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Green Your Home by Harvesting Rainwater

by Garret Stenbridge

If you live in the Southeast, you have experienced more than enough rain this summer. But if you live in parts of the West, you have likely experienced the opposite: extreme drought. In both cases, you should consider the benefits of harvesting rainwater.

It's a great, easy do-it-yourself project with a sure-fire payoff!

"Green" home features continue to grow in popularity, and a rainwater harvesting system is one that is easy to build and install. Plus, it will reduce your reliance on public water and save you money on utility costs.

Collect your own rain water with these barrelsBefore jumping into this project, make sure to research whether or not it is legal to harvest rain in your area. Some states prohibit this practice, because they maintain that the rain water is their right and should fall to the ground and be absorbed. If you live in a state that does allow rain harvesting, you shouldn't have any problem setting up your own system using the following steps.

1. Create a water collection receptacle using a five-gallon bucket and a 55-gallon (or larger) barrel.

  1. Use a jigsaw to cut the top quarter off of the five-gallon bucket.
  2. Sit the top of the bucket on the lid to the barrel, and use a pencil to trace its outline.
  3. Use a jigsaw to cut along the outline of the bucket.
  4. Slide the top quarter of the bucket into the circular hole so that it is snug.
  5. Near the base of the barrel, cut a small hold and insert a spigot.
  6. Place two cinder blocks near the home's downspout for the gutter system, and sit the barrel on top of them. You can also build a wooden platform to serve the same purpose and give a cleaner, organized appearance.

2. Modify your gutter downspout so that it will flow to the barrel.

  1. Install a downspout diverter and a short section of downspout that will lead to the barrel. This will allow you to collect water until the barrel is full, and then divert unneeded water to the ground.
  2. Place the downspout extension on the top of the bucket lid and trace it with a pencil.
  3. Use the jigsaw to cut along the perimeter that you have outlined and create an opening where the downspout extension will fit into the bucket lid.
  4. Install a gutter filter in the gutter that runs along the roof, close to where the downspout begins. This will prevent unwanted debris from entering the water receptacle.

3. Connect the downspout to the barrel.

  1. Remove the lid to the bucket, insert a paint strainer with drawstrings, and replace the lid so that it holds the strainer in place. This will form a second line of defense against debris.
  2. Place the downspout extension into the bucket lid so that rainwater can flow into the bucket, and then into the barrel.

Kitty cat under rainbarrelRegardless of what you hope to do with the water you collect, it is important to protect it from the sun and prevent mosquitoes from using it as a breeding pool. To do this, wrap the barrel in a tarp or an old grill cover and make sure to keep the lid closed at all times.

These steps will get you going with a basic rainwater harvesting system for non-potable water, but keep in mind that there are extensive variations that can be incorporated, from adding additional barrels to creating a complex filter system that will produce potable (safe to drink) water.

Now that you are collecting your own rainwater, what can you do with it?

Just imagine all of your uses for non-potable water around your house ... the options are limitless!

  • Keep your garden green: Plants and grasses thrive on rainwater, so they won't discriminate when you transition from using public water to recycled water to keep them nourished throughout the year. For those in drought-ridden areas, this could be the difference between life and death for any vegetation around the home. If you live in an area that has been fortunate enough to experience above-average rainfall, save the water for dryer days ahead.
  • Maintain a clean appearance for your car and home: Recycled water is perfect for rinsing off the patio, cleaning off your home's siding, and even washing your car. Add a little soap and a scrub brush, and you are ready to go.
  • Bathe and cool your pets: In the heat of the summer, there is nothing better for your four-legged friends than a bath or even just a soak in a baby pool full of rainwater. Even though the water that you have collected isn't potable, it is just fine for Fido.

Creating your own rainwater harvesting system is a plus for any homeowner. It can help you maintain your way of life around the house during times of drought, it can help you green your home, and in doing so, you can save money on your water bill. Done correctly, you can ensure that your do-it-yourself project adds to your already-organized yard and is a boon to your home.

About the author: Garret Stembridge is a member of the Internet marketing team at Extra Space Storage, and regularly contributes to the Storage Blog. Garret often writes about sustainable practices for the home and for businesses. The Extra Space Storage in Mesa, Arizona has been retrofitted to reduce energy consumption.

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