It’s a great idea to capture rainwater yourself using rain barrels, for multiple reasons. To start with, the sewer system can become overburdened when too much rain falls simultaneously. When every house in a neighborhood captures rain in barrels, you reduce the risk of having raw sewage flood into your gardens during extreme downpours, as happened to me last summer. Trust me, you’d rather avoid that!
In addition to this, excessive rainfall can easily damage your crops. All the water that falls on your roof has to end up somewhere! Capturing the water that falls on your roof in a rain barrel for later use can do wonders to reduce water damage to your plants.
Finally, rainwater collection can be used to reduce your own water bill. Some people with professional collection systems witness a 35-40% reduction in their water use simply by capturing their rainwater. The problem in California and many other places is not that too little rain falls, but rather the rain tends to fall all at once and ends up wasted.
The legality of rainwater collection
Sadly, some jurisdictions have made it illegal to collect the rainwater that falls on your own roof. In other jurisdictions, local governments actually encourage citizens to capture rainwater, to relief their own sewer system or reduce water usage. You can even receive subsidies in some places. It’s definitely worth checking first.
Rainwater capture and mosquitoes
It’s not always a good idea to capture rainwater with an open barrel like we showed you above. In places with mosquito borne diseases like dengue fever, zika or malaria, you will definitely want a rainwater barrel that insects can’t reach. For this purpose we would recommend this rain barrel by RTS Home Accents:
Why this one? If you look carefully, you can notice here that the water falls on a filter. This filter prohibits any insects from entering the barrel, but does allow the water through. If you live in a climate where insects are a concern, this is very important. By capturing the rainwater in this manner, you can actually prevent stagnant pools from forming in your garden where insects may lay their eggs.
What to do with all that rainwater?
Rainwater you collect yourself is generally seen as grey water, as it might have some contaminants it picked up on its way into your barrel. With a filtration system, you can turn it into water you can safely drink. There are many other great uses for rainwater however. You can use it to flush your toilet, this is especially useful if you have a simple off-grid composting toilet. You can also use it to irrigate your plants. We have a great article on plant irrigation with rainwater here.