Solutions for Self-Reliance

Rainwater Harvesting


Hey folks.  I’d like to spend a little time on resilient water today.  It’s a rich topic, with lots and lots to write about.

Let’s start by talking a bit about rainwater harvesting.

If you live in the US or the EU, you probably associate rainwater harvesting with owning a rain barrel.

Rain Barrel

A rain barrel is a simple approach to rainwater harvesting.  It’s a ready source of water that you can use to keep your garden alive during the watering bans of the summer months.  For example.  The basic rain water harvesting system includes:

  1. A roof (in rainwater harvesting lingo:  a drainage catchment).
  2. A gutter system that allows you to direct the downspout into the barrel.
  3. A large plastic barrel.
  4. A wire mesh (small enough to block bugs) that filters the water.
  5. A spigot and a hose to allow you to water your plants or fill a watering can.

However, the 55 gallons of water (or a little more with the larger models) you can collect in a barrel, isn’t much.  It won’t last you long if there is a serious disruption.

Real Rainwater Harvesting

If you are serious about rainwater harvesting and want to take it to the next stage, you need to  dig into the DIY forums on the topic.   Another option is to head to Australia.  Due to an intensely arid climate, Australians are at the forefront of developing, deploying, and debugging rain water harvesting systems from DIY to the low cost commercial systems.

Since there is such a big market for rainwater harvesting in Australia, there are low cost commercial systems for nearly every advanced function (while there is a commercial market in the US, it seems scattershot, if that isn’t the case, educate me to the contrary).  Here are some examples:

  1. Wire mesh installed over the gutters to prevent leaves/debris from falling into the gutters.
  2. First divert rain heads.  Prevents debris that gets through the mesh from getting into the system.
  3. A first flush system.  The first water that falls picks up dirt/chemicals from the roof/gutter.  Flushing that water improves the quality of what you capture.

And that’s just the capture phase of the system  There’s lots more to learn from places with too little or too much water that we can apply to our efforts at personal and community water resilience.  Permaculture also offers lots of insight on how to construct our landscapes and structures to allow water to work for us, rather than against us.

You can expect to see some these excellent insights in future reports on the topic.

Your always learning more about resilience analyst,

John Robb

* Be careful.  Rules vary by location.  For example:  In Colorado, due to water rights treaties signed a century ago, private land owners aren’t allowed to capture rainwater off of their roof w/o a permit.  So, be sneaky.

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