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Rainwater harvesting is an idea that is growing in popularity and with good reason. With 36 states facing severe water shortages within the next five years, water conservation is becoming a necessity. It’s no longer just an issue for the arid, desert areas either…almost everywhere you go in the U.S. a diminished water supply is a growing concern. But fortunately, we’ve got an easy answer to this problem in the form of a natural water supply just waiting to be tapped. That’s right, rainwater.

Everyone knows that all life requires water to survive, yet the very nature of our growing society is putting our water supply at risk. And the more we build, the more we contribute to the problem. That’s because by increasing the amount of asphalt, concrete and building materials like shingles, we’re preventing water from being able to take its natural course. And the result is lowered water levels in lakes, rivers and reservoirs, the places that we get our water supply.

When talking about the idea of rainwater harvesting, this urban water blockage can’t be emphasized enough. Surfaces like asphalt and concrete repel water instead of absorbing it, causing it to flow off into sewers and storm drains and into our water system. But in the process it carries a number of pollutants along with it that are then transferred into the water we use for drinking, washing, watering our lawns and other regular activities. In fact, the EPA estimates that urban runoff is responsible for most of the pollution in our coastal environments.

Not only does this increased water runoff raise pollution levels, but it also strips aquatic vegetation from shorelines, which in turn exposes the soil to erosion and damage. And when you consider that in some urban areas more than 50% of land area is covered in impervious surfaces you can begin to understand why the threat to our water system is so very real. We’re literally building so fast that the natural environment can’t keep up and that means something has got to give.

The answer that more and more people are turning to is rainwater harvesting. This makes perfect sense as just one inch of rainfall on a 2,000 square inch roof generates 1,250 gallons of reusable water. Compare that to the fact that the average 10,000 square foot lot requires 3,000 gallons of water weekly for regular landscaping and you can see where that extra water on the roof would come in handy! It’s not a matter of lacking the water; it’s merely a question of how best to collect and reuse it.

Fortunately, that question is being answered with the development and implementation of simple harvesting systems that are easy to install and maintain. Of course, a rain barrel is a start but just collecting the water isn’t enough. Because it picks up pollutants from all of those harsh surfaces it encounters, it is necessary to carefully filter it before it can be used for domestic purposes. Now there are systems that include a filter screen, collection vessel and pump system to do the work for you and give you a self-sustaining water source right in your own yard.

The mechanics of these rainwater harvesting systems can be buried under the ground, so you don’t have to look at them, yet still, have access points so that you can clean the filters and maintain the machinery. And the outlet can be combined with an attractive water feature that not only looks beautiful and sounds lovely but can also give you peace of mind knowing that you’re making the most of the rainwater that is naturally falling on your property.

What’s not to love about that? There are so many benefits to this particular form of conservation that it almost doesn’t need explaining, but let’s think about it for a minute anyway. By taking the simple step of collecting and filtering rainwater, you are helping to improve your environment and restore the natural balance of water reserves in your area.

At the same time, you can help to alleviate the ever-increasing burden on municipal water services, which is a growing problem in many urban areas. Not only can rainwater harvesting help to take some of the weight off the storm sewer system, but it can also help to lower your water bill in the process. Maintenance becomes less of an issue and water usage decreases, and it can lead to fewer aggravating water restrictions, which are a headache for everyone.

And of course, it also helps to improve the natural environment by reducing flooding and erosion and improving landscape growth. Filtered and re-used rainwater is not only healthier for you, but it’s also better for your lawn, your garden, and your animals. It can provide the life-sustaining resource that all growing things need without subjecting them to the harsh reality of man-made pollutants…and that’s a win for everyone.

When you really think about it, rainwater harvesting makes so much sense that it’s a wonder more people aren’t doing it already. It’s safe, simple and scientifically proven to be beneficial to the environment. And as we continue to grow and build as a society, it is more and more essential that we do everything we can to protect this amazing, life-giving natural resource.