Collecting Rainwater at Home

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The rainy summers of the past few years helped gardeners in Henderson County forget that we need to irrigate our gardens. In 2021, the summer has turned out drier and some of us have let our recently planted trees, shrubs and flowers get a little too dry. It is time to start thinking about how we irrigate our plants.

It is not always wet in western North Carolina. A severe drought in 2007 and 2008 that led to wildfires got people thinking about the options for alternative water sources. Most homeowners use treated drinking water (city water) to satisfy all of their water needs.

rain barrels

These rain barrels are connected to a gutter on a garden shed. The barrels are connected so that both fill during rain events and can be drained to use as irrigation water.

During droughts this type of water can be replaced by captured rainwater. For example, harvested rainwater can be used for watering gardens, washing vehicles, and flushing toilets. With special treatment and plumbing, it is even possible for harvested rainwater to become the primary water supply for a home or business.

A rainwater harvesting system captures stormwater runoff, usually from a rooftop, and stores that water for later use. Using harvested rainwater for purposes that don’t require treated drinking water has many advantages:

  • It reduces the demand on municipal water supplies and thus increases the sustainability of drinking water supplies.
  • Its use may be exempt from restrictions during a drought.
  • It can reduce water bills, meaning the system can partially pay for itself.
  • It can improve the environment by capturing nutrients and other pollutants from rooftop runoff, preventing them from contaminating surface waters.
    It can contribute valuable plant nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, to garden irrigation water.

Would you like to learn more about harvesting rainwater at your home? Then check out our NC State publication on Rainwater Harvesting at Home.