Do You H2O? Affordable Water Collection Strategies


Do you harvest your own rain water? If not, you might want to consider building this into the life-cycle assessment of your home. Consider the growing demand for water and the escalating costs associated with it. This will soon make clean water one of the most valuable commodities on the planet, probably in our lifetime, but definitely in our children’s. In this post I’ll outline a few strategies to collect rain water with the home you already have that won’t break the bank, as well as some best practices for new home construction. But first, let me suggest why you might want to consider adopting a rainwater harvesting strategy.

People have always gathered near water. Small groups then towns then cities accumulated along trade routes and contested territories located at strategic access points and ports. Water is who we are, who we have always been, not only biologically, but geographically as well. It’s only a natural step to realize that access to water is access to civilization is access to power. Luckily for us, not all actual or potentially clean water is sitting under lock and key by government agencies or private business. This ultimately raises the question of property. Who owns water and where?

Well you’re in luck. You do, or you can (depending on your state). And it doesn’t cost a fortune. With personal water collection trending in homes and businesses around the world, water collection technologies are improving and becoming more accessible and affordable due to market demand.

The planet’s clean, potable water supply is approaching a crisis. It is generally accepted that the world’s water consumption is doubling every 20 years. Some studies project that by the year 2025 water demand will exceed supply by 56%. This is a concern for those of us used to turning on the tap, but especially for those who are struggling daily to find clean, healthy sources of water. Where we get our water in the coming century will be one of humanity’s greatest challenges.

What does this mean for you? Though there are many alternative technologies on the horizon that are starting to have success with humidity and dew collection, rain water harvesting is a good place to start. Let’s start with your house on one acre of land and work backwards from this one fact: One inch of rain falling on one acre (43,560sf) of land is roughly equal to 27,154 gallons, effectively. You probably want to leave some water for grass, trees and shrubs, as well as allowing your local aquifer to recharge. For now we will assume you’re harvesting only your roof area at effectively 80% of a 4,000sf area. This translates to roughly 2,400 gallons of harvested water from a 1″ rainfall. I’ll use Rhode Island at an average of 47.98 inches per year. That’s 120,000 potential available gallons per year. Sounds like a lot, right? That’s not even half of the 290,000 gallons the average individual American uses per year. Most of this can be adjusted by simply changing out your fixtures and toilets which will be covered in another post. But it’s ok, if each of us could capture 50,000 gallons per year, that’s 16 trillion gallons per year in the USA alone.

Currently, rainwater harvesting is used primarily for landscape irrigation showers, faucets, clothes, washers and  toilets which can lead to a substitution of up to 65% of household water usage. If you are willing to pay a little more, there are also great systems on the market that turn rain water into potable water as well. So let’s look at a couple of ways you can start capturing rain water.


Your Existing Home

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The simplest and most cost-effective way to harvest rain water is to retrofit your existing home. There are some great systems on the market that allow you to start capturing rain water starting next weekend for only a couple hundred dollars depending on tank size. All you need to do is determine how much storage room you have, or can make, available. There is no recommended size storage tank, but remember, larger tanks allow for more water independence. The easiest way to begin is to allocate all of your water for landscape purposes. This requires little or no filtration and can be used directly. This will give you an idea of how much water you use and you can always upgrade your system in the future.


New Construction and Below Ground

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You many not like the look of or have the space for an above ground cistern.  The next step up in cost is to have a fully integrated system below grade. This becomes more costly due to site excavation cost and generally more infrastructure in the house assuming you integrate fixtures such as faucets, sinks and toilets. While this system is more costly it does give you the most control over your water use. This type of system can be in the thousands of dollars, so you will need to factor in your goals for the life cycle of your home.


Overall, becoming more independent and in control of your water consumption will ultimately save you money, but most importantly, it will give you peace of mind knowing that you are no longer contributing to unrestrained consumption.  This not only has financial benefits but carries with it a certain pride and sense of duty. Rest easy knowing that your new harvesting system is chipping away ever so slightly to a larger issue, and in that, will ultimately be a measure of our time here on this Earth.


What do you think? Are self-supported systems the way of the future, or is it government’s responsibility to provide these services?



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