I still remember the feeling of utter joy I used to have every Saturday at around 2 PM when I would take my bath with rainwater that I warmed up myself with nothing but the sun. My grandpa and I (I was 6 at the time) used to take out this huge tin bathtub from the shed, put it in the middle of the yard at around 10 AM, fill it with previously harvested rainwater and let it warm up for 3-4 hours.
This was exciting for me for several reasons. First, because everyone passing by could see me (we didn’t have any other place to put it) so I had to lay low when I heard footsteps down the road and hide from them. Second, since our chickens ran around freely, it was fun splashing them as they approached.
But the one thing I didn’t care much about as a kid is the one that appeals to me today, as a prepper: that rainwater is 100% free. There’s nothing stopping you from starting your disaster water stockpile or even using it starting today and save money. Heck, as you’re about to see at the end of this article, you can even do this if you live in an apartment building.
So let’s get started with some of the best tips you need to know before installing your first rainwater harvesting system.
Tip #1: If you’re going to drink it, filter it first
Yes, there will always be preppers who tell you they’ve been drinking unfiltered rainwater all their life and they turned out just fine. But this doesn’t mean we can all do it… or should do it. A lot of variables are at play here and one of them is your immune system. I’m no doctor so I can’t vouch that a tiny, slender woman who can barely eat fast food without getting sick can drink rain water without a problem. What I’m trying to say is… why risk getting sick?
There are numerous options to make your water safe to drink: using Berkey water filter, boiling it and adding bleach – you probably know these already. The key is to stockpile on them as well because after the world as we know it has ended, finding them is going to be very difficult.
Tip #2: Don’t worry about acid rain
All water is acidic so there’s absolutely no need to worry about it unless you’re looking to wash your car and you live in a polluted area. Since most rainwater has an almost neutral pH, the one that’s a little acidic is still not as much so as some of the foods we eat. Other things such as bird poo, insects and dirt are more problematic when we’re talking about drinking rain.
The only water you shouldn’t be drinking is the one around radioactive sites and volcanoes but do keep tip #1 in mind and filter it before you do that.
Tip #3: Know your state’s rainwater harvesting regulations
You probably heard the story of Gary Harrington from Oregon who went to jail for collecting too much water on his own property. I’ll spare you the details, the lesson here (whether you agree with him or not) is that you need to check the laws in your state before you do anything.
Right now, it is legal in most states to collect rain water but there are exceptions. For example, Nevada doesn’t allow harvesting without a water permit. Colorado is another notable exception because it doesn’t allow it even in small quantities. Ponds are, in fact, a great idea but, since we’re talking about larger volumes, here, you need to do your due diligence before attempting to have one in your back yard.
Of course the best and easiest way is for you to contact your local authorities directly to find out exactly what you need to do, if you need to.
Tip #4: Consider these uses for rainwater (you may not have thought of)
You don’t need to drink rainwater, there are plenty of other uses for it. The following are some of the things you can use rainwater and you don’t need to wait for the end of the World to do it, you can cut your utility bill as soon as you set up your harvesting system:
- watering your garden
- watering fruit trees
- doing laundry (you can even use it with your washing machine)
- taking baths and showers
- washing your car (if you live in a polluted area and you have acid rain, it’s best to treat that water first as, in time, it will affect your vehicle’s paint)
- flushing your toilet
- for your pets, your backyard and your farmyard animals
- against possible house fires and wildfires
- for an outdoor pool so you and your kids can have fun on weekends
- for your bug-out location’s water supply
Tip #5: Use gravel or asphalt shingles for your roof
Indeed, this study by P.C. Van Metre and B.J. Mahler suggests that these two will result in a lower concentration of heavy metals inside the harvested rainwater. This isn’t that big of a problem as long as you use a water filtration system but it will prolong the life of your filter since it’ll have less bad stuff going through in the ling run.
Tip #6: Use a collection screen
Although you don’t need this as long as you’re not drinking the water, it’s a good idea to have a screen that won’t allow things such as bird droppings or flies inside your containers.
Ideally, you should look for a screen with an aperture of no more than 1mm so you can filter out even tiny insects like mosquitos. The price of these filters is low, anyway, so they’re worth every penny.
Tip #7: Get a tank that suits your needs
Not because you should restrict how much water you can harvest but because there may not be enough water for you to collect. Keep in mind that your roof typically collects about 80% of the amount of water that rains directly on in, the rest is being lost due to leaks, rain drop splashes and overflows. Once you know how much falls, on average, where you live, you just have to multiply that by 0.8 to get to the amount you can collect in one year and thus decide how big a tank you need.
Tip #8: Use a first wash diverter
This is actually a pretty neat addition to your harvesting system. See, the first few gallons of collected water are always low-quality and a diverter, using simple mechanics, allows you to only store what comes after that.
The way it works is this. The first few gallons of water gather in the diverter chamber showcased above. In that chamber there’s a ball that floats up and seals it when that chamber fills with water. Once the chamber is full, the rest of the coming water passes right over it and continues to flow into your collection tank.
Tip #9: You can do this even if you live in an apartment building
A balcony is all you need. The bigger the better of course, because then you’d have a bigger surface for your plastic containers. Sure, you won’t be able to collect much compared to someone living in a rural area but it’s better than nothing and it will teach you about frugality. One other thing to consider is stopping collecting excess water once it reaches a certain level. The last thing you want is an inundated balcony.
Well, those were it. I hope my tips helped you avoid some mistakes and that now you have a much better idea on how to collect rainwater. Sure, others are gonna be able to some rainwater from their rooftops inside barrels but the quality of that water won’t even get close to yours if you apply all my tips. This is going to be of utmost importance post-collapse because your water is going to be of the highest quality, which means you might even be able to sell it after you treat it!