining rain barrel storage with a first flush system. This water is the one that is most likely to contain chemicals or sediment.

Simply use that water for your lawn, and then use the remaining water for your needs, such as a vegetable garden or house cleaning.

Rain Barrel Upkeep

Once you have a rain barrel, you’ll need to take care of a few things to keep it in working order so you can use the water you’ve saved. You can maximize your system’s potential by following these easy steps.

A minimum of once per month, you should empty your barrel. As a result, algae don’t grow and the water doesn’t get musty. You can add a capful of chlorine bleach to the barrel to enable water to sit for a longer period of time.

This will prevent the growth of algae, and at that low a concentration, it won’t harm your plants. If you use it more frequently than that, it might become harmful. Because vinegar contains an acid that will harm your plants, you should also avoid using it.

You should make sure to clean your gutters frequently or install a gutter screen that keeps debris out if you have gutters. This will lessen the amount of sediment and debris that enters your rain barrel.

You don’t have to discard your barrel if you discover a leak in it. The hole can often be sealed using aquarium caulk made of silicone. This is inexpensive and accessible in hardware stores.

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The growth of mosquito populations is another issue with rainwater barrels. One method to avoid this is to drain the barrel on a regular basis. However, you can also include a larvae tablet in your barrel to stop mosquitoes from reproducing.

By including this kind of tablet, you won’t harm your plants and you’ll avoid issues like the West Nile virus, which is spread by contact with mosquitoes.

If you reside in a region with extremely cold winters, you should take extra precautions. Your rain barrel may become weak if it is repeatedly frozen and thawed. Draining your barrel and disconnecting it will help you avoid issues before it gets that cold.

It is best to store your rain barrels upside down when storing them for an extended period of time. Thus, any debris is kept off of them.

How Much Rainwater Can You Collect?

You might believe that it will take a while for your rain barrel to fill up with water. But you can actually gather a lot of water—hundreds of gallons annually. For every inch of rainfall, you can calculate the approximate amount of water you’ll collect.

The square footage of your roof needs to be estimated first. Then divide that result in half. The final figure represents the volume of water that can be stored from a single inch of precipitation.

With a half inch of rain, the typical home can hold more than 400 gallons of water. That adds up quickly during rainy seasons, as you might imagine. Having multiple barrels or bigger systems is a great idea for this.

Applications for Rainwater Storing

Although it can be done, rainwater is typically not used for drinking, but it can be. You might be surprised to learn how many different ways there are to use rainwater that has been stored.

Watering your lawn and garden with rainwater that you have collected is the most obvious application. Watering your lawn in the hot, dry summer months can get expensive. You can get free water by using a rainwater collection system.

Additionally, it will enable you to keep watering even if your water service has put restrictions in place as a result of the drought. Using your barrel in conjunction with a soaker hose is among the simplest methods. It can be used to maintain the irrigation system for your lawn and even to safeguard the home’s foundation.

Many cities allow residents to flush toilets with rainwater, though this isn’t an option everywhere. You could even install a rainwater system so that water is automatically brought into your house to flush the toilets.

If you have a large family or numerous frequently used toilets, this can actually save you a significant amount of money on your water bill.

If you have a car, you can fill the radiator with rainwater rather than the usual tap water. Most often, this needs to be combined with antifreeze.

As an alternative to connecting the hose to the city water system, you can wash your car with rainwater. In addition to saving money, you will be conserving water.

You can mop with rainwater instead of tap water when you need to clean your house. To clean your floors and other surfaces, simply fill a bucket and bring it inside.

If you have a filter system to make the rainwater suitable for indoor use, you can use it to wash dishes and even take baths. Laundry can be done with it as well. Since a significant portion of household water use is actually used for laundry, this can result in significant financial savings.

If a natural disaster or other emergency prevents you from using your regular water supply, having water stored in rain barrels can be helpful. Prior to using it, you should make sure that you have the necessary filtration and purification equipment.

For instance, you might have to boil the water before drinking it or add water purification tablets.

If you have more water than you can use, you can even share it with your neighbors. This can serve as a wonderful illustration and inspire other people to set up their own rain barrel systems.

Your little rain barrel system might not seem like it would make much of a difference to you, but it actually could.

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