Rainwater harvesting and rain water tanks do indeed save money on water bills but the extent and nature of the savings will vary widely.
There are those that think the cost savings of installing a rainwater harvesting system with water tanks or rain barrels is ‘not worth it’. Well, if you consider that municipal water in South Africa is still relatively inexpensive (this will not be the case the future!), some argue, why bother? Although the reduction in your monthly water bills of up to 90% (in the rainy season), the amount of money saved, in comparison with other household expenses, is seemingly relatively small. However, let us examine the other indirect costs that will be reduced:
- Rainwater harvesting reduces storm water runoff (by keeping the rain on the property). Excessive storm water runoff (in urban areas) leads to erosion and pollution of local waterways and dams. The cost of rehabilitation as well as the extra filtration/purification of water for municipal water supplies, must be taken into account. These costs will be passed on to homeowners and businesses reliant on municipal water supplies.
- Rain water tanks ensure there is a supply of water for municipal water supply outages. The cost of buying water or travelling to a temporary water supply tank (provided by the municipality) must be considered. The time spent standing in queues must be taken into account – time is money, apart from the inconvenience of the situation.
- Ever needed to drain and refill a swimming pool? The thousands of litres of water required will definitely be a financial consideration, even with the relatively low water tariffs South Africa has at the moment. A few 5000 litre water tanks or 10000 litre water tanks filled with reserve rainwater can be used for swimming pool refills or top-ups, saving hundreds of Rand.
- Water restrictions are becoming a reality during the dry season in many South African towns and cities; rainwater stored in water tanks for garden irrigation could save a substantial amount by reducing the number of plants that may die and need replacing after an extended period of water restrictions.
- Water demand in South Africa usually outstrips available water supplies. In our current market system, this means that costs are increased. Rainwater harvesting reduces demand and thus reduces the rate at which water tariffs increase.
- Rainwater harvesting systems and water tanks installed at a home or business automatically increase the market value of the building(s); another indirect way that rainwater tanks save money and even making a good return on the initial investment of installing the water tanks.
There are more ways that rainwater tanks and other water conservation systems can save money but as the above shows, you can save money, save water and save the environment by installing rain water tanks.
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