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How to Harvest Rain Water

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 13 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Rainwater Rain Harvesting Design Water

Whether you are concerned about the effects of global climate change or just tired of paying high prices for water from the mains, you should learn more about how to harvest rainwater.

The idea is simple. Thousands of litres of water go down the drain every time there is rain. If it were possible to capture this water and store it for later use, you could lower your water bill dramatically. And imagine how handy this system would be during the next hosepipe ban.

Harvesting Systems

Some rainwater harvesting systems are quite complex. Rain is collected from the roof of the house and stored in a large tank. This free water is then used for flushing toilets, washing clothes and outdoor faucets. If you live in an area with high water costs and you are an adventurous do-it-yourselfer, then you might want to learn more about these whole-house systems. But if you have at least one garden building on your property, it's easy to get started on a much smaller and simpler scale.

Pretty much any type of garden building is fair game for rainwater harvesting. Whether you have a greenhouse, a log cabin or even a chicken coop, it's possible to make the most of rainfall and save the runoff from the roof if the building is equipped with gutters.

The quickest way to get started in rainwater harvesting is to use a water butt. By installing a water butt next to your summerhouse or garden shed, you can capture rainwater for use on your garden plants (which is better for them anyway). You start by fitting a diverter to your downpipe. Your system will work best if you can put the water butt on a platform. It should provide just enough height to fit a watering can under the water butt's tap.

Make sure the platform base is firm. Remember that when the water butt is full, it will weigh considerably more. The best option is to purchase a water butt stand. Also confirm that any water butt you install has a childproof lid. This will protect children and also prevent small animals and large debris from falling into the water butt. If you go ahead and install mesh over your gutters, you'll eliminate having to clean leaves out of the water butt later on.

Waterbutt Design

Some water butts tend to look rather utilitarian, which you may in fact prefer. You can also find water butts for rainwater harvesting in a wide variety of decorative styles. Oak barrel designs are common, as are Moroccan beehive styles. Other interesting design variations include a large granite rock shaped water butt and a tall Roman column.

As you are planning how to harvest rainwater for your garden, you will need to consider an appropriate water butt size. The most typical size is 100 litres, but they range upwards of 300 litres. The size of your garden and the type of plants you have will determine your water needs.

Although you have many choices available, you don't have to be limited to stock solutions. If you have some ideas of your own on how to harvest rainwater, you can easily find other types of recycled containers online. Some of the most common containers used are recycled food containers.

For example, some companies frequently sell used 1500 litre orange juice containers. It's best to stick with containers used in the food industry to minimise the risk of adding harmful chemicals to your garden.

A simple rainwater harvesting system attached to one of your garden buildings is an excellent way to keep your garden green through the long summers. Hosepipe bans will not affect you in the least. Your water bill will be lower. And best of all, you're saving precious natural resources for future generations.

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