Types of Rainwater Harvesting Systems

rainwater tanks and rain barrelsThere are many possible configurations and degrees of complexity to a rainwater catchment system with rainwater tanks or ‘rain barrels’.

Costs vary considerably as well. You can spend anywhere from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Your best bet is to review the options available on the market to find out what’s in your price range and what’s a realistic set-up for your home.

Perhaps the simplest use of rainwater if you are on a budget or have space restrictions is to put a rain barrel under one of the gutter downspouts and use the water on sensitive indoor plants. The plants will appreciate the soft water. The barrel should always be covered between uses.

A slightly more sophisticated system might be to use several rain barrels connected together near the bottom with pvc pipes or hose. A small pump can be used in one of the barrels to pump the water to your garden. In this case, all the barrels will drain simultaneously.

Bigger and more complex systems may use gravity to feed water from gutters to a larger cistern or water tank, which pumps water to the landscape. Some online gardening sites sell cisterns and other more complex rainwater harvesting equipment.

Whatever you decide, all systems should use covered barrels or cisterns / water tanks that keep the water from accumulating leaves and other contaminants. They should also have some kind of filter to keep out silt and leaves. Filters can range from a funnel with mesh at the bottom that is covered by gravel, to a rainwater washing apparatus.

Source: Rain Barrel Guide

Many rural homeowners in South Africa are familiar with simple rainwater harvesting systems that consist of a pipe from the roof gutter to a water tank or a series of water tanks.  These systems work well for garden irrigation, especially when gravity can be harnessed to supply some pressure from the water tank.  Urban households can also make use of simple rainwater gutters and tanks although many people would like the rainwater tanks to integrate with their current water supply- for bathing, toilet flushing and drinking water (it is recommended that appropriate water filters be installed if the rain water is for drinking).

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