Rainwater as a source of water isn’t anything new. When the first civilizations emerged along the riverbanks millennia ago, the water their inhabitants collected and used is basically rainwater. Rain from the mountains flows to nearby streams, which converge onto rivers and escape into the open seas. The process then repeats.
The only thing new about rainwater is the method of catching it. Among the first collection systems in place are little more than buckets and drums sitting out in the open or under eaves. The methods improved as more modern materials and knowledge became available. Before we knew it, we’re connecting downspouts to steel or plastic tanks standing on or buried under our gardens.
With climate change letting its effect felt across the globe, water will undoubtedly be a big concern. Rainwater collection is being promoted as a solution to help people adapt to climate change. Given the following benefits, it’s easy to see why.
- Water During Shortages
A UNEP International Resource Panel report in 2016estimates that demand for water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030, nine years from now. One of the recommendations stated is investmening in infrastructure that can “improve the efficiency of water use and eliminate water contamination and pollution.”
Rainwater collection fits the description; it’s an auxiliary source for homes and keeps runoff from tainting natural sources. The tanks that form the heart of rainwater collection systems can contain enough rainwater for a family’s daily use. Homes can use stored rainwater in times of strict water rationing or unexpected outages.
Check out this URL for an example of a standard tank found in households and small businesses.
- Mitigate Pollution and Flooding
When Hurricane Harvey slammed into Houston in 2017, it submerged the entire city under several feet of water. Scientists examining the aftermath discovered that the city was covered in so much pavement that there’s virtually no way for the water to permeate. It would take years for Houston to come up with a long-term solution—and moving the city wasn’t one.
Giving each home the means to collect rainwater reduces the amount of runoff that goes into rivers and streams. In turn, the burden on these natural outlets is reduced, along with the risk of pollution and flooding. The tanks can also control the amount of runoff flowing out at a time with overflow pipes.
- Cost Reduction
A home with a rainwater collection system can save on their next water bill. But the benefit extends beyond the household; it can affect the community at large.
The typical water bill takes various factors into calculation, such as water treatment and delivery. As the weather doesn’t charge for a downpour, the household doesn’t have to pay for the delivery. More importantly, the utility agency doesn’t have to supply water to the home if it’s not using the mains, saving on overhead cost.
Among others, it’s for this reason that some governments are encouraging people to invest in such systems through rebate programs. Recent laws are also requiring new homes and buildings to have rainwater collection measures and reduce dependence on water mains.
- Gardens Love the Water
The Ecological Landscaping Alliance, a U.S.-based group that advocates eco-friendly landscaping, promotes rainwater for watering plants for several reasons.
- Rainwater is virtually untreated water, which helps wash away salts and chemicals built up in the soil. The concentration is stronger in potted plants.
- With an average pH level of 5.6, rainwater is slightly acidic. Most plants prefer this acidity compared to tap water, whose pH level is on the alkaline side to make it more potable.
- Organic matter such as dirt and pollen can mix into rainwater, packing nutrients for plants. It also contains nitrates, an essential nutrient for plants, derived from nitrogen and oxygen abundant in the air.
Rainwater is ideal for maintaining vegetable gardens, especially with the current pandemic limiting trips to the supermarket. Vegetables in a family’s diet make for a more resistant household.
- Teaching the Value of Saving Water
Finally, and perhaps the most important, the fact that a household had a rainwater collection system installed stems from a profound realization. It makes people realize that there’s a pressing need to be smarter about how they use water. The cost of having one, as great as it may be, will eventually be outweighed by the benefits in the long-term.
And since the tank can only hold so much at a time, households will also need to adopt other water-saving habits. These valuable lessons will help bring the world a step closer to being a better place.