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Collecting Rain Water
In order to collect the rain water that falls on your home and yard, you should install a rain water harvesting system. Rain that falls on your roof can be funneled through a series of gutters into a cistern or a plastic barrel with a cover. Large surfaces such as patios, sidewalks and driveways shed water, and if they are designed properly with gutters and drains, water can be collected and stored. The area from which water is collected is referred to as a "catchment area." In both the case of the roof and pavement catchment areas, filters should be installed to block grass, leaves and twigs from entering the water storage tank.
Rain water harvesting systems can vary drastically in cost. A simple do-it-yourself system can be very cheap, while you can expect to pay over $5,000 for a professionally installed, comprehensive collection system. Consider the climate that you live in and the volume of rain water that falls in your area each year. Always check with your city to make sure you are following local building codes and if you need to pull a permit for any work that you plan to complete.
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Uses of Rain Water
The most common use of rain water is to irrigate landscaping. These systems can become very exensive if you install pipes to carry the water to various locations around the yard, or you might simply choose to dip a watering bucket into your storage tank and carry the water yourself. Rain water can be used for other outdoor activies including washing your car.
An easy and inexpensive use of rain water is to fill an above-ground swimming pool. The pool should be covered to reduce the rate of evaporation. Some people use rainwater as drinking water. Obviously you can't collect it and drink it straight from the barrel, given all of the pollutants in our atmosphere. However, if you have a proper purifying and filtration system, rain water can be made potable. You may use unprocessed rain water to mop your floors, indoors and out. Some cities will even allow residents to use rain water for toilets.
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Other Benefits of Reusing Rain
Although it may sound like drops in a bucket, the potential of rain water collection would surprise many people. According to Treehugger.com, "A typical home with 2000 sq.ft. of roof area in Central Texas can yield up to 40,000 gallons a year." That results in a decreased water bill, and some cities will even pay incentives for installing rain water collection systems.
Aside from conserving the municpal water supply, the collection of rain water prevents damaging run off that strips the soil of its nutrients. Not only does rain water erode the land, it also carries pollutants into our streams and rivers.