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Irrigation Articles

Rain Harvesting: Catch It While You Can!

DecIn our article last month, we discussed fresh water: its consumption, care and its current status in the world.  We suggested different ways in which we could improve our habits and conserve this vital resource.  Knowing these, we can consider better ways of managing our water. Living on a tropical island has enormous benefits because we can take advantage of our rainy season and maximize the collection of rainwater.

The rainy season on Roatan recently started – we are looking at 3 to 4 months of abundant rainfall.  A smart move for every home owner would be to start utilizing this free water for their daily household chores. One of the easiest and economical technologies used in many countries is rain harvesting. Basically, rain harvesting is all about collecting, diverting and storing rainwater for later use.

Rainwater harvesting is a viable alternative to drilling wells and pumping water to the surface and buying water from private water suppliers. Its collection may be from roof tops, terraces, paved or unpaved surfaces.  It normally has low costs, and water can be consumed with only modest treatment.  The easiest catchment is from our roofs. Normally, your roof catchment area is equal to the total square footage of your house plus the extension of your eaves.

Let us dive into what components make up a water catchment system for roof rainwater.

Gutters: Water from the roof gathers in the gutters and runs to a pipe towards the tank or cistern.

Screen: The rainwater goes through a screen to remove leaves and debris, and then funnels into the top of the covered tank or cistern.

Storage: The tank or cistern should be dark, to prevent algae from growing, and screened, to prevent mosquitoes from entering.

Barrels with a capacity of 55 gallons are a popular way to begin rainwater harvesting, especially on communities with water scarcity; they are low cost, and can be installed along houses, under decks, or in unused spaces. Each barrel can supply a family for 4 to 5 days with 7 liters per person per day.

This technology is cost effective because it does not require purchased energy for its operation. All the construction materials needed for construction can be found locally in almost any hardware store.  Cisterns can easily be incorporated into the construction of the foundation on new homes. The maintenance is not complicated requiring the owners to clean the gutters and roof before rainy season begins and to clean the tank, barrel or cistern at least once a year.

Rain harvesting should ideally be applied to all homes locally  Some of the reasons why rain water should be harvested, especially on an island, include reducing the water table depletion, reducing demand on existing water supply, reducing run offs and erosion, it’s completely free and very pure.

Let’s catch it while we can!

Another interesting fact about rain harvesting: For every inch of rain that falls on a catchment area of 1,000 square feet, you can expect to collect approximately 600 gallons of rainwater! That’s free water right there!