When I wrote back in March about the practice of using rain gardens to catch and save rainwater to use for your landscaping, I was surprised to find out it was actually illegal in some cities. I was surprised because the practice seems like a no-brainer. You catch and store the water falling on your roof or another unnatural surface and then use it later to water your plants. Done correctly, the water can even be used for household or drinking purposes. One organization, Water Aid, has programs in place “programs across Africa and Asia (to) help poor communities to construct and manage rainwater harvesting systems”. In some places in the world, almost all buildings use rainwater harvesting methods. Here is a quote from the Bermuda Planning Department where the practice dates back many decades:
“Here in Bermuda all residential properties catch rainwater on the roof. This is constructed of lapped limestone slate on a timber frame. The water collected drains down into a water tank which is located beneath the house. The general rule of thumb is that the tank must be large enough to hold, in gallons, an amount calculated by multiplying the roof area of the house by eight and a quarter. This water collection system has been in use for many, many years.”
Well, much recent publicity seems to have forced some U.S. to take a closer, more positive look at the practice. One example of the change in policy is Tucson Arizona where all new commercial buildings will need to supply half of the water needed for the buildings landscaping from rainwater harvested from those buildings. In addition the city of Tucson has a fantastic rainwater harvesting webpage to help residents set up and use rain catching systems on their homes. According to a quote from a Tucson city official I read somewhere a few weeks ago, the cities support of rainwater harvesting is attraction inquiry and attention from municipalities across the U.S,
A large part of the world gets its rainfall in very seasonal, or in some cases, very irregular patterns. In these locations catching the rain will be important in helping reduce some of the pressure our quickly increasing population is putting on the Earth’s freshwater ecosystem. Just three percent of the Earth’s water is fresh. Almost all of that three percent is somewhat unavailable, frozen in glaciers and ice packs or buried deep in the grounds. A small .76 of one percent of Earth’s fresh water in available from aquifers, and only .0072 of one percent of freshwater is contained in rivers and lakes.
So the times they are a changing on this issue. Humans need freshwater if we are to survive. Desalinization is still way too expensive for wide spread use and rivers and streams are already seriously damaged by diversions. In some places, ground water removal is also causing political and ecological trouble. Catching the rain is may seem like a small positive practice, but in some places, it can make a huge difference in the politics and logistics of human water use.
On a final note, like almost everything, some rain must fall on the party. In the United Kingdom raincatching devices are causing some insect controversy. The article I saw is titled, “Killer Mosquitoes in your Water Butt“, and no I have no idea where the name “Water Butt” came from. Honestly, I am pretty sure I don’t want to know.