During the summer we get more water in Southwest Florida than we know what to do with. It’s ironic that we would ever have drought issues, given the fact that like clockwork every afternoon the thunderstorms roll in, bringing as much as several inches of water in just a few hours. But during the winter and spring – we inevitably have a drought that results in water use regulation. Rainwater collection is a great way to collect water to be used for things like irrigation, gardening and washing your car during the rainy season.

Why should you consider rain collection?

Outdoor water use accounts for 40% of the water used by homeowners. While we explored some water efficiency tips in our water conservation tips for your yard blog, when there is a drought it impacts everyone. Collecting water during the rainy season is a great way to save on water use. According to the EPA, most homeowners can save around 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months of rainfall. Saving water saves you money, conserves energy that might be used processing water that you’re using and also decreases the impact of runoff to streams and natural waterways.

How can you collect rainwater?

iStock_000047694294_SmallThe simplest collection method is a ready-made rain barrel that can be purchased from either a hardware store or garden supply store. In order to fill it, you can direct your downspouts into the barrels and filter the water with a screen. Here’s a great DIY rainwater collection kit tutorial that might help you better understand how you can collect rainwater. There are also some great resources for purchasing systems and storage drums. You’ll have to make sure that you have some sort of system that manages the water as you collect it, as a rain barrel can fill quickly. If you’re looking for a more complex system that manages rainwater with little effort, there are some systems made by a company called Rainwater Pillow that are a little bit more comprehensive. Here’s an article on the uses of these products in Atlanta. The South Florida Water Management District published this article about rainwater harvesting, as well, suggesting a larger system for those living in the state of Florida.

What should you do with the rainwater you’ve collected?

You can use rainwater for most things that you use water for. While it may not be immediately safe for drinking, it can be used for the following:

  • Watering your lawn
  • Watering your garden
  • Washing your car
  • Top off your pool
  • Bathing animals
  • Flushing toilets
  • Washing clothes

Is it illegal to collect rainwater?

As of right now (May 2015) it is not illegal to collect rainwater, and certain states are actually recommending it. Many cities in Florida and California are hosting workshops on rainwater harvesting, as many studies show the benefits. Lee County Government’s utilities website specifically mentions that water restrictions don’t apply to rain water harvesting systems, which is a big benefit for those that choose to collect rainwater. It’s up to you to check with your local, state and federal laws to ensure that you aren’t breaking any codes or laws with your rainwater collection device.

Rainwater collection is a great way to conserve some of the water that falls during the rainy season in Southwest Florida. It’s also a great way to keep the water away from your drainfield if you’re a septic tank owner. Consider harvesting your own rainwater to save money and conserve your municipal water use.

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