It is amazing how little a dry country like Spain does to manage rainwater. As a result, if it rains a lot, the streets are flooded and the water has nowhere to go. You would think it is not that hard to collect rainwater safely and effectively.
This is very different in the Northern European countries where it rains a lot, such as the Netherlands and Belgium. The municipalities not only attach great importance to water management, but they have various subsidy schemes for private individuals to make provisions.
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Table of contents
- 1 How do you collect rainwater safely?
- 2 What do you use rainwater for?
- 3 Some final remarks
How do you collect rainwater safely?
The good old-fashioned rain barrel is perhaps the easiest and most affordable option. You can make rain barrels yourself from waterproof containers you have lying around the home or you can purchase them online or in your local home or garden store.
While placing one or several barrels out in the rain is one option, the best way to capture the most rainwater is to position your barrel under your rain gutter downspout. Ensure that the downspout flows directly into the barrel. That way, you’re collecting all the rain that hits the roof of your home, which is a much larger surface area than a bucket collecting water in the yard.
Tap your rain barrel with two flows. One flow will be there to release overflow in the event it rains so hard that your barrel fills up. The other flow can be used to utilize the water. You can attach a hose to it and direct water into your garden, or simply have a faucet you can turn off and on to fill your watering can as needed.
The tap should be low enough to use all the water and high enough to hold a watering can or bucket underneath. Remember that water has weight, 1 liter weighs about 1 kilo, so make sure an elevation or foundation is strong enough.
Protect the rain gutters
Place covers over your rain gutters to prevent the debris on your roof from entering your rain barrel. This debris can rot and contaminate the water. And it can clog the outputs in your rain barrel, making the use of the water extremely difficult.
Rain gutter guards and shields can be purchased at your local hardware or home store and range in price from a few dollars to a high-priced and comprehensive gutter system.
Pay close attention to how your rain gutters are set up. If you have more than one downspout, you may want to position a rain barrel under each downspout to harvest as much rainwater as possible.
At hardware stores, you can buy water containers with more capacity than a rain barrel. Oddly enough, most containers are white so they always let in some sunlight which promotes algae growth. A dark or opaque container is better.
You can find many manuals on YouTube on how to make a water collection system yourself. If you are using a second-hand container or barrel, make sure it has previously been used for water as well. If it first contained oil or chemicals, the barrel is no longer suitable for water.
What do you use rainwater for?
Water your plants
Unless you live in an area with a lot of air pollution, rainwater is clean. It hardly contains any lime and no chlorine, which most plants love. Except for citrus plants that do like limy water.
You can water both the garden plants and the houseplants with rainwater, which saves a lot on your water bill.
Scrub the terrace and garden path
Rainwater is ideal for scrubbing the terrace and the tiles. Chlorine is bad for the environment, so if you cannot clean the tiles properly, use an organic all-purpose cleaner. If your collected rainwater is clean you can also mop the floors in the house with it.
Flush the toilet
Several public buildings in the Netherlands collect the rainwater on the roof and lead it to the toilets. Some people think it looks dirty because the water is not as crystal clear as the filtered tap water.
If a plumbing system gets too expensive, you can also use a watering can to flush the toilet. It hardly rains where we live, but I still use the watering can now and then. I collect the shower water in it while it is heating up.
Wash the car or clean the windows
If it rains where we live the water is often full of sand from the Sahara. It wouldn’t be a good idea to clean the car or the windows with that water, of course. But if you’re sure there is no sand in your rainwater it is perfect.
Do the laundry
Here the same argument applies as in the previous point, only do it when the water does not contain any sand. It wouldn’t be that bad in a hand wash, but sandy water will ruin a washing machine.
Drink it if you have taken precautions
Self-sufficient households use rainwater also as drinking water. Naturally, you must take the correct measures for this, such as filtering and algae-free storage. Make sure the water is safe before you drink it.
Make a green roof
A roof covered with low-growing sedum plants will buffer the rainwater. This way, the water supply is distributed over a longer period, which is especially useful when it rains a lot.
Another advantage is that the sedum filters the water so it runs cleaner into the gutter.
An advantage, which is also a disadvantage, is that sedum filters the particulate matter from the air. An advantage because the air becomes cleaner, but a disadvantage if you collect the water for your own use.
In some countries, governments subsidize the construction of a green roof.
Some final remarks
It is important to collect and store rainwater as cleanly as possible. Algae growth in particular is something to keep an eye on.
Try to estimate how much you need so that your system is large enough. This is especially important if you want to be self-sufficient.
Shade your rain barrel or barrel.
When it hasn’t rained for a long time, the roof is dirty. If possible, don’t catch the water from your roof for the first 10-15 minutes of rain.
If you live in an area where it freezes in winter, it is better to empty the barrels before the frost sets in.
A small pump can be useful if it is not possible to raise the barrel.
Do you collect the rainwater? Will you tell us about it in the comment box below?