Rainwater Collection and Gray Water
as alternative Water Supply Sources
Collecting fresh water at its source, as it falls from the sky, is beginning to make more and more sense.
If you have a roof, you have a way to stop the rainwater from hitting the ground.  You can then collect it in a barrel or tank once it comes down through the roof gutter system.  Then you can use the water for your garden, or if you want to use the water for drinking, you'll want to read more about methods of filtering and cleaning the water (common methods include UV light, ozone, and chlorination).  One advantage of converting completely to rainwater and graywater use for your household is that it makes you more aware of your home water use.

A large portion of most homeowner's water bills is due to irrigating lawns.  The old tradition of grass lawns is beginning to change as people become more aware of the enormous environmental costs of lawns.  In addition to water, fuel (for mowing and pumping/treating city water supplies), and chemical production, there are many hidden costs.  Pesticides and fertilizers are carried by water runoff (from storms or irrigation) from residential lawns through the storm drainage systems that dump directly into downstream waterways untreated.  The EPA reports that 40% of U.S. streams and lakes cannot even support fishing and swimming for humans.  We worry about drinking from streams and lakes, but birds and wildlife have no choice but to drink, bath, and eat daily in our polluted waterways.  Unfortunately there are no laws to protect waterbirds and animals, like there are for humans who receive treated water at the tap.  Most pollutants now entering our waterways (invisible to the naked eye) originate from home lawns and farms, both of which you can stop by what you do in your yard and by what you choose to buy (organic foods and products are grown without pesticide use).  Another hidden cost of a grass lawn is the loss of land that was once home to native plants and wildlife.  Many homeowners are taking pride in removing their lawns and replacing them with native plants that naturally require no more water than what falls from the sky.  You can learn about larval food plants for butterflies and how to help wildlife on my gardening page.

One rainwater barrel would provide plenty of water to sustain a native plant landscape, where the primary water requirement would be just during the time new plants are added.    You might want to check to see if your City has them available at a reduced cost:
Article on Canadian Programs (for various cities) promoting the use of Rainwater Collection Barrels
"The barrels are easy to install. They come with outlets for both watering cans and hoses, and are designed with child-proof openings."

The Rain Saver
from Water Conservation Technology
P.O. Box 121, Sydenham, Ontario K0H 2T0 Canada

Rainwater collection systems can also be used to collect water for indoor use.  Regulations governing use in the home vary - check with your municipality to make sure you abide by the regulations in your area.
Rainwater Harvesting and Purification System example from Portland, Oregon (with great pictures)

Lakota Water Company (includes animation of rainwater collection system)

More Rainwater Collection Links:

New: Report from the University of Arizona, Summer 1999
Water in the Tucson Area: Seeking Sustainability
     Link to Chapter 3, Strategies for Individuals,
     with information on Home Graywater Use and Rainwater Collection

Texas Guide for Rainwater Harvesting - Texas Water Development Board

Rainwater harvesting: a new water source at the National Wildflower Research Center in Austin, Texas

Rain Barrel Guide
Instructions on determining how much water you use, how much you can
collect from rain runoff, and clear instructions on setting up your own

The Desert House: Rainwater Harvesting (Phoenix, AZ)

Casa del Agua in Tucson, Arizona

The Brethren of Cisterns by Robert Bryce

The Family Cistern: 3,000 Years of Household Water Collection in Jordan

One World: Rainwater Harvesting

City of Austin's Green Builder Home Page
          includes useful  Capacity Guidelines

City of Austin $500 rebate program for installing a Rainwater Harvesting System

Rainwater Catchments Catching On (Texas A&M)

Rainwater Collection - talks about advantages for use even in areas where water is plentiful

Rainwater Catchment Systems: information for Austin area (Texas)

Fog Collection's Role in Water Planning for Developing Countries
by Robert S. Schemenauer and Pilar Cereceda

Rainwater Harvesting in Honduras

Affordable Rain Barrel has barrels for home use

Abundant Earth sells a rainwater collection barrel in their Lawn and Garden category.

The Garden Watersaver is a very reasonably priced little kit that can be used with a trash barrel or recycled barrels to collect rainwater.

