Traditionally, rainwater was collected, or harvested,
in large below ground tanks, or cisterns. These tanks have a reputation
for being difficult to store and maintain as well as not realistic in
residential applications. Today, however, many companies are developing
a wider variety of options, including tanks sized for residential homes.
A few companies have even developed harvesting tanks appropriate for
vacation and part-time homes. Many of these options include smaller
sized tanks that can be easily placed under decks or joists, alongside
walkways or vertically against a wall. These features, coupled with the
lack of space in many urban settings, make these modern rainwater
harvesting tanks very appealing to earth-conscience homeowners. By
contrast, rainwater harvesting tanks are also a good option for
homeowners in rural settings where obtaining a supply of water from
municipal sources is difficult.
There are a number of advantages to rainwater harvesting, including conservation of resources and utilities and reduction of flooding and erosion. It also provides a healthy alternative to chemical treated water for plants and vegetation. The water quality is typically classified as between groundwater and surface water, making it useful in a number of applications. Generally, collected (or harvested) rainwater is suitable for all non-potable uses such as watering the lawn, washing the car, running a power washer, air conditioner make-up water, and even cold water toilet flushing and clothes washing.
A rainwater harvesting can be simple or complex depending upon the intended use for the product. In a simple harvesting system, the collected water is used immediately. At its most basic level, routing the gutter downspouts to a specific landscaping area can be considered a form of rainwater harvesting. On a more complex level, however, systems can incorporate elements of roof catchment, gutter and downspout routing, tank storage and irrigation or distribution systems. The more complex systems often require professional assistance and sometimes a permit depending upon local ordinances. It is best to contact your local green building industry expert.
An example of a modern rainwater harvesting is the Rainwater H2OG, which is available in two distinct designs. The company offers a potable water tank made from virgin food-grade polyethylene and a non-food-grade tank made with 15% recycled content. Both styles of tank hold approximately 50 gallons of water and even offer potable water options (with the food-grade tank and after proper filtration). This particular tank has been recognized by Environmental Building News as one of the Top-10 Green Building Products in 2008, a reward largely based upon the tank's functional, efficient and visually discreet characteristics. The Rainwater H2OG also represents the move towards accommodation of harvesting systems to residential applications.
In the long run, the overall return on investment for rainwater retention systems is very positive. From both a financial and environmental stewardship perspective, going "green" through rainwater retention is a first-class initiative for homeowners.
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