April showers may bring us May flowers, so the saying goes. But they also bring out green homeowners.
When the snow and ice-covered rooftops melt with Spring temperatures warming the Northern Hemisphere, all of the water run-off has to go someplace.
If you’re a green homeowner, you’ve already got your rain barrel or other rainwater harvesting system in place to capture all that run-off, to save water and your wallet. If you don’t have one already, it should be at the top of your list of home improvements for the year.
The average American uses 300 gallons of water a day at home. While only 30% of that is used outside, just by collecting the water which Mother Nature drops overhead could save the average homeowner between 30 to 50% on their water bills – and about 80% for commercial water bills.
Most of the water we use is flushed with our waste.
According to the American government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 26.7% of our house water is used to keep our toilets flushing. Ironically, the next biggest consumer of water in our homes keeps us clean and fresh – 21.7% of our house water is used in our clothes washers followed by 16.8% use in the shower.
A rainwater harvesting system can be hooked into your home or businesses plumbing, and be put to use for toilet water and clothes washing, which really saves on water use, and that can drive your water bill down.
Although we’d like to think the wet stuff which falls from above is clean and pure, because of all the chemicals we pump into our atmosphere, rainwater is not fit for drinking, so you shouldn’t use it to shower, bathe or drink.
Most rainwater harvesting systems have a basic filter, preventing leaves and other small debris from entering the system. However, unless you go all out and install a water filtration and purification system as well, the stuff you collect is not safe for drinking water.
But you’ll have the greenest lawn, regardless of water shortages and their consequential lawn watering bans from municipalities – using rainwater to water your lawn will save your lawn during a hot summer, and will save on your water bill too.
Other uses for captured rainwater include washing cars, driveways and yards, watering your garden in addition to washing your clothes and in-toilet systems.
A typical rainwater harvesting system has a storage tank fitted to your stormwater drain, which captures rain water run-off from your roof. The run-off water enters the tank through a filter which removes leaves and other small objects. The storage tank is usually buried under your driveway, garden, or front lawn, and has a pump that pumps the water through a separate series of pipes that lead to your toilets and outside taps.
If you use this sort of system, there is a float in the tank, similar to the one in your toilets, which automatically triggers a valve to open and fill to a minimal level from the house’s water main so that the tank never completely empties. This way, you’ll always have water for your toilets and clothes washing machine, even during low rainfall periods.
However, the typical household rainwater harvesting system can capture about 100,000 litres of water – so you shouldn’t ever run out.
And as the snow and ice melts and runs-off this time of year, now really is the best time to start collecting rainwater – though some have been doing so all winter long.
In cold, wintry climates, you can purchase heating cables that keep your gutters and rainwater harvesting systems flowing even in the coldest of winters.
This not only helps you save water all year round, because you’re capturing melted snow and ice, but also prevents ice dams from forming, which can cause damage to your roof.
A rainwater harvesting system with all the fixin’s could run you a couple of grand to install.
But you don’t have to start with something so extravagant, you can simply buy a rain barrel for about $50 to $75 from your local hardware store, fit it underneath your gutter’s run-off, and for another $20 for a watering can, scoop out collected water to keep your plants well watered.
Every little bit helps, you and our planet, even if you’re capturing rainwater on a budget.
Still not convinced?
6 Good Reasons to Get a Rain Barrel
According to one University of Rhode Island report, water use in homes increases by 40-50% over the summer, which is mainly because of the amount of water we use to maintain our lawns and gardens. The U.N. says that the six billion people in the world use a little over half of all the fresh water in the world, and water and water conservation are becoming hot button issues in the green community and even in mainstream politics.
While you may not think you can do much about the world’s current water crisis, every little bit really does count. Luckily, there are many simple ways to help with the water crisis, including using a rain barrel at home.
Rain barrels and water tanks are incredibly easy to set up and use, and there are plenty of good reasons to use one.
1. You’ll cut back on water usage for your lawn and garden
Your rain barrel can collect runoff during storms and rain, which you can then use on your lawn and garden, dramatically reducing the amount of water you use from your home water line during the summer months.
2. Rain water is actually better for your plants
Even if you don’t have the greenest thumb, you can help your plants, shrubs, trees, and grass grow better by watering with collected rain water. Plants love natural rain water that isn’t chlorinated or fluoridated like municipal water normally is, so collected rain water is the best choice for watering your plants.
3. You can help minimize direct runoff
Direct runoff refers to the dramatic surface runoff of water that floods into sewers during rainy and snowy weather. In industrialized areas, all the concrete, houses, and other impermeable surfaces keep the rain water from soaking into the ground where it lands, as it normally would. When the water is, instead, flooding into the sewage system, the system can overload, resulting in major problems such as flooding downstream and leakages at local sewage treatment plants. By collecting the rain water that lands on your roof, you can do your part to minimize these problems.
4. You’ll help create healthier drinking water and natural waterways
When rain falls in the middle of an uninhabited forest, even rain that has picked up pollutants can be cleaned out, since most of the water will soak through the soil. However, when rain runs along roofs, streets, and cars, it takes all those pollutants with it, right into the natural waterways and drinking water treatment sites, since the soil that would otherwise soak it up is covered. By collecting rain water, you can prevent some pollution of the waterways around your home.
5. You can actually collect tons of water
If you live in a relatively dry area, you may think that having a rain barrel is pointless because you’ll never get any water. However, it often takes less than an inch of rain to fill an entire rain barrel, depending on the size of your roof. According to the City of Kearny website, a 1,000 square foot roof with just an inch of rainfall yields over 600 gallons of water!
6. You’ll save money
If you live in a city, chances are likely that you have to pay for your water usage, which makes rain barrels one great option for conserving water and saving money. With hundreds of gallons of rain water from a single rain fall, you can use that water for your lawn and garden for weeks to keep things looking green – without ever tapping into your city water supply.
As you can see, having a rain barrel is a great option for families who are interested in conservation and being green. While you can’t use water collected in a rain barrel for drinking, washing, or bathing, it will definitely offset your use of water in your lawn and garden. But if you’re looking for some other ways to be environmentally friendly while saving on water, here are some great options:
- Keep some filtered water in the fridge, where it will always be cold. This way, you don’t have to run the water for a few minutes while waiting for it to get cold.
- Plug the sink when hand washing dishes, rather than letting the water run. A running faucet uses about a gallon of water per minute.
- Water your lawn during the cool part of the day, so your plants lose less water through evaporation. This will stretch the water in your rain barrel even further.
- Always run full loads of laundry and a full dishwasher, rather than many small loads. If you need a particular item clean for the next day, consider hand washing it in the sink. It’s quick and easy.
There are so many ways to go green in your everyday life, and having a rain barrel outside your home is just one simple one.