Fortunately, in South Africa there are no such restrictions or laws governing rainwater harvesting or rain tanks, as there are in some states and counties in the US. Should you be renting, your landlord may be very happy to cover part- or all of the cost of rain water tank installation as water conservation systems, especially in South Africa, reduce water bills and increase property values.
The ultimate in recycling, the practice of harvesting rainwater captures precious water that would otherwise go to waste. This captured water can be used in plumbing, landscaping, and even be made potable for drinking water.
In many particularly arid places, owners of buildings are required to harvest water, but there are also laws that can conflict with the best efforts of people — especially renters — who want to engage in this economically and environmentally sound practice. If you rent, make sure your effort to harvest water jives with local laws.
Before buying any equipment and water tanks or installing any system, take the preliminary step of speaking with your landlord, announcing your intentions, and asking him or her if there are any restrictions on trapping water for future use. The practice is not yet widespread, so if your landlord is uninformed, approach the conversation armed with knowledge you can glean from researching international rain harvesting resources like the Global Rainwater Harvesting Collective and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.
Also, make the landlord aware of products that are available from top commercial suppliers like RainHarvest.com. Before you purchase anything from any supplier, make sure to review their reputation first.
No Water Is Better than Standing Water
Many countries, specifically countries whose populations have suffered from waterborne or mosquito-borne illnesses like cholera, malaria, and yellow fever, have strict laws regarding standing water. Mosquitoes that can carry deadly diseases lay eggs in standing water, and efforts to reduce their population center around water control. By definition, water harvesting requires water to be contained. Make sure you’re in compliance with local water laws.
Avoid Fire Hazards
Virtually all buildings leased to renters, commercial or private, have strict laws governing the number and size of items that may be placed in front of entrances, exits, and windows. No matter how benign it seems, having any object that even partially blocks an exit can bring heavy fines to your landlord or building owner, which they can attempt to recover from you. Water containers or water tanks can be large and cumbersome. Read the fine print in your lease and make sure you’re not conflicting with the building’s fire codes.
Harvesting rainwater is among the most environmentally responsible and economically sound steps a person can take whether they own or rent a building. It is, however, an emerging technology, and water regulations can be complicated, strict, and vary widely from region to region and country to country.
Renters, especially, must take caution to ensure that their good-natured efforts don’t conflict with local laws. Do your research, talk to your landlord or leasing agent, and use common sense in embarking on one of the most common-sense endeavors a person can embark upon.
Source: Andrew Lisa (Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about the green energy movement and the environment).
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