Rainwater Catching is Catching On

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rain catching reduced2 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.

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Will Sig
1 JD at I Do Things

“Apparently the rain is considered public property and as such it is illegal in many places to harvest it.”

That’s crazy!

And I just had to Google “water butt.” I had never heard that phrase either, but here ya go!
.-= JD at I Do Things´s last blog ..I Met My Creepy Neighbor so you don’t have to =-.

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2 Will

Ok JD – Thanks for that link, I think. Here is what I found for the serious definition:

Wa´ter butt`
1. A large, open-headed cask, set up on end, to contain water.

Now I wonder about the origin of the name?

The public property issue is a problem in some places. And, if the law says the rain belongs to the public, then the official enforcers are not allowed to use common sense and allow catching until the local law is changed.

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3 John Hunter

Thankfully I think those places are realizing it is stupid to say people can use rain that falls on their property. Water is a big issue going forward. If we don’t find a way to cheaply and effectively desalinate water we are going to have real problem (even that doesn’t solve all problems but it would help a great deal). http://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2009/06/07/agricultural-irrigation-with-salt-water/
.-= John Hunter´s last blog ..Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring =-.

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4 american girl

It seems like water is going to be the new oil in the upcoming years. It doesn’t make sense to me that some governments would make it illegal to store that rain water to use for the landscaping. I agree that a fast easy way to desalinate the ocean water is key and should be high on the priority list in the upcoming years.

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5 Will

@ American Girl – That is too funny. Did you intend to make me chuckle? Anyway, look at the top of the sidebar to the right and note the title of the post that is at the top of my most popular post list. Great minds think alike I guess.

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6 Will

@ John – I agree with your skeptical take in your post on the plastic pipes that absorb salt and other impurities from water. Indeed finding an inexpensive way to desalinate water will be crucial to avoiding disaster and conflict over water in the years to come.

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7 Mozi Esme's Mommy

It is amazing that it would be illegal…
.-= Mozi Esme’s Mommy´s last blog ..Camping School =-.

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8 Anna

I think we are allowed to collect water here, as a matter of fact been raining for a while now, and our backyard was flooded, it would have been good to collected for the dry days. Anna 🙂
.-= Anna´s last blog ..Chickadee Little The Kung Fu Master =-.

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9 Will

Anna – We can collect here, but it rains only part of the year so we would need a real system to store it. Once in a while we get a summer thunderstorm. We need one now as we are on out third week of over 995 degree weather. 109 here today. A record. Tomorrow more of the same and I work outside!

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10 Tom Fiberblend

That’s maddness – you can’t harvest your own rainwater – if everyone did their bit during the year we wouldnt need to rely so much on water supplies that get stretched during the warmer months

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11 Keith

Desalinated water also has to be made palatable. We cannot be dependent on bottled water much longer either.

I agree that the idea of not being allowed to harvest water that falls on your own property is just absolutely nuts. First, who would it hurt? Second, what happens to it if you do not harvest it? If asked those two questions, no one could give a sane answer in support of a continued ban on rainwater collection.

Of course,you have to understand the bureaucratic mindset for that to make sense. The water sales might go down if people were allowed to “hoard” water. Then there would be less funds to squirrel away into the CAFRA accounts.

That doesn’t even take into account the independent mindset that some people might eventually develop. Cannot have that! If your locality has control over your access to water, then you are under a thumb. That is why I hated living in town. I couldn’t water my tomatoes without running up the water bill. Not to mention the idea of putting that chemical laced water on something I intended to eat seemed unwise.
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12 Will

Hi Keith! Much of what you say is true. But one of the arguments for preventing rainwater collecting is concern that if it is done on a large scale, the amount running into the water table or streams might be impacted. Hard to fathom that the amount collected could even make a dent, but that was the argument sometimes.

Is desalinated water not palatable? I have never tasted it, but I would think it would be like distilled water? Many don’t like distilled water’s tast because it has none. It is the minerals, etc. in drinking water that give it the taste we are accustomed to.

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