The Perks of Harvesting Rainwater

Join Human Impacts Institutecommunity conversation: What do you know about Rainwater Harvesting?


With water pollution and population growth, water shortage is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today. According to EPA, average household consumes more than 300 gallons of water everyday. And 30 percent of that is devoted to outdoor usage such as washing cars, watering gardens, and cleaning sideways. Just like some people now use the sun to generate electricity, many homeowners now harvest rainwater for many purposes: washing, watering, and even cooking and drinking. Rainwater, which is generally of good quality, can be a useful alternative when piped water systems fails and water supply fluctuates in dry seasons.Rainwater harvesting (RWH) is a low-cost, easy maintenance technology that has been used for ages. However, no system is used to catch any of rainwater falls here in the city. In NYC, our water supply comes fromreservoirs and aqueducts in Upstate NY. Rainwater, together with city sewage, flows directly into the waterways. Potentially, millions gallons of rainwater can be collected in the city from the rooftops of your buildings, chicken coops and patios.

On June 28, Human Impacts Institute (HII) joined Citizens Committee for a hands-on workshop, “How to Build a Rain Harvesting System in Your Community Garden”, at Tranquility Farm, Brooklyn. This is a part of their DIY Green Blocks Workshop Series. Around 25 gardeners from different neighborhoods around the city attended this workshop to learn to how to build a RWH system in their gardens.

Marisa DeDominicis, the Co-Founder, President/Director of Earth Matters, who is also an experienced urban gardener, led the workshop. After she explained the rainwater harvesting technology, the sizing of the tank and roof washers, and the steps to install the barrel system, the attendants were split into four groups. Each of the groups was responsible for building one part of the 50 gallons RWH system on the rooftop of a chicken coop in the farm: preparing the barrel, preparing the site for the barrel system, installing plastic roofing panels, and connecