We have evidence that collecting rainwater in reservoirs was a common practice in the Middle East more than 4,000 years ago, and that its origins may go further than that.
In arid climates, or on islands like Gibraltar where there are no river systems, trapping and storing large amounts of rainwater is a practical necessity, and the popularity of this relatively pure water source is increasing — yet again.
At a time when many municipal water districts are experiencing water shortages and consumers are exposed to higher water and sewage bills, the benefits of free water falling from the sky are more compelling than they have been for decades.
Once a common feature in yards and farms across the United States, rain barrels are experiencing a renaissance.
Rain barrels are containers designed to trap and store rainwater.
They can be large and complex systems that use connected pumps and barrels for storage, or single plastic or wooden drums that capture swirling rainwater along roof gutters and out of downspouts.
Harvesting rainwater makes sense.
It does not contain the dissolved minerals and salts normally found in well water that you might use to supplement your outdoor water needs.
It’s safe — if you follow a few precautions — and rain barrels are easy to build and install.
Using rainwater also helps the environment.
Need more encouragement to install your own rain barrel? In Germany and Japan, there are monetary incentives for rainwater harvesting; Arizona and California also have programs available.
Rain is a good source of water that would otherwise become polluted runoff picking up chemicals and other hazardous waste due to carrom in roads and gutters on its way to storm sewer networks or nearby low-lying bodies of water.
In many areas, rainwater harvested from the roof of the average house can be very useful in providing the water needed to maintain your vegetable garden or landscaping during the hot summer months.
Interested? In the next section, we’ll talk about some of the surprising benefits of rainwater.