Growth in Rainwater Applications in the US

There are many areas throughout the world that suffer shortages of clean water.  This is also true in the United States, where fresh water shortages are happening more often and water rates are rising accordingly.   This need not be the case.  Through more enlightened water management, water shortages can be virtually eliminated.  Rainwater collection is one of many techniques that can help assure enough fresh water is available.  The amount of water we are wasting every year as a country is needless.  Rainwater harvesting is a great solution that is becoming more and more recognized as a viable water source as well as storm water management tool.

Overview of Rainwater Collection

The technique of collecting rainwater for everyday use has been around for thousands of years. The ancient Mayan, Roman, and Egyptian empires all used this technique to manage water supplies in their cities.  As over the centuries, rainwater from rooftops that normally is a nuisance leading to flooding, erosion, and building structure issues is turned into an asset by directing it to a tank. Nowadays, this water is pre-filtered through a variety of means before it goes to the tank.  Water is then clean enough for many non-potable applications such as irrigation and cooling tower make up.  In other cases where water is used indoors, treatment is done. Sediment filtration, carbon filtration, and UV disinfection are relatively simple steps that assure water is suitable for use indoors, even for drinking.  In the US, there are currently many thousands of new rainwater systems being installed each year both on commercial and residential properties and the number is growing rapidly.

The reasons people are driven to use rainwater collection is varied.  In many locations, it is the only viable water source.  In the US, there are many areas where wells are drying up or having saltwater intrusion and municipal sources are not available, making rainwater collection the best drinking water source.  Places in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Hawaii, and many others have this situation in rural areas.  Here is one example in Maine where saltwater instrusion was the issue. See http://bit.ly/1dwPY3w  Here’s another one installed in St. Croix USVI. http://bit.ly/1jMW1iJ

Others are driven by reducing water costs.  With water prices rising nearly everywhere, this is becoming a more and more important reason to use rainwater collection.  For some commercial systems, a payback of less than two years occurs with regularity.  Applications which are most likely to meet these excellent financial returns are with commercial laundries (e.g. in hotels), cooling tower make up in large buildings, fleet car washes. See http://bit.ly/1jM4cMd and http://bit.ly/P3DULz.

Stormwater management is another primary reason people turn to rainwater collection.  It is common to prevent issues caused by storm water and turn that solution into a water resource.  This was a driving force for a residential potable rainwater system in Atlanta and for a city park in Sandy Springs, Georgia.  See http://bit.ly/QhRYlX and http://bit.ly/OWhfRI and http://bit.ly/1g2vVVa and http://bit.ly/1dtzUPG and http://bit.ly/QhSzUz.

In regions hit with drought, governments are encouraging rainwater collection by passing bills to provide incentives and to streamline permitting processes.  This has happened for example in Texas and in Australia to help alleviate their “millenium” drought, according to The Guardian..  Many large companies such as Home Depot, Walmart, and TD Ameritrade have installed their own rainwater collection systems to protect themselves from water shortages while reducing utility bills and meeting sustainability initiative goals.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, a group of high school students worked together to build a better campus, implementing a rainwater harvesting system. This school had an issue with a leaky roof and inefficient gutters.  When it rains, it was often an issue for students. In order to solve this problem and to do their part for the environment, students were proactive and designed a rainwater collection system which they installed themselves. This provided them with an opportunity to work together, using their creativity to design a rainwater harvesting system that would work well for them.

Sports teams are also seeing the benefits of rainwater collection with ambitious projects like the one at Target Field in Minneapolis or smaller systems at Miller Field in Milwaukee or Turner Field in Atlanta.

Whether it’s a vacation home in Maine, high school students in North Carolina, or corporations in Texas, one thing is for sure, rainwater harvesting techniques are starting to have a major impact on how we manage water.  As more and more properties adopt rainwater collection, the impact will be to vastly reduce the risk of running out of fresh water all around the US.  Water is one of our most precious resources, and there are so many advantages associated with implementing these types of systems.

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2 Responses to “Growth in Rainwater Applications in the US”

  1. Dr Ranveer Singh Mahwar Says:

    Although, it appears to have been started quite late better late than never. I hope the system takes care of discarding the water from the roof tops for the fist few minutes of the first rain of the season specially in case of the modular systems for individual houses.

    • bobdrew Says:

      You make a good point. IN areas that have a distinct dry and wet season, rooftops may become quite laden with contaminants. In this case a first flush which discards the first portion of collected water may be more advantageous. In areas with more consistent rain through the year, a first flush may be less important. The end use of the water also will impact whether use of a first flush is warranted. Personally, I tend to specify first flushes for potable rainwater systems and less so for other applications. This is in an area with no distinct wet and dry season.

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