Water conservation is an important topic that’s coming more to the forefront of ecological discussions. However, a more practical question for many homeowners is “is rainwater harvesting viable and economical?” There are, after all, many Americans who live solely off of collected rainwater for all of their aquatic needs. Some of them even live in the middle of the desert! But in Florida, we get plenty of rain. So what’s the right solution for you? In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of rainwater collection and if it’s a preferable option to drilling a well.
What’s Good About Rainwater Collection?
On the surface, rainwater harvesting seems to be a sensible idea. Rain, after all, is a free resource that drops down in pretty vast quantities. For those seeking to live off the grid or obtain a self-sufficient lifestyle, many begin to gravitate towards rainwater. It presents the idea of something very simple, just capturing what’s falling from the sky in a barrel and going from there. There are even trendy “Earthship” homes with rainwater collection systems installed on rooftops. But there is far more to the story than being independent and ecologically sound.
It is important to consider the placement of plants, trees, and water sources that can collect and manage rainwater on their own. Moving soil to create berms and raising paths helps slow runoff and capture rainwater to aid in soil watering. Lowering planting beds, so they naturally bowl and collect water, does a similar job. Plants which can store water in their roots or help move it down to the water table are also useful, as these prevent water from reaching roads where chemicals could be introduced into the water system.
The process of harvesting rainwater typically begins with barrels and tanks. Covered barrels can collect rain directly from the gutters and rooftop and also serve as storage for rainwater. However, here is where the process becomes complicated compared to well ownership.
What are the Cons of Rainwater Collection?
While barrels are a nice gesture, consider the amount of water a home needs. The average rainwater barrel is typically only able to hold around 55 gallons. The average toilet flush uses a gallon and a half, and showers typically run in the ballpark of 2.5 gallons per minute. That’s over 20 gallons for an average shower! This means you need more than just barrels. Installation of a sizable cistern is required for broad home use.
You also need to consider the requirement of treating the water. Rainwater isn’t always clean, and runoff is especially dirty. This water needs to be stored, filtered, purified, and these all present opportunities for very expensive systems to be set up in your home. Rainwater collection can also be unreliable. The cost of setting up your lawn to capture rain is already high, and adding expensive purification systems on top of it only adds more.
In areas where groundwater is plentiful, the cost and time requirement needed to set up a rainwater collection system as your primary source of water is often not worth it and can be vastly more expensive than setting up a private well. That said, smaller systems could potentially support things such as irrigation or garden watering. Florida is a place with plentiful groundwater – And it’s all naturally purified by the filtration process of water moving down into the aquifer. A well typically only needs to be dug once, and other than regular maintenance, requires no further costs once installed. Wells are perfectly self-sufficient, and not to mention water-efficient – providing a reliable, safe, and ecological solution to your independent water needs.
Give us a call today, and learn more about getting started on your own private well system.