Rainwater harvesting is an ancient practice and the article below outlines the benefits and uses of rainwater as well as a brief outline of how to collect it and store it in rain water tanks or rain barrels. Although this article advises against rainwater for drinking, rainwater can be easily filtered and purified with appropriate water filters for drinking purposes.
Collecting rainwater is a common practice often discussed by proponents of the sustainability movement, typically through the use of rain barrels, rain water tanks or other water-holding containers.
The practice goes back thousands of years to the beginnings of civilization as a way to provide irrigation for crops and human consumption, and was common until only a few generations ago. Now, everyone in Leon County is connected to either municipal water supplies or a well with a pressurized water tank, but we can still make use of the rainwater that spills off our homes, sheds and other buildings.
The benefits of collecting and using rainwater include free irrigation water, reducing potable water use for landscape areas, reducing stormwater runoff from your property and increasing awareness of how much water you use for outside (non-potable) purposes. All of these benefit your wallet, the environment or both.
The first step to collecting rainwater is getting the container to capture and store the water. Containers can range from 5 gallon buckets to 250 gallon water tanks, or if you really want to go all-out, a series of ,000 gallon cisterns — the Leon County Extension Office recently completed a project that can collect up to 40000 gallons.
The most commonly used, affordable and readily available container is a 55 gallon plastic drum with or without modifications. Helpful modifications include a spigot, an overflow and a removable, mesh-screen lid for easy access and to keep out mosquitoes.
Next, the water tank needs to be placed where rainwater can be readily collected. The ideal site is under the eave of a building’s roof, especially near a roof valley. Placing the container under a gutter downspout increases how much water will be collected but does require cutting the downspout to fit the water tank. Make sure the water tank is stable since a full 55 gallon drum will weigh over 400 pounds. Larger setups — 250 gallon and above — will likely require some basic plumbing know-how, carpentry skills and additional materials.
The next step is the easiest but requires Mother Nature’s cooperation — rain. Some folks have experienced that as soon as you set up your water tank, the drought begins. For others it seems to bring on monsoons. When the rain does come, it’s a good idea to monitor how well your container is collecting water in case adjustments are needed.
The last step is using your collected water. Collected rainwater can be used for many purposes including vegetable gardens, flower beds, patio plants, trees and shrubs, bird baths, washing off bowls, buckets, your dirty hands, sandy toys, etc.
Ideally, your rainwater tank has a spigot and it’s as easy as connecting your hose and turning it on. This works best if your rain barrels are uphill from your target watering area. Raising the water tank on blocks or on a water tank stand can help, but remember to make sure it is stable. Submersible pumps can be used to increase pressure or water areas uphill from your container. You can also dunk various size watering cans into the water tank.
Using the collected water for human or animal consumption is not recommended due to contamination from the atmosphere, roof surface, and biological growth during storage in the container. Of greatest concern are metals leached from roofing materials and bacterial growth due to environmental conditions.
Research on harvested rainwater quality has found that while the collected water does not meet drinking water standards, most pollutants are at low enough levels acceptable for many non-potable uses. When using the collected rainwater to irrigate edible plants, it is recommended that the water be applied directly to the soil to minimize potential contamination.
Source: Tallahassee.com (By Mark Tancig who is a water resource specialist with the Leon County Public Works. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/ IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu.)
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