Water Harvesting


Show Notes:


My water is out. How appropriate is this episode?

When was the last time you had a drink of water?

I am drinking some right now and luckily I filled my glass before our house lost pressure. We have been having lots of problems with the water in our neighborhood. I don’t know if its old utilities or what.

There have been 3 water main breaks within a block of our house. So this got me thinking about water. You know it has become so common so easy to get that it is just there. It goes unnoticed. Until you need it and it’s not running.

We have become very reliant on the utilities to provide us with water. We don’t really need to think too much about it, but most cities seem to really be struggling with getting our water to us. You hear more and more about water rights and who is getting what.

Rain water has been collected for thousands of years. And in many countries it’s actually required. If you don’t collect it your not going to have it when you need it.

Here in the US cheap potable water delivered to your door has really reduced number of people collecting water. If they do it is generally on a small scale.

In the US water rights laws have restricted rainwater harvesting because it was seen as stealing from those that have rights to take water from the watershed. Before just recently you were not able to collect the water that came off your own roof on your own land in the state of Colorado. I think the legislators finally realize how ridiculous that was and that the water was not even making it to the watershed from peoples roofs anyway.

So why would we want to collect it? Why should we? In the past my wife and I had a garden at our last house. We had a pretty nice garden with all types of vegetables. Tomatoes, Okra, Squash, Greens… all that stuff.

We had several rain barrels set up to collect the water that came off the roof and what we noticed was that the vegetables seem to actually like the rain water better than the tap water. Perhaps its the chlorine or minerals, I’m not sure but I felt that it made a difference.

So a lot of times this is what rain collection is used for to store up when it rains then water the garden. You would be amazed at the amount of water you can get from your roof. We had 3 50 gallon barrels on 1/2 the house and another 150 gallon collection tank in the back. So we had a total of 300 gallons capacity and with one normal Georgia rain they were all full and spilling over. It really is amazing. And that was on a 1200 sf worths of roof or surface area.

So each time we watered the garden we would save a lot of water that would have otherwise been added to our water bill and sewer bill. Because our water and sewer are combined water that we would have sprayed over our plants would also be charged to the sewer because we did not have any separate irrigation meter or anything.

So lets just say we used 300 gallons in one month. We probably used more but I just want to run some numbers here to see what that would have cost. I never actually paid attention. Pun intended.

So I got my water bill out and I pay 3.08 per thousand gallons. Just to make the math easier 300 gallons is about 1/3 of a thousand so we were saving 1 dollar per month on water usage. 12 Dollars a year. Then lets add on the sewer fee because if we would have been using the city water it would have impacted our sewer and that is 11.34 per thousand so 1/3 of that is 3.78 per month. 45 Dollars per year. So water and sewer for 300 gallons per month would cost a total of 57 dollars per year.

Not really breaking the bank. But like I said, I think the plants like it better. And the rain barrels we got were free so the expense to put them in was very minimal. So if you want to know a secret. How do you get rain barrels for free. You go to a carwash. They get soap delivered in these large 50 gallon barrels and they have so many they don’t know what to do with them. Go talk to them and ask when they typically replace them and see if you can pick them up when they are empty.

Now get the ones with the non-toxic soaps. Most of the car washes are using non-toxic soaps and you can just clean them out with water and you are good to go. If you want the more sophisticated ones you can buy those from the hardware store for about 100 dollars each. Pretty much the same thing. You just have to add the faucet to the barrel cap. You can buy those on amazon. I will put a link in the show notes.

King Brothers Inc. SFT-0750-T 3/4-Inch Threaded PVC Sink Faucet with Hose End, Bronze

So earlier I mentioned that we had about 1200 sf of roof that was collecting water so I want to look that up an see how the numbers looked with the average rainfall in Georgia.

So in Georgia – Atlanta the 30 year average is 49 inches per year.


So this is the math you need to do. Take your square feet. The length x the width. Like I said we had 1200 sf. Our house was 30×40. Take the average rainfall of 49” x 0.6 gallons and that is 29.4 gallons per square foot. 1200 sf x 29.4 gallons is 35,280 gallons.

That is a massive amount of water. If I take my current water usage and I am just going to be totally honest. We use about an average of 8,000 gallons per month in our current house. Over 12 months that is 96,000 gallons a year. If I take my numbers that it cost me from earlier the 3 for water and 11 for sewer that is 1,376 dollars per year.

If we were able to use the 35000 gallons to cut the total amount we use down that would cut our bill by 500 dollars each year. Over 30 years lets just say it is 15,000 dollars and that would be if rates stayed the same which we know they never do.

But all this is not really possible right. At least not where we currently are with all our building codes and laws. We can’t use rain water to shower. We can’t use rain water to wash our clothes or wash the dishes or drink it.

It’s dirty. It’s just too dirty. But if we could clean it would we be able to use it then. Could we use it if we could clean it. Would the state allow us to.

So I want to throw this out there. I just found out about a new system that is pretty cool. Something that I have not seen before. It actually takes it to the next level and I want to set this up for you yet to see how much of an impact this could make on our homes in the future.

Up until now we have been talking about collecting rain water. What we use it for is generally exterior, but I mentioned that if we were able to clean it we might be able to start using it for our indoor consumption and use.

All the math I’ve been doing all the water per year collected is equaling about 1/3 of my actual very liberal usage of water. I have to admit. So what about the rest how do we make up the rest of the water. How do we get the remaining 2/3 of our usage. What if we just used it over again. and again. and again.

There is a system that just came out. It is an at home residential system that actually treats and cleans the water that is used in your shower, your washing machine and possibly some sinks. You have to do some creative plumbing to get all this to work but the idea is that you turn on your washing machine. water is delivered to the unit and as it washes the water then gets drained from the machine.

Typically it would go to the sewer and away. Instead it goes directly to a holding tank that then is pumped into this filter and uv treating unit. the treated water is then pumped to another holding tank and is used again to flush toilets (then it is gone) It does not get recycled from the toilet. Currently that is all the government will allow you to use it for is to flush the toilets, but this is just the beginning.

Our cities are so strapped for water that they are going to have to start allowing innovations like this. If you were to use recycle your water lets just say pie in the sky. If with water collection and using the grey water or recycled water you were able to eliminate your water and sewer bill you could potentially save 1,376 per year over 30 years is 41,000 dollars.

Now to be realistic this is a long way off, but it is really interesting to think about. I would like to know if you would use a system like this. Let me know by leaving some comments on the website. Whitewashstudio.com episode 37.

I hope that you are having great success with the planning and construction of your home. If you want to get in touch with me please reach out to me on twitter or google plus.

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