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Published on February 4th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans


Conserving Stormwater: Use It or Lose It!

Water has always been a precious commodity, but the recent rise in frequent water shortages and droughts due to climate change emphasizes the importance of everyday water conservation.

Despite the atmospheric consequences of global warming, rainstorms continue…why let all that stormwater go to waste?

Rainwater Harvesting

Cisterns have a long history, spanning from Biblical times to the present. The original cisterns were simple containers (often made of masonry) that were positioned to collect rainwater for use inside and outside of the household. Modern cisterns are often involved in sophisticated water-harvesting systems, which include underground tanks and filtration systems that remove sediment and toxins.

Cisterns need not be fancy to be effective. Opaque metal, wood, or plastic containers strategically placed under gutters and drainpipes can hold rainwater to be later used for watering greenhouses, gardens, and livestock. Water can also be irrigated out to yards and other areas that require frequent watering.

Consider connecting a rain chain to an underground holding tank—not only will it add aesthetic appeal to your home, but the sound of rain passing down the chain will create a soft, soothing melody straight from Mother Nature’s soundtrack. Copper is your best bet, as it is infinitely recyclable.

In many cases, rainwater may not be potable. Toxic sediments and contaminants from the atmosphere can be removed with elaborate filtration systems, but for casual cistern users, it is safer to avoid using the water for cooking or drinking.

  • Ensure that the cistern has a tight lid so it does not create an atmosphere that invites mosquitoes, as they breed quickly and carry disease.
  • A well-sealed, opaque vessel also keeps out sunlight (which supports algae growth), critters, and roof debris.

The modern benefits of cisterns easily extend from the home or farm to the community. Two elementary schools, one in Los Angeles, California and one in McKinney, Texas, have cisterns on school grounds.

  • California’s Open Charter Elementary School Stormwater Project of spring 2003, gave an enormous cistern an underground home. The linked irrigation system keeps the school’s new playing fields lush.
  • In Texas, rainwater recycling is assisted by a wind-powered filtration system that removes debris from the water.

So why let it drain? Let’s continue to conserve water as we put the rain to good use…while it lasts!

For more information about rainwater collection, visit:

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