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.