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How to save water and money with rainwater harvesting

Help conserve water and lower the cost of your bills with a rainwater collection system in your backyard.

Rainwater is flowing from a pipe and into black collection pots. The pots are sitting in a grassy area, and one of them is very full. The other is filling up next to what appears to be a wooden deck.

Make the most of the wet hot Tampa Bay summer.

Photo courtesy of Canva

Whoever said “when it rains, it pours” was probably talking about Tampa Bay. Now that hurricane season has arrived, afternoon showers quickly become downpours, making our backyards happy + our mowers tired.

With over seven inches on average in June and July, and more than nine in August, there’s plenty of water to take advantage of rainwater harvesting.

What’s rainwater harvesting?

Building a rainwater harvesting system is an easy way to provide non-potable water for your plants. The best part: After some small start-up costs, it’s free — and we love free.

The system collects water off non-permeable surfaces like your roof and funnels it into a storage chamber like a rain barrel or cistern to be used when rain isn’t in the forecast. A general rule of thumb: One inch of rain produces about a half gallon for every sqft of roof.

Why harvest rainwater?

During the summer months, grassy areas can become sodden + flooded. By collecting rainwater, it’s easier to disperse it more evenly throughout yards and can even protect plants from becoming overwatered. The water can also be used to wash cars + fill pools.

Rainwater harvesting becomes an entirely different practice during our dryer winters. For instance, watering restrictions were introduced in the Tampa Bay area last December to reduce the strain on local infrastructure + help conserve water.

Rainwater drips down an up-close rain chain. The background is blurry and the chain is vertical and pointing toward the ground. Blurry greenery and rain drops are visible.

Have you heard of rain chains?

Photo via Canva

How do I start?

  • Barrels are commonly placed below downspouts to collect roof runoff. They are typically 50-60 gallons in size.
  • But at this time of year, a barrel could fill up quickly. That’s why cisterns may be your best bet — they can contain up to 1,000 gallons.
  • Rain chains take water from gutters and direct them toward the ground. Not only can this control how much water your plants get, but can also prevent barrels/cisterns from filling as quickly and prevent flooding in your yards, plus they can be cute.

The University of Florida has more tips and tricks to get you on your rainwater harvesting journey.

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