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Rig Up a Rainwater Catchment System

Profit from rainy days with a system that will collect and store your rainwater for future use on the homestead.

| August/September 2020

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It begins slowly with the sound of a few drops of rain hitting the roof. As the storm intensifies, the rain’s drumming rises to a crescendo, thunder booms, and the sky opens up. Soon, a torrent of water gushes through the downspout and into a waiting rain barrel. The rain will water your garden for you, while the water collected will nurture your crops for days to come. For gardeners and many others, saving rainwater and snowmelt is an economic, sustainable, and enjoyable practice.

Why Collect Rainwater?

Water is life. Collecting precipitation for later use is a human practice as ancient as our species. While it’s a largely passive activity, it does require setting up infrastructure to accomplish the goal. Some people are lucky enough to live in an area with ample and well-timed precipitation. Where my wife and I live, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of southern Colorado, precipitation is less reliable. Where you live and what purpose you have in mind should determine the size and complexity of your system. What are your goals?

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Gardening. Plants love rainwater. In most situations, it’s better for gardens than groundwater or treated city water. City water typically contains fluoride and chlorine, neither of which are good for plants and soil microbes. In our area, groundwater tends to be too salty, has too high of a pH level, and has too many dissolved solids for continuous agricultural use. These things tend to build up in the soil over time, showing up as white, chalky-looking deposits, and reducing the vitality of the garden. Rainwater (either directly from the sky or from a stored source) is not only better in the short term, but it’s also better in the long term, as it washes accumulated deposits out of the soil, allowing sensitive biota to thrive.

Wildfire protection. Wildfire is already a major concern in the western half of North America, and, as climate change intensifies, so too does the threat of wildfire in more areas. Particularly in rural areas, having a ready supply of water on hand can be a major bonus for firefighters. It’s also useful in wildfire mitigation efforts. Restoration forestry results in significant amounts of material that must be eliminated in some manner, typically by burning it off in slash piles. It’s wise to thoroughly extinguish any burning activity, lest mitigation efforts lead to the very thing you’re seeking to avoid — forest fire.



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