Water is the most precious resource on our planet, and it is becoming increasingly scarce. With our growing world population, the need for water has increased even while our sources of water are drying up. With that in mind, it is more important than ever that we learn to use the water freely available to us in the form of rain, by collecting and diverting it in useful ways. Roofs, with their large surface area, are ideal places to collect rain for reuse.
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The obvious first choice for roof rain water diversion is to a rain barrel connected directly to the downspout of the roof guttering system. Rain water is "soft"--meaning it has a low pH--and is excellent for plants. Collect it in barrels to dip from for houseplants, or use a rain barrel kit to connect a garden hose to the barrel for convenient watering of in-ground plants further away.
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Adaptors are available to hook garden hoses directly to downspouts from roofs. If you attach a sprinkler or a soaker hose to the ordinary garden hose, you can move it around to various places in the yard and garden to spot water areas with high water needs. This a particularly good way to water large trees, whose water needs may not be served exclusively by light rains. Ordinary hoses can be diverted directly to garden pools and ponds for fresh, nonchlorinated water beneficial to both aquatic plants and fish.
An increasingly popular use for rainwater is in rain gardens. This is especially handy if you already have a low area in your yard that collects water in rainstorms. Rather than water rushing straight into sewers, allow it to collect in low areas specifically planted with sedges, cattails, Sagittarius and other water lovers. Divert the rain using a garden hose or plumbed underground system from your roof's gutters. The rainwater will seep slowly into the soil, watering plants and replenishing the aquifer without waste or soil erosion.
Building a ferro-cement (wire-impregnated cement) cistern, or purchasing a prefabricated fibreglass or plastic cistern, can be a good investment and a practical way to store nonpotable water for use in gardens, for washing or other uses. (With a filtering system in place, it can even be converted to potable water for drinking and cooking.) Cisterns located adjacent to the house can be filled straight from the downspout (with debris screen in place to keep leaves out), or attach a hose and divert rainwater further away (as long as the inlet to the cistern is located lower than roof height).
There are a number of ideas and examples of catchment systems for diverted rainwater at GDRC, Rainwater Harvesting and Utilization. Many of these are third-world solutions and incorporate simple tools and materials in their development, so are well within the scope of do-it-yourselfers. There are many ways to use rainwater and we need not be confined to only one solution.
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