After months of being, ahem, graced by El Niño, it may be surprising that some areas are still in the midst of a drought. But no matter where you live, a great way to conserve water (and save money on your water bill) is to collect and repurpose rainwater in your yard.
While it may not replace your water usage entirely, recycled rainwater can meet some of your basic water demands — from agricultural and landscape irrigation to toilet flushing and ground water basin replenishment.
Did you know, for example, that a single inch of rainfall on a 2,000-square-foot roof yields roughly 1,250 gallons of water? In a region that gets 30 inches of rain a year, that same roof would yield 41,000 gallons of reusable water!
So if you’re looking to make things easier on your wallet (and the planet), here are a few ways to get started.
Ways to collect rainwater
1. Employ rain barrels
For an affordable and easy way to collect and store your rainwater, rain barrels or cisterns are the way to go and they can be placed right beneath your downspout. If you have a large roof or live in a region that experiences heavy rainfall, consider affixing multiple rain barrels to your downspout to maximize rainwater usage.
In addition to water recycling benefits, rain cisterns help reduce the amount of storm water runoff and the pollutants that tend to come with it.
Be sure to keep those gutters clean and clear of debris, and cover the barrels once they’re full. Since there might be contaminants in the water, avoid using it for drinking purposes. And when you’re watering your plants, pour the water closer to the soil and away from edible portions.
If you’re wondering where to buy a rain barrel, you can first check to see if your city sells them or gives them away as a water recycling incentive. You can also peruse the internet for one, or even make a cistern out of a home receptacle or an old whiskey barrel (just be sure to give it a thorough cleaning).
Once you’ve got your rain barrel set up, consider looking into any rebates that might be awarded in your area.
2. Install rain chains
Rain chains look cool, plain and simple. And while they’re an elegant embellishment to your downspout, they also offer a pragmatic way to handle rainwater runoff from your gutters.
Rain chain installation is fairly straightforward — it simply hangs from the hole where the downspout used to be. The chain itself is composed of a series of cups that have little slots to collect the rainwater and slowly guide it down the chain toward the ground. The diversion of water is an effective way to mitigate water impact on the ground and protect the foundation of your home. It’s also a lovely sight to behold.
By placing your rain chain strategically, you can direct the water to your gardens, cisterns, or vegetated areas around the house so that the water runoff isn’t squandered.
Rain chains can typically be found at your local home improvement or hardware store, and of course, online.
3. Utilize vegetation
These days, with increasing urbanization, much of our rainwater doesn’t get absorbed. As water is forced to run rampant through our yards, streets, and sewers, it carries with it harmful chemicals that can potentially contaminate ecosystems and make water supplies undrinkable. Additionally, water runoff is a big culprit of flooding.
One practical way to maximize rainwater usage — and reduce environmental strain — is to ensure your yard has a lot of foliage. Grass, especially, tends to absorb water slowly, so if you’ve got a lawn, you’re off to a decent start.
If you live in a rainy region, consider planting water-retaining plant life and trees. Those with deep roots systems generally retain large volumes of water more effectively and supply water to adjacent plants. Everyone wins!
Using greywater for your yard
Greywater is essentially defined as reusable wastewater that comes from shower drains, washing machine drains, and bathroom sinks, and is typically used onsite for agricultural or landscaping purposes.
Therefore, using non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning agents and personal products is critical in order to protect your vegetation. And it should go without saying that greywater isn’t drinkable.
Although greywater isn’t rainwater, per se, you can use it to help reduce your home’s water bills, save on fresh water usage, and mitigate the amount of wastewater flowing into the sewer system. (Besides, it was rainwater at one point, right?).
How to use greywater
The easiest way to employ greywater is to pipe it directly to your yard from the intended source (like the shower, sink, laundry) and use it to water your trees or any ornamental plants.
You can use greywater to irrigate vegetable crops too, but be sure that it’s applied directly into the soil (and not with a sprinkler system) so that it doesn’t touch the aboveground area of vegetables or plants.
1. Avoid storing greywater for longer than 24 hours
Its nutrients will start breaking down fairly quickly, and before you know it, your home may reek.
2. Make sure it gets into the ground sufficiently
You may have seen water percolate in your soil, and when there’s enough, it can create a little pool. This is something you want to avoid with greywater, as pooling may provide a nesting area for mosquitoes.
3. Keep it simple
Instead of an expensive pumping system, try to utilize gravity as much as possible to transport your greywater. Also, using eco-friendly household cleaning products may help to reduce the need for disinfectants and high-maintenance filters. A simple system offers longevity and less maintenance — and it may also save you money and energy.
Safeguard your hard work
Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your conservation. And to protect all your time and effort, make sure you have affordable, reliable homeowners insurance coverage.