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Saving for a sunny day: Rainwater collection can make a big difference

Saving for a sunny day: Rainwater collection can make a big difference

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Rainfall has been sporadic so far in 2018, and with drier conditions expected to linger throughout the Brazos River basin and most of the state through the spring, there’s no better time to take advantage of saving rainwater for those dry days when it becomes scarce.

Rainwater harvesting can help you maintain a healthy lawn and garden while reducing the need for watering. It also helps to preserve valuable water resources for those times when they are not as abundant.

The concept and process of harvesting rainwater is simple. You collect rainwater in large containers and have it on hand for use when needed. Some rainwater harvesting systems simply consist of a barrel to catch precipitation as the rain falls, with a lid or screen to keep debris from getting in the water. The water can either be scooped out from the top, or released via a spigot at the bottom of the barrel.

Harvested rainwater can be particularly useful when no other source of water supply is available, or if the available supply is inadequate or of poor quality,” according to the Texas Water Development Board. Two of the biggest positives of rainwater are that it is high quality for use in landscaping.  It also helps decrease the use of treated water (suitable for drinking) when caring for plants.

“Rainwater had long been valued for its purity and softness,” the TWDB notes. “It is only slightly acidic, and is free from disinfectant by-products, salts, minerals, and other natural and man-made contaminants. Rainwater harvesting is valued as a water conservation tool to reduce demand on more traditional water supply sources.”

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The Water Development Board lists a variety of other benefits from rainwater harvesting: it is a low-cost option, the water is free of sodium (and better for plants), it helps to reduce the flow of water to storm sewers and decrease flooding, and using it can help homeowners save money on their water utility bills.

The Texas AgriLife Extension Office echoes the TWDB in promoting rainwater use for plants.

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

A recent drought index report announced that 97 percent of the Brazos River basin is experiencing abnormally dry conditions. The possibility of prolonged drought makes captured rainwater even more valuable, although any time is a good time to use rainwater for landscaping and gardening.

In-depth information on rainwater harvesting, its benefits and more elaborate systems for capturing rainwater can be found here.  Guidelines for rainwater use, including a free series of informational videos, can be found here.

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