Rainwater harvesting is the method of using technology to collect, store, convey, and purify rain for human use. This method allows communities to conserve the natural resource of rainwater instead of letting it seep unused into the ground. While rainwater harvesting has always been a viable option for capturing freshwater in areas prone to drought, it has gained popularity in the United States due to its potential for reducing flooding and lowering water bills.

Other positive implications for Indianapolis include the reduction of soil erosion and the potential for excellent filtration since rainwater has a very low salinity. But what are the applications of this conservation method for individual homes, and what is the best way to get started? An in-depth look at rainwater harvesting can provide guidance on how you can make the most of weather conditions to establish sustainable plumbing within your household.

What Is the History of Rainwater Harvesting?

Rainwater harvesting is one of the earliest means of self-supply of water for houses. Anthropologists believe that the collection and storage of rainwater coincided with the earliest development of irrigation, farming, and agriculture. Archeologists have unearthed cisterns for holding rainwater that date back to the Neolithic era. By 2500 B.C.E., widespread use of cisterns ranged from what is now Israel all the way the Minoan island of Crete. During the Roman Empire, engineers channeled rainwater into aqueducts and their famous public baths.

In fact, the modern word for plumbing derives from the Classical Latin term “plumbum.” This word meant “lead” and referred to metal pipes that effectively transported water derived from rain and other sources. Rainwater cisterns remained in use in major hubs like Istanbul. In the modern era, rainwater harvesting is an important way detain water in prevent flooding of houses in places like Venice or to conserve the precious resource of drinking water in dry countries like Burkina Faso and Uganda.

How Much Water Can You Collect?

According to the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides a universal formula for calculating how much water you could potentially collect from rainwater harvesting. Per the formula, monthly rainfall collected in gallons = catchment area in square feet x conversion factor × collection factor.

The collection factor is a percentage between 75%-90% to account for losses in the system. This percentage depends on the efficiency of your harvesting equipment. Professional equipment should help you conserve at least 75% of your rainwater, and the most advanced systems can save up to 90%. The conversion factor is always the number 0.62. This constant number converts the total amount of rainfall in inches that falls onto a collection area into the total volume of harvesting potential.

To demonstrate this simple formula, consider the city of Indianapolis. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the average monthly rainfall for Indianapolis is about 3.63 inches. Using this monthly average along with a 75% collection factor, the potential water harvest for a 1,000-square-foot catchment area is as follows:

1,000 square feet x 3.63 inches x 0.62 x 75% = 1,687.95 gallons per month (minimum).

This number also translates into a minimum of 20,255.40 gallons per year. Based on this calculation, it is clear that installing a rainwater harvesting system is a worthwhile investment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American uses around 80 gallons of water each day. A family of four can use up to 400 gallons of water every day. Collecting over 20,000 gallons of water annually as a renewable resource can greatly supplement this consumption and help you save money on utility bills.

What Are the Main Components of a Rainwater Harvesting System?

While individual models can vary, effective rainwater harvesting systems have standard components. These may include the catchment surface, gutters or downspouts, the storage tank, delivery or distribution system, and filtration or treatment system.

Catchment Area

The catchment area is a surface that accumulates rainwater. Examples include your existing roof or a purchased platform such as a saucer, tank, or artificial pond. A trained plumber can help you explore the best options for your property.

Gutters and Downspouts

For houses without rainwater harvesting systems, the role of a normal gutter or downspout is to divert water onto the ground and at least several feet away from the home foundation. But for harvesting equipment, gutters serve as conduits that help channel rainwater to your collection area. Your plumber may also recommend gutter guards or diverters to prevent the accumulation of leaves, pine needles, or debris.

Delivery or Distribution System

Your harvesting system should also have a simple distribution component to deliver the water to the desired location. This component can use gravity or a pumping mechanism to transfer the water. Some systems also use pressure hoses as conveyance methods.

Filtration or Other Treatment System

Various models also include optional filtration or treatment systems to ensure potable water. Filtration systems remove large particles while purification systems can help eliminate contaminants.

Storage Component

Professional equipment also has a sturdy storage component to keep your trove of water. This component is typically a rain barrel, cistern, tank, or reservoir.

What Are Other Benefits of a Rainwater Harvesting System?

Many homeowners are shocked to discover water usage necessary to support home occupants. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that 26.7% of daily household water usage goes toward flushing toilets. In addition, 21.7% of water consumption goes toward laundry machines while 16.8% of water usage is the result of bathing or showering. By saving the water that reaches your house as rain either way, you can help reserve the limited resource of municipal water within your neighborhood. Any household with appliances like dishwashers or structures like swimming pools should consider installing rainwater collection equipment.

Other lesser-known benefits include rainwater pH and lower synthetic pollutant levels. Because rainwater does not flow through rocks like limestone, it is softer than groundwater. Rainwater also has a neutral pH which makes it great for personal hygiene, washing clothes, or cleaning your kitchen. Due to its lower mineral content, soft water tends to be less corrosive than hard water and may also preserve the lifespan of appliances like water heaters. Rainwater is also less likely to contain the synthetic chemicals rampant in groundwater sources. It is free of disinfectants, pesticides, salts, or other contaminants. This type of water tends to be better for gardening, lawn care, or cooking.

Why Should You Choose a Professional Installation Service?

Rainwater harvesting systems can include pipes, pumps, tanks, and filtration devices. Instead of discerning the installation process yourself, it is better to hire a professional familiar with the construction or who works with these tools on a daily basis. Professionals are also more familiar with the latest laws, restrictions, or permit requirements. You can ask a plumbing company about the latest local or state incentives for installing environmentally friendly upgrades for your home.

Contact Us Today

Rainwater collection systems help you benefit from rainstorms in Indianapolis. If you are ready to install the equipment or upgrade your plumbing system, reach out to Hope Plumbing. We offer premier plumbing services for homes in Indianapolis and surrounding areas. Along with rainwater harvesting installation, we also offer reverse osmosis systems or water softening services.

Our plumbers can conduct leak detection and repair everything from gas lines to drains. We can inspect underground pipes and provide rooter services or fix sewage and septic systems. Do you suspect a problem with your water heater? Schedule a professional inspection or consider upgrading to a tankless appliance. No matter the issue, we can help. Contact Hope Plumbing today for all home plumbing needs.

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