Harvesting rain water can be an efficient and cost-effective way to provide your home with sustainable water. Rather than drinking water that has been stored in dams, treated with chemicals, and pumped through miles of pipes, rainwater collections keeps it close to the source. However, before setting up a home rain water harvesting system, precautions should be taken to ensure that this water is safe and of a high quality throughout all stages of the process.
The Capture Stage:
This stage is the first in getting water from the roof to into the water supply. Use gutter mesh systems to prevent leaves and debris from the roof from entering the system. You should also fit rain heads at the gutter downpipes. This also protects against mosquitoes, who like to breed and lay eggs in wet environments.
The Holding Stage:
Keeping your tank clean is of the utmost importance. You should prevent the first flush of rainwater from entering the tank to reduce the amount of contaminants. Also regularly inspect all tank openings for mosquitoes. Desludging should occur about every three years. Although an above-ground tank is easier to access for cleaning, it is also more exposed to the elements and should therefore be fenced and checked regularly. You should also take care to prevent pets or children from accessing the tank, as this can be a drowning hazard. Use an opaque tank and place it away from direct sunlight to prevent the growth of algae.
The Distribution Stage:
If you intend to drink the water, make sure all parts purchases for the distribution system indicate their use for potable water. Water should be purified or treated before being pumped to the point-of-use.
Check with your local health department for any guidelines. There are generally few local restrictions on rain water harvesting for individual homes, but many communities will provide support materials to help you live sustainably!