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As surface and ground water resources become more limited, rainwater harvesting will keep springing up as part of a long-term solution to water woes, said Texas Cooperative Extension experts.
"Rainwater harvesting reduces demand on the available fresh water supply," said Dr. Bruce Lesikar, an Extension agricultural engineer. "It also reduces the quantity of contaminants that enter our streams and rivers, providing high-quality water for landscaping and other needs."
Lesikar, who along with other Extension personnel throughout Texas educates people on the benefits of rainwater harvesting, said taking steps now to help meet the nation's future fresh water needs is vital.
"Though Texas had a wet year on 2007, the recent drought, as well as other droughts in the past, have increased the concern over how to conserve and extend water resources," he said. "As with many other states, the surface and groundwater supply in Texas won't be sufficient to meet future demand. And states with fewer existing water resources have an even more urgent need to develop alternative water supplies."
Rainwater harvesting is a tried-and-true method of capturing, diverting and storing rainwater that has been around for centuries, Lesikar said.
Residential systems have been the focus of much recent interest, Lesikar added. But rainwater harvesting systems also can be used in commercial or government buildings, schools, libraries and community centers, as well as for improving wildlife habitat and other aspects of rangeland management.
Home rainwater harvesting systems can be as simple as capturing water from the roof and channeling it through a downspout into a collection barrel. Systems also can be as elaborate as 10,000-gallon-plus systems for long-term water storage for both non-potable and potable usage.
A basic, "no-frills" 50-gallon home rainwater harvesting system generally costs about $50 in materials, Kniffen said. These materials, which typically include gutters, piping, fittings and a collection barrels, are available at most home improvement centers.
More elaborate water harvesting systems can cost several thousand dollars, he said. The expense depends on roof size, landscape area, amount of water storage desired, whether the water will be for potable or non-potable purposes and other factors.