Saving Rainwater

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28 Jul 2011

Catching and using rainwater can be as simple as a single plastic barrel with a gravity feed to a flower bed, or they can be sophisticated systems that supply all your water needs.

As a relatively dry country, the water problem in South Africa is exacerbated by an average annual rainfall of about 464mm, compared to a world average of about 860mm. Additionally South African rainfall tends to be concentrated in certain areas falling inconsistently throughout the year and is stored in very expensive dams remote from the concentration of consumers, which ultimately leads to expensive pipelines and pumping costs.

The cost of water in South Africa is not that high so we tend to be wasteful. There are indications, however, that water will become more expensive and there may simply not be enough water to meet the country's future needs and the need to save water will be forced upon us. Every South African should therefore become savvy about rainwater harvesting.

For the homeowner, collecting rainwater is just one of the ways to make a home more sustainable - by harvesting and storing rain water for irrigation, washing the car (or the dog), filling the swimming pool, even bathing and drinking if properly filtered.

In addition to conserving an increasingly scarce resource, rainwater collection also helps reduce storm runoff - a growing problem caused by the acres of concrete and other impermeable surfaces that go along with booming housing or commercial development.


One of the main benefits of a rain barrel is to reduce the amount of storm water runoff. Typically rain water flows off roofs, driveways, parking lots and other "impervious surfaces" into storm drains, which discharge either into community sewer systems or into nearby streams. In the first case, rain over-burdens sewers, leading to overflows, and rushing storm water can erode stream banks, introduce pollutants and ruin habitat for fish and other aquatic life in rivers and streams.

A second benefit is for your wallet. You can use water captured in rain barrels to irrigate your lawn and garden, saving on monthly water bills. In drier months and water-stressed regions, or during droughts, this water-conservation technique may be a necessity, given the imperative to conserve water.

A rainwater-collection system can be as simple as a rain barrel at the end of a downspout or as elaborate as a whole-house system. Cost and complexity depend on how much water you need and how you plan to use it.

A simple system is adequate for landscaping needs, but cost, complexity, and maintenance increase if you're planning to drink rainwater or pipe it into the house.


When people think of green building, they often think of the more obvious elements such as energy efficiency and environmentally friendly materials. Often the less obvious - and in fact more important components - such as water use reduction, water efficient landscaping and storm water management are overlooked. Additionally, networked systems of water supply and sanitation are becoming more difficult because of the major investments required to repair and replace ageing infrastructure. Water scarcity, the benefits of adjusting water quality to needs and the concern for making better use of available resources, all argue that water supply services should be adaptable, resilient and flexible.

A house with a sloped roof, gutters, and downspouts is well on its way to harvesting rainwater for landscape irrigation or other non-potable uses. You just need a few simple components: wire-mesh gutter screens to keep out debris, a storage tank, and a way to move the water out of the tank.

Tanks are available in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes to suit every need and environment and include vertical and horizontal.

When installing a rainwater harvesting system make sure you have the correct tank stand. You need to consider the size of the water tank you require and how much it will weigh when filled with water. The tank stand has to be able to support the weight. Naturally the bigger the water tank the bigger the weight so it is crucially important to install or construct your tank stand correctly. A tank stand could simply consist of a solid and level concrete slab or you can purchase either a timber or a steel tank stand.

Rain barrels can be attractive, and can even be built to prevent mosquito breeding.

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Home - Dzine

Home - Dzine

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