Why use rain­wa­ter?


There seem to be many, many rea­sons to cap­ture and store rain­wa­ter th­ese days. Some of the com­mon ones are con­cern about droughts, wor­ry­ing about too much runoff, the need to se­cure wa­ter to pro­tect your land­scape in­vest­ment, ris­ing costs ofwa­ter, and just want­ing to do the right thing for the en­vi­ron­ment. In arid North­ern New Mex­ico, slow wells or con­tam­i­nated well wa­ter are also on the list ofwhy we might con­sider har­vest­ing the rain.

In our area, older wells are start­ing to pro­duce less and less wa­ter. The choices on how to fix this is­sue are lim­ited. Drilling a deeper well is al­ways a first choice. It is easy but ex­pen­sive, and not guar­an­teed to solve the prob­lem. It is not al­ways an op­tion due lo­ca­tion and the pos­si­bil­ity that it will be like chas­ing a rab­bit down a hole: the wa­ter ta­ble is drop­ping and will con­tinue to drop. The search for a so­lu­tion then­moves on to eval­u­at­ing other sources of wa­ter. Let’s look at rain­wa­ter! For most peo­ple, it is a sur­prise that rain­wa­ter can serve as a drink­ing-wa­ter al­ter­na­tive.

When it comes to con­tam­i­nated well wa­ter, many choose the straight­for­ward method of in­stalling wa­ter-treat­ment equip­ment to re­move the harm­ful con­tam­i­nates. For oth­ers, it be­gins a process of dis­cov­ery for an­other so­lu­tion. Cap­tur­ing rain­wa­ter is a po­ten­tial al­ter­na­tive for this prob­lem as well. Even in low-rain­fall ar­eas, most peo­ple can cap­ture enough rain­wa­ter if the house­hold prac­tices wa­ter con­ser­va­tion. The owner of a 2,000-square-foot home in an area that re­ceives 12 inches of rain a year can har­vest nearly 15,000 gal­lons of wa­ter a year. How­ever, an av­er­age house­hold of two in Santa Fe uses over 30,000 gal­lons a year for in­side wa­ter use alone. With the in­stal­la­tion of wa­ter-con­ser­va­tion de­vices such as low-flow shower heads, toi­lets, and clothes wash­ers; and re­cy­cling and reusing faucet wa­ter in the toi­lets, it is pos­si­ble to cut this wa­ter use in half.

When it comes to wa­ter con­tam­i­nants, rain­wa­ter is of a much higher qual­ity than either well or mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter in most places in the world. It has very lit­tle of the hard min­er­als and salts com­monly found in wells or city wa­ter. It does con­tain harm­ful bac­te­ria that are also present in sur­face wa­ters (rivers, lakes, and reser­voirs) that are com­mon sources of com­mu­nity drink­ing-wa­ter sys­tems. Treat­ing bac­te­ria is eas­ily ac­com­plished by in­stalling a small house­hold ul­tra­vi­o­let-light sys­tem or a house­hold ozone sys­tem or both. Th­ese tech­nolo­gies have been around for decades and are the same type used by most com­mu­nity wa­ter sys­tems to­day to pu­rify our drink­ing wa­ter.

What­ever the rea­son or the sea­son, us­ing col­lected rain­wa­ter should be con­sid­ered. Wa­ter is a lim­ited re­source and be­com­ing more so ev­ery day, so it is time to start think­ing out of the box and eval­u­at­ing ev­ery pos­si­ble wa­ter source.

Doug Pushard, founder of the web­site www.Har­vestH2o.com, has de­signed and in­stalled res­i­den­tial rain­wa­ter sys­tems for over a decade. He is a mem­ber of the Santa FeWater Con­ser­va­tion Com­mit­tee, a life­time mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Rain­wa­ter Catch­ment Sys­tems As­so­ci­a­tion, and an EPAWaterSense Part­ner. He can be reached at doug@Har­vestH2o.com.

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