Books available on-line from Barnes & Noble:

Rainwater Harvesting: The Collection of Rainfall and Runoff in Rural Areas

Rainwater Reservoirs above Ground Structures for Roof Catchment: Most Common Rainwater Tanks in Comparison and Construction Manual

A Development Dialogue: Rainwater Harvesting in Turkana

Rainwater Catchment Systems for Domestic Supply: Design, Construction and Implementation

Gray Water and Gray Water Treatment Links:

Using Gray Water on the Landscape by Kim D. Coder, Extension Forester

"Envirosink is an environmentally helpful additional, or secondary sink that utilizes all standard plumbing fittings, which can be easily installed by the "do-it-yourself" handy person, at a very reasonable cost.  This fixture can be installed in all new kitchen plans, or retro-fitted into all existing kitchens. It is easily removed (for cleaning) and is dishwasher safe." (quote from the manufacturer)

Converting "Waste" into Nutrients - Treating Household Organic Waste
by Marc Rosenbaum, P.E.

Home Use of Graywater, Rainwater Conserves Water  by Joe Gelt
"Water from the bath, shower, washing machine, and bathroom sink are the sources of graywater."

Casa del Agua in Tucson, Arizona

Greywater Treatment

On-Site Wastewater Treatment Systems - an informative guide for those individuals who have made that commitment to live in a manner compatible with the land around them.

Greywater Central

Household Graywater Recycling- Waste Not, Want Not  by Lisa Casanova

ECO DESIGN Sustainable Housing

Books available on-line from Barnes & Noble:

Create an Oasis With Greywater: Your Complete Guide to Managing Greywater in the Landscape

Builder's Greywater Guide: Installation of Greywater Systems in New Construction & Remodeling; A Supplement to the Book 'Create an Oasis With greywater

General Conservation Information:

Please help the birds by not using pesticides
   When I started my first garden, I am sad to say that I bought pesticides when I saw bugs harming my plants, but after reading a book about organic gardening, I now understand more about maintaining nature's balance.  I've witnessed some remarkable things in my garden, and I love watching the birds, and beneficial insects like ladybugs, come to eat the bugs in the garden.   I feel good knowing the birds are getting a good meal and that I am no longer contaminating their water supplies by using pesticides that would have ended up in the streams and lakes near my house.

     We as humans often restrict consumption of fish that contain harmful pesticides and chemicals, but waterbirds don't have a choice, since their full diet consists of fish and other creatures in our lakes and streams.  We also have the luxury of drinking treated water from our treatment plants, whereas birds and other wildlife must drink from the streams and lakes we have contaminated.  According to the U.S. EPA report, "In 1998, about 40% of U.S. streams, lakes and estuaries that were assessed were not clean enough to support uses such as fishing and swimming.  Recent water quality data finds that more than 291,000 miles of assessed rivers and streams do not meet water quality standards. Across all types of waterbodies, states, territories, tribes and other jurisdictions report that poor water quality affects aquatic life, fish consumption, swimming, and drinking water."   The more the public learns about these issues, the faster we can do something about it and put an end to the needless suffering experienced by wildlife.

The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road,
and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts.
- Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Gardening for Wildlife
 Backyard Wildlife Habitats

Build it Green:  The Sustainable Building Movement in the Evergreen State
By Sue Ellen White

Site Design - environmental landscaping

Logical Landscapes for Green Living in Central Texas
by Dick Peterson City of Austin Xeriscape Program Coordinator

Water Wise Gardening

Drought Protection on a Budget
 by John Gleason

Sustainable Building Sourcebook  contains lots of useful information on alternative water sources, energy sources, building materials, and composting & recycling.

Water in the Built Environment by Stephen Branchflower

Texas Waternet

Wind Energy - fastest growing energy source

Things you can spread the word about to protect the environment:

  1. Use tote bags to carry store bought goods home (instead of paper or plastic bags)
  2. Anglers introduce the majority of non-native species in the U.S.  Many anglers unknowingly stock their favorite fishing holes with new species by emptying their live-bait buckets or by transporting egg-laden bilge water in the hulls of their boats.  As a result, the United States spends millions of dollars each year eradicating the non-native species from inland and coastal waters.  This is now a major problem in the U.S., and non-native species bring exotic diseases, voracious appetites, and rarely do they arrive with their traditional parasites or predators.
  3. Invasive non-native plant species often get stuck on propellers or the bottom of boats and get transported from lake to lake.  (Read about one such plant currently invading Central Texas - Hydrilla) More information on non-native species is available at the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants at the University of Florida.


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