The Green Blog
Save the rainwater, help the planet!
No matter where you live, rainfall no doubt plays a part in your life. Looking back at 2011, you may believe that your part of the country received more than its share of rainfall, or your state may have experienced drier-than-normal conditions or even been a part of the 2011 Southern United States drought.

A study conducted by San Francisco-based WeatherBill, Inc. ranked 195 cities in the contiguous 48 states by the amount of rainfall they received annually over a 30-year period. The study also found that in the past 30 years, the East and Southeast seemed to be getting wetter, while the West got drier. 

We all agree that water is the most important ingredient essential for plant and animal life on Earth. From an environmental point of view, is there a scarcity of this critical resource? "Water, however, is not a finite resource, but rather re-circulated as potable water in precipitation in quantities many degrees of magnitude higher than human consumption. Therefore, it is the relatively small quantity of water in reserve in the Earth (about 1% of our drinking water supply, which is replenished in aquifers around every 1 to 10 years), that is a non-renewable resource, and it is, rather, the distribution of potable and irrigation water which is scarce, rather than the actual amount of it that exists on the Earth." (Wikipedia)

Pink Goes Green has discussed the importance of water conservation in past blogs such as Turn It Off-the Water, That Is!, How to save the oceans and World Vegetarian Day, or, How What You Eat Can Help the Environment. Another idea we'd like you to consider is rainwater conservation or rainwater harvesting, defined as "the accumulating and storing of rainwater for reuse before it reaches the aquifer." (Wikipedia)

And how do you harvest rainwater? Catch it in anything that holds water. Many landscape or garden stores can tell you where to buy barrels. Check the Internet or Yellow Pages for landscapers and gutter installers to find new or recycled barrels. Also, some cities offer incentives for collecting rainwater, so check with your local water company for these.

Once you have a container, simply put the barrel beneath where the rainwater runs off your roof and you have started harvesting.

Look for barrels that have a faucet attachment so you can attach a hose to use the captured water for your yard. Also, don't forget to keep your tank clean. Here are some great ways to ensure water quality and safety with your rain barrel.

If you want to build your own barrel, a great tutorial is at: How to Build a Rain Barrel.

And remember that some U.S. states have water laws in favor of land owners, and some states own all water rights, leaving the owner only water rights the states are willing to grant through permits. For example, in Colorado you may not catch, collect or harvest rainwater from your roof unless you first buy a permit. So check with your local government to make sure you won't be in violation of any local laws.

Without chemical treatment, collected rainwater is typically suitable for all non-potable (non-human-contact) uses including:
- Outdoor lawn and garden watering/irrigation
- Vehicle and power washing
- Firefighting
- Air conditioner make-up water
- General non-potable outdoor usage
- Cold water toilet flushing and clothes washing, subject to local ordinances

However, because it is not chemically treated or hasn't undergone special filtration, harvested rainwater typically does not meet state and Federal drinking water standards and as such is not suitable for human contact applications. Subject to regulatory stipulations, however, harvested rainwater may be suitable for treatment to allow for potable usage. Contact your local Department of Health or Rainwater Recovery Inc. for further information, and help conserve this essential resource!

Additional sources:
The Global Development Research Center