Water Conservation Through Rainwater Collection

Federal Way Washdown_RainBankLLC_webThe most common use of rainwater collection is for non potable use. Irrigation, water features, wash down, toilet, and laundry are all non potable uses that can have a positive effect on water conservation. A properly designed and installed rainwater collection system will provide enough water to support these desired uses with less impact on our water supply.

Rainwater is essentially free of pollution, so it can be stored without much more than screening. Storage can be underground, above ground, metal, plastic, or fiberglass. If irrigation is the desired use, keep in mind that approximately .623 gallons per sq ft of planting, per week is required for the healthy growth of plants, therefore storage volumes can be a concern in design due to space and costs. Conveyance can be gravity if there is enough head. Head is .4 lbs per foot of elevation. A pressure pump might be necessary to achieve the desired pressure needed. Sediment filtration for a simple irrigation system should be all that is needed to ensure emitters and soaker hoses perform as expected.

Water features such as fountains can recirculate the water being used, so very little storage would be required. Sediment and carbon filtration would be needed to keep pumps and nozzles working properly. A carbon filter would be helpful to keep odor to a minimum.

Wash down facilities can use rainwater collection and save money on their water bills by using rainwater collection as the rinse water. With enough storage, a large fleet can be washed with recycled wash water and rinsed with collected rainwater. Again, sediment and carbon filtration would be the only filtration needed. Wash down of equipment, whether construction or farming, can benefit from rainwater collection.

Toilet and laundry facilities for residential and commercial applications are becoming more popular with new construction. Rather than infiltration, which is mandated, why not use that water. Simple pumping and filtration of stored water is all the treatment needed. A return on investment can be achieved within a few years.

There are a wide range of uses for rainwater collection. With a little bit of imagination you might come up with a use for rainwater collection that could save you money.  

Prevent Water System Leaks to Save Money

old-107311_1280According to the American Water Works Association, leaks cause 14% of household water budget.

Whether you are on city water, well, or rainwater catchment, leaks cause not only money, but possible damage to crawl spaces, insulation, sheet rock, and flooring. Leaks can be a cause of black mold, which can turn into a health concern in your own home. If you are on a rainwater collection system, 14% of your water use is a considerable loss. Nationwide, water leaks affect our aquifers, reservoirs, and municipal water supplies on a large scale. The cost of water is so inexpensive, many shrug off a small leak as a nuisance, rather than take a proactive response to correct the problem.

Occasional inspections of your water system and plumbing can save thousands of dollars in repairs if caught early – before damage is done. It can be as simple as checking under sinks, looking in the basement at plumbing connections, even turning off all use in the house and monitor the meter for a short period to see if it records any use.

If you’re on a rainwater collection system, gutters and downspouts can be a source of leaks you might not have thought of. The next time it rains, go out and look at your gutters and downspouts. Leaks usually will be from clogged down spouts, resulting in gutters overflowing. Take a look at the seams of downspouts, particularly any horizontal runs. If you find any leaks, repair with a marine adhesive or replace with solid PVC 3” or 4” pipe with glued connections. Look at the connections of your pump and filtration to be sure they show no signs of leaking. A toilet running can use a significant amount of water. If you find your toilet is running continually, check your flush valve and flapper. This is a simple and inexpensive repair that homeowners can conduct themselves.  

With simple diligence, leaks can be avoided or fixed, which saves money, time, and water. Be water wise. 

What is the Connection Between Rainwater and Stormwater?


rain-432770_1280Stormwater is rainwater that has not been collected and stored for future use, infiltrated or managed at the source. Rainwater, when not stored for future use or infiltrated on site, will flow into storm drains picking up toxins on the way and eventually will end up in our waterways.

The EPA has identified “stormwater as the greatest source of water pollution”.

With proper filtration and disinfection, the practice of rainwater collection for landscaping, toilet flushing, laundry, commercial and industrial use, along with potable use for single family residences, can minimize storm water runoff. The use of swales and rain gardens to lessen the effects of storm water from urban sprawl are helping reduce the effects of stormwater runoff.

According to the EPA “rainwater harvesting systems are recognized as a Low Impact Development (LID) technique for stormwater management.” As a result, many states, counties and cities have adopted and encourage rainwater collection. The EPA recognizes that the “effectiveness of a rainwater harvesting system for managing stormwater runoff depends on the presence of a consistent and reliable demand that can draw down the cisterns and ensure adequate volume for storm water retention.” A system that is sized properly by taking daily rainfall amounts into account, rather than yearly averages – and design that includes a full range of use during those peak events, or enough storage to minimize overflow, are going to be the most effective. 

Whether commercial or residential, rainwater collection, when sized properly and used regularly on a scale that lessens the overflow amount from the cistern, has the most positive effect on stormwater management.

To read more from the EPA on rainwater collection and stormwater see http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/upload/rainharvesting.pdf