Rainwater is a great natural resource. Catching some of it to use later is a better option than simply letting it all run down the storm drain.

Even with most of the state’s reservoirs remaining at or near capacity thanks to some drought-busting rains, Texas’ need for water is increasing as its population rises and the state’s industries thrive. Water is a limited resource, and every opportunity should be taken to get the most out of what is available. So what can you do? One option is rainwater harvesting, which can provide you with a clean and free source of water for your yard and for your household that will also help safeguard this vital resource.

What is rainwater harvesting?  It's the practice of catching rainwater in containers and storing it for later use.  The simplest systems just use a barrel to hold water that drains from your roof into your rain gutters then into a storage container. It may include a lid or screen to protect the water.  Once filled, the stored water may then be dipped out by bucket or released via a spigot attached to the bottom of the container. 

Rainwater harvesting containers may be anything from homemade systems to elaborate purchased configurations.  Though there could be initial expenses, the future savings on water utility bills makes rainwater harvesting cost-efficient for households.  If you purchase the barrel from a hardware store or online, costs can vary from about $70 to well over $100, depending on the type. More elaborate systems (with a greater expense) can include large capture areas, networks of pipes and storage tanks for those with larger yards.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that rainwater may contain germs and other contaminants and should not be considered safe for drinking.  The organization recommends a “first flush diverter” (which can be purchased online or at some home improvement stores) to help you remove contaminants.

Throughout Texas, an estimated 30 to 50 percent of the water people use is for landscape irrigation, according to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. A significant savings of water – and money – could result from the use of rainwater rather than the use of tap water for your lawn or garden. The practice would also help municipal water systems and groundwater reserves, which are often overburdened at times because of landscape watering.

Rainwater is also a healthier source of water for your landscape, according to the AgriLife Extension Service.

“Rainwater is good for plants because it is free of salts and other minerals that harm root growth,” AgriLife reports. “As rainwater percolates into the soil, it forces salts down and away from root zones, allowing roots to grow better and making plants more drought tolerant.”

An added bonus is that rainwater harvesting also helps alleviate flooding and erosion concerns. That’s because stormwater can be stored for future use instead of turning into runoff.

Although we have enjoyed plentiful rain off and on in the Brazos River basin since the spring of 2015, history shows a return of dry weather is simply a matter of time. Having a reserve water supply of rainwater can make a huge difference in your finances, and help preserve water resources for the future.

For more information on rainwater harvesting, go here.