Do you collect rainwater? maybe you live on a property where you need to either collect your own water for every day living needs or maybe buy it in, well which ever is the case, it will take some preparation.
We live on a property with no access to scheme water and while I love rain water I have to admit that if a water pipe ever went past us then I would seriously consider connecting to it even if I never took advantage of the convenience of having the use of scheme water. My parents moved into their new house last year and after many years are now using scheme water, yuck! it tastes awful. For me it is common sense to catch, store and use the rain that falls for free without chemicals. When rainwater is captured and stored correctly, it is a safe, economical and a sustainable source of quality water, ideal for use inside and outside.
Anyway I digress, it is a sad but true fact that collecting rain water is not just a matter of running a pipe from ones roof into a water receptacle or water tank to collect the water and there are legalities involved. Some areas won’t even allow you to catch and contain your own water from rainfall. What you say? but yes another fact, lad developers may have put in place covenants which include no unsightly rainwater tanks and with our ever smaller blocks we may not even have room anyway. Another factor might just be that you rent and so need your landlords approval, another legality meaning you need to check with your landlord that it is okay for you to have a rainwater tank for collecting water.
Harvesting rainwater provides an independent water supply during regional water restrictions and in developed countries is often used to supplement the main supply. It provides water when there is a drought, can help mitigate flooding of low-lying areas, and reduces demand on ground water which may enable ground water levels to be sustained. It also helps in the availability of potable water as rainwater is substantially free of salinity and other salts.
Other than collecting rainwater out of necessity such as we do there are other reasons for doing so such as satisfying councils requirements to collect water run off from sheds and garages, with the high cost of water currently and knowing the cost is only going to keep rising maybe you wish to save money, to qualify for rebates, meeting new regulations (it is now a requisit to install a rainwater tank in some areas or maybe for health or environmental reasons.
Okay, you have no issues and it is okay for you to collect rainwater so what do you need to do?
- You'll need to select a site and find solid ground to situate the tank on. You need to be sure the ground underneath your barrel is stable. Our property is sandy gravel loam, we can dig a metre down first before we hit any clay at all. On the other hand my parents house sits on heavy clay and while this is fine most of the time when it gets wet is turns into this awful mushy, sticky stuff. Like us they have had to build up the area where they were going to site the water tank by building a sand pad though in our case we needed this to ensure the tank wasn't damaged by the stones/gravel when it filled with all that water. Of course if you just want to collect a large barrel of rainwater then while the principle is the same and you need to prepare your area to place the barrel on you will only need to make sure the barrel is going to sit on a solid foundation such as a cleared bed of sand/solid ground, a pallet or even a few paving bricks would do.
About this time you should also consider placement. As we rely on our rainwater tanks for all our water and would need a pump to pump the water into the house we situated our rainwater tanks (we have 2 of them) about 25 to 30 metres away from the house and did this because we knew we would require a pump and pumps can be a little noisy particularly at night time when it is quiet. Noise from the pump for the rain water tank is only one consideration there are others such as if you are using a smaller tank or rainwater barrel then you want the barrel/tank to be situated under rain gutters near the house, but not so close that they obstruct movement. I know someone who had to move theirs away from the back door so they could get things in and out of the house.
- Determining your roof type is going to come to mind now, some roofing materials may not be conducive to water collection. Most shingles contain tar and other materials that may be harmful to animals, so you may not want to collect rain from a shingled roof of this type. I don't think I have actually seen any shingled roofs here in Australia and is just something that has stuck in my memory from when we lived over in the UK a few years back. However if I am mistaken and some of our very old houses do have shingles then water for shrubs and trees from such a source should be fine. If your shingles are all natural, the water running off them may also be suitable for fruits and some vegetables. If I remember correctly fruits and vine vegetables are okay because any undesirable elements should have been filtered by the plant before they reach the edible part of it while root type vegetables store all these elements in the parts we eat.
Metal roofs are usually fine for collecting rainwater for plants and animals. Be sure to check with the manufacturer to be sure. Some paints may flake off, but most metal roofs are made to last 50 years or more.
Beware of aluminum roofing, most often found on mobile homes. The aluminum can get into the water and is the most undesirable. There are unconfirmed studies of aluminum possibly contributing to Alzheimer’s Disease and is best avoided because of this. I also read somewhere aluminum rain gutters and downspouts can be used because the water spends very little time in them, sometimes touching them very little in its fall. The concentration of contaminants can also be reduced significantly by diverting the initial flow of run-off water into the tank by remvong the tank caps then after the first rainfall placing them back on again allowing the cleaner water to go into the tank. Yu also need to ensure that water is able to run off into the tank or barrel and is therefore lower than the roofline you collecting from.
Where do you find rainwater tanks, barrels for collecting water or other containers? The former are easy to find I think we have all seen the adds for these on the telly or on billboards etc, You can buy commercially-made rainwater tanks and barrels that are attractive as well as functional. There are many styles, ranging from tanks that blend in with your landscaping, tanks that sit under your house (if your house is on stumps or stilts) to tanks that are collapsible and you can take with you if you move. They usually come with a spout to drain the water and sometimes come with hardware to hook them up to your gutter system. If not, the pieces can be found at your local hardware store.
One of my rain barrels (I have several large barrels sited off places like the chicken pen and a small shed) was purchased locally from a man who gets barrels from car washes, cleans them out, then adds the necessary hardware. They were priced between $15 and $40 depending on size. I have also bought large barrels which are from wholesalers and were used for transporting cooking oil. Again cleaned out and re purposed for our own use. We have even cut one in half length wise to use for catching water off my parents RV that is stationed here for the present. Amazing how much water you can collect off this vehicle.
Of course because these receptacles are open and do not have a strainer cover over the inlet as do rainwater tanks we now come to another issue,
- Deterring Bugs You will need to keep in mind that mosquitoes, which hatch in standing water, will be attracted to the rainwater barrels however there are a few ways around this:
- Mosquito Dunks – These are little cakes that contain Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacteria which kills mosquito larvae, but is safe for plants and animals.
- Neem oil – Just a few drops of neem oil in water will deter mosquitoes. A few drops in 55 gallons should have no effect on animals and plant life.
- Sponge or netting – You can also lay a sheet of sponge or wadded up netting over the top of your barrel opening. The rough surface should deter bugs.
Birds & Other Animals are also a consideration so I would also keep a screen over the top anyway, as birds and other animals will want to drink from standing water also. If it is up high and there is some shelter from predatory animals then birds will definitely want to drink from it. I do what I can to prevent accidental drownings by keeping the barrels covered and because I like to protect the wildlife I also keep a couple of bird baths full in protected areas as well as 1 or 2 shallow ground level pans of water around the garden for lizzards and such.
Algae is really the last thing that springs to mind now and isn’t usually a concern, but to prevent it you can add a small amount (about a cup to a 55-gallon drum) of hydrogen peroxide to the barrel. Replace occasionally as water is used and the barrel is filled again. There are algae preparations for ponds that may work, such as barley extract, but I don’t have experience with them. You can also buy algae block from livestock suppliers, they use these in farm tanks for stock water (stock being the principle usage for these blocks and not for human consumption)
I hope I have given you something to think about if you are considering collecting your own rain water for what ever reason. We are able to do so now but one day we may find that we are not allowed to collect rainwater for our own use. As with many of our other long held rights this one will also one day likely become a right of the past. As bizarre as this sounds there are laws in other countries right now which restrict property owners from harvesting rainfall on their own properties. Not here you might think, well not at this time but it will happen as I remember only a few years ago our very own government attempted to impose a fee on farmers for all the rain they harvested in their dams. Rediculous!