Rainwater: Harvesting the Clouds

Why Rainwater is Worth Collecting

“Rain, rain, go away! Come again another day!” is a common rhyme children like to chant when their prospective field-trips look to be ruined by a little bad weather. However, for the citizens of the 35 states experiencing severe to moderate drought conditions, or nearly 64 percent of the United States, a little rain couldn’t hurt. Decades of systematic misuse and overburdening of water resources, combined with the worst drought in recent history, have seen water resources taxed beyond their natural ability to cope – even without accounting for increasing demand. The result: rivers, lakes, and aquifers are simply disappearing. Meanwhile, cities and towns from Texas to Illinois are quickly approaching, or have already reached, a critical water shortage crisis.

If water is a precious, and scarce, resource then why don’t we treat it as such? If it rained money from the sky, wouldn’t we wish to collect as much of it as possible? With rainwater harvesting technology, homeowners have the opportunity to do just that.

Harvesting the Clouds?

With an average demand of nearly 200 gallons a day for a family of four, or more than 73,000 gallons over the course of a year, rainwater harvesting presents a significant opportunity to reduce the immense demand for water imposed on our waterways and aquifers. In fact many states in drought prone regions of the United States actively encourage adoption of individual water collection systems.

In Texas, incentives are offered to encourage the purchase of rainwater harvesting equipment, with up to $40,000 in rebates available to businesses that install collection systems. Based on regional rainfall, a family in say Austin could expect to harvest 32,000 gallons of water annually, while a household in Houston could collect 48,000 gallons or more depending on the size of the roof.

The benefits for homeowners are manifold.

First, when combined with other water conservation efforts, such as xeriscaping or installing low-flow fixtures, a single rainwater harvesting system could easily satisfy more than seventy percent of a family’s yearly water demand. This thereby reduces demand from centralized water sources such as reservoirs and aquifers allowing the water to be used for pressing agricultural needs.

Secondly, in times of drought or water shortages, harvesting systems allow families the flexibility and convenience of uninterrupted water flow. Catchment systems provide an opportunity for residents to take advantage of essentially free water that would have washed into a storm sewer regardless. Catchment should be 80,000 gallons annually on average for a family of four. For health conscious individuals, harvested rainwater can be of higher quality than even municipally supplied water thanks to a built-in filtration process, and the absence of fluoride and a variety of hard minerals.

A Little Rain Goes a Long Way

With the world already undergoing climate change, many regions of the United States can expect chronic water shortages for the foreseeable future. Traditional agricultural counties in America’s traditional “breadbasket” region may suffer irreparable damage affecting food to gasoline prices. Rainwater harvesting systems offer individuals an opportunity to take advantage of and conserve precious water resources while eliminating their water bills. For many people across the United States, cloudy days have become an opportunity to rejoice.

Design Smart. Build Native.