It can be very easy to remedy our past errors if we put our technologies, understandings, and lessons learned on the table, along with the many already available government and university resources of thousands of studies, reports and historical data collections.
A Rain Water Harvesting system can cost less than drilling personal water wells. And again, properly configured; the rain water can be used as a potable resource. Much of this Rain Water Harvesting implementation can be done without heavy equipment and much of it by the Do It Yourself crowd (DYI). Or there is an abundance of professional contractors in all communities that can do a complete retrofit of existing structures as shovel ready jobs. This includes; roofing gutters, plumbing, and landscaping professionals.
For those concerned; low cost water quality test kits are readily available, as are professionally certified labs.
People are more concerned about the quality of the drinking water they consume today than a few years ago. As we build more industries, automobiles, trains, and boats the environment gets more contaminated with gasoline, motor oil, and hazardous chemicals that find their way into the surface and underground water that must be used as the source of drinking water. Pesticides, fertilizers, weed killers, lawn chemicals, and other hazardous chemicals also find their way into the water and become a concern especially in those houses with a septic tank and a private well installed on the same property. Many homes treated for termite problems with insecticides like isofenphos and fipronil which get injected in the ground, create new problems when the rain wash them into the underground water contaminating the well causing serious health problems to the home owners. There is also a possibility of having natural minerals containing arsenic, lead, thallium, and mercury in the rocks that when in contact with the ground water, get dissolved, contaminating the water even in rural areas without any factories around. www.enviroteklab.com .
After rain falls from the sky, rainwater percolates through the earth and rocks, where it picks up minerals and salts. In many cases, this water also collects other contaminants such as; minerals, industrial chemicals, pesticides and fecal coliform bacteria, etc. found in the soil. As Richard Heinichen (http://www.rainwater.org ) points out.
Captured before it hits the ground, rainwater is free of many pollutants that plague surface and underground water supplies and, according to the Texas Water Development Board, “rain water almost always exceeds the quality of ground or surface water.”
Remember – the cleanest softest water falls from the heavens. Therefore we can capture it, and harvest this soft-n-pure free water. But first we also need to return it to the pure state it was before it landed on our dirty roof. The capture infrastructure (roof and gutters) requires a quick initial cleaning of larger debris accumulated between; daily, weekly, and monthly rain storms. That resulting debris is diverted to a storm drain or away from the cisterns or even used for landscape irrigation. This larger debris; pine needles, leaves, twigs, bird droppings (seeds etc), squirrel droppings (nuts etc.) mosquitoes, large insects, geckos, tree bud hulls, flowers, etc, can enter any rainwater gutter system (even leaf guards and other gutter screening products are not 100% efficient), especially during a windy and lengthy storm. This is very normal! Therefore the roof and gutters need a constant initial basic cleaning during the rainfall period. There are several methods on the market to assist in removing the larger debris. At this point though; the water is not considered potable, though it is of high quality, low in particulate matter but highly useful for other needs. (More on this later.)
Secondary rain water cleaning devices can be included in the Capture process. This is the one major health concern of captured rain water as a potable resource. It is that of the smaller particulates, such as; dust, pollens, molds, bird dropping residue, micro organisms, etc which are a concern to drinking water. Much of this small particulate matter may cause allergies or other health concerns. The source of these smaller particulates could have accumulated on the roof and gutters during a dry period prior to a rain. An analogy of the small particulates might be; the ability to write on the back of a van or truck with your finger; stating “Wash Me”! However there are methods to provide a brief period during the first rain; allowing for initial rinsing; this requires discharging approximately 1 gallon per 100 square feet of roof area before harvesting of rainwater into a storage tank or cistern (Point of Entry, POE).
One advantage of rainwater is its softness; therefore a commercial water softener is not required. Once the Rain Water is harvested it requires storage, you could fill your swimming pool, but for all other household needs storage tanks are required. These can be installed underground, above ground and even high up on a platform for gravity feed in sheltered livestock feed lots. Gravity feed systems could also be very beneficial to the farming community for irrigation purposes. Also this resource could be used for residential landscaping drip irrigation.
There are many calculators and charts available to quantify the annual and monthly rainfall per zip code and other useful tools to determine each household sized water requirements to determine the Rain Water Catchment infrastructure, and annual storage requirements. (More later)