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Building Tip #46: Rainwater Collection

Building Tip #46: Rainwater Collection

In recent months, the value of clean water as a resource has become apparent to South Africans and finding solutions for sustainable collection and responsible usage has become a high priority. One of the most hyped methods of water harvesting for non-drinkable uses has been rainwater collection, but what are the pros and cons to this method? Read on to discover if rainwater collection is the right option for you.

Pros:

1. Reduced Water Bills
One of the biggest advantages to installing a rainwater collection system is the benefit of reducing your monthly water bills. Rainwater that has been collected and stored can be used for a wide range of tasks with the exception of drinking, meaning that some of your water needs can be met without using municipal water.


2. Reduced Soil Erosion
During the rainy season, the collection of rainwater on the ground can lead to severe soil erosion and carry runoff pesticides towards natural, clean rivers. Collecting rainwater at home can help keep your soil healthy by minimising the amount of water flowing through your garden.


3. Suitable for Gardening
Collected rainwater is suitable for gardening purposes where the collected water can be used to keep gardens well watered throughout the dry season or whenever rainfall is low. Other non-drinking uses for rainwater includes: cleaning, washing cars, flushing toilets, and washing clothes.


4. Easy to Maintain
Rainwater collection systems are easily maintained and regulated provided they are carefully monitored. Provided the entrance for the rainwater is kept free of debris and nesting animals, the water in the collection tank should be reasonably clear when it's needed.

Cons:

1. Rain is Unpredictable
Each year, the rainy season seems to start a little later than the last and the weather forecast is never 100% accurate. Low rainfall during a season can have a huge impact on the amount of water available for the rest of the year. For these reasons, it's advisable that you should never rely solely on rainwater and only install a collection system if you are in an area which receives a high annual rainfall average.


2. High Installation Cost
The cost of installing a rainwater collection system depends on the size of the system as well as how advanced your system is technologically. Rainwater collection systems range from R3000 to R30 000 and the recuperation of these costs will only be seen on average between 10 and 15 years after installation.


3. Requires Regular Maintenance
While the energy needed to maintain rainwater collection systems is relatively low, the number of times they need to be examined is fairly high. The collection systems are vulnerable to infestation of mosquitoes, algae, rodents, lizards, and other animals, all of which can contaminate the water and make it unusable. Collection systems need to be regularly checked for signs of animal inhabitants and cleared of debris regularly.


4. Building Type Dependent
Not all buildings are created equal and some building materials are not suitable for rainwater collection systems. If subpar materials such as paints, sealants, plasters etc have been used to construct the home, dangerous chemicals can seep into the rainwater collection system and render the water unusable due to contamination.


5. Required Space
The biggest consideration for rainwater collection systems would be the required space for an effective water store. Knowing exactly how much water you will need to maintain your garden's lush appearance over the dry season will help to determine the size of tank you will require. The size of the storage tank will determine the amount of rainwater that can be collected over the rainy season while the size of your available space will determine the size and number of tanks you can install. Therefore living in smaller homes, complexes or apartment complexes will make it unlikely for rainwater collection to be a viable option.

While rainwater collection is becoming a popular option for many South Africans the limitations, maintenance requirements and further initial cost mean it's not a suitable solution for everyone. Keep following our social media pages for the latest news in building trends and how to get your home green.

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