how to build a rainwater collection system



How to Build a Rainwater Collection System

In recent years, harvesting rain water in a rainwater collection system has become a popular way to go green. About ten years ago, with great excitement, I built one on my property in Garden Ridge, Texas. It's been a learning experience and I would like to share something I've learned about this idea.

When people get the bug to build a rainwater collection system, the first thing they think of is water tanks and piping. But actually, there is a more important first step that often gets missed in the process. It's a step that I wish I'd thought more about before I began hauling in equipment.

The first thing you should understand about rainwater harvesting is that it is a very imperfect process. One of the old funny sayings in Texas was attributed to the early settlers, "I don't mind that we only have thirty inches of rain a year... I just don't like it that it all falls on two different days." True. So true. Rainfall in Texas is very irregular. (If you live in an area that gets a wonderful afternoon shower every day, then disregard.) Not only is rainfall in many areas irregular within seasons, but it is very irregular over multi-year periods. The reason why I bring this up is very important, in that, with a rainwater collection system you always seem to have water on hand during the times you don't need it! You get into a rainy season and your tank is overflowing like crazy and you don't have any place to use the water.. everything is soaked! Then things dry out, you have a chance to use your tank of water and then it doesn't rain for a few months. Now you're in the opposite situation, you desperately need water but your tank has been bone dry for months! Augh! The bottom line is this, you rarely have water when you need it.

Another warm and fuzzy feeling I had when I installed my rainwater collection system was that I was being a good citizen and helping the environment. I was green. And it made me feel good all over. Ummm! But as the years went by, I realized that I really wasn't "saving" much water. Why? Because the water I was "saving" was actually water that I was "depriving" from flowing into a downstream reservoir. If I "saved" a thousand gallons in my tank, that was just a thousand less gallons that ended up in the lake downstream.

I'm not trying to be negative here, but just help you understand the realities of harvesting water in climates with very unpredictable rainfall patterns. Do I enjoy using a thousand gallons of stored rainwater? Absolutely. But is it worth a few thousand dollars to install and then maintain your system? I'm not sure. Just be careful to evaluate all the facts.


Links of Interest:

Bracken Cave
Bracken Methodist Church

Boy Scouts
City of Garden Ridge
Covenant Baptist Church 

CYO Youth Sports

Garden Ridge
Bracken Lions Club

Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

Northeast Bible Church

OLPH Catholic Church

Triumphant Lutheran Church

rainwater collection system

(c) 2004 Caton Family

rainwater collection