Rainwater Harvesting Guide

Have you ever thought about rainwater harvesting at your log cabin?  It’s a great way to be environmentally conscious without a whole lot of effort.

What is Rainwater Harvesting?

Rainwater harvesting means capturing and storing rain that falls usually on roofs.  Rooftop rainwater capture is a simple, cost-effective approach for supplying water that promotes sustainable water management.

Irrigation Diagram

How Does Using Harvested Rainwater Help the Environment?

Vast amounts of energy are used to treat, supply and dispose of water.  Rainwater collection helps to abate this problem.  In addition, by using rainwater, the water does not run off on paved surfaces to pick up pollutants and carry them to nearby surface waters.

The Benefits of Saving Rainwater

By capturing rainwater before it hits the ground, you get water that has not picked up contaminants found as it moves through the earth and rocks such as pesticides, fecal matter and industrial chemicals.  A few other advantages are:

  • Rainwater is free of chlorine, an additive often put in municipal water as a disinfectant.
  • Collected rainwater can be a lifesaver in areas prone to drought.
  • Lower water bills
  • Reduces soil erosion and floods.
  • Increases water supply and reduces demand on existing water supply lines
  • Typical rainwater is soft water which reduces the amount of soap and detergent needed to clean. Hard water is also tougher on plumbing.

The Disadvantages of Saving Rainwater

As you will see the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

  • Unreliable rainfall makes it difficult to gauge future collection amounts.
  • Starting costs – low hundreds to low 1000s depending on system. The return on investment period can be lengthy.
  • Storage limitations

Where Can Rainwater Be Used?

Rainwater has many non-potable uses such as watering your log cabin herb garden, landscape irrigation, water for livestock, toilet flushing and washing cars.  It can also be used for potable water for drinking, cooking and bathing if properly treated.

Rainwater Harvesting Precautions

Be careful if your roof is made with asphalt shingles.  Asphalt can leach toxins while metal roofs and slate shingles do not.

Rainwater collection sites also need to be properly maintained so they do not become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, algae and other unwanted items.

How Do I Harvest and Collect Rainwater

Simple rainwater collection systems have three main elements: the roof or other catchment area, the storage tank(s), and the gutter and other piping that directs the water from the catchment area to the tank.  Rainwater harvesting systems can be as simple as directing gutters to a lidded garbage can or as complex as a concrete cistern, roof washer and filtration system.

Rainwater Harvesting Diagram

Storage tanks of varying sizes, colors and styles can be purchased at lawn and garden stores, hardware stores, home improvement stores and online starting at under $100.  Make sure your purchase is resistant to rust, mold and mildew.  If you’re worried about how a tank will look, consider that they can actually be decorative features.  If you like the rustic look, imagine a recycled whiskey barrel next to your log cabin.  Some have planters on top so you can add your favorite flowers.

You can find instructions on how to make a simple rainwater harvesting and collection system here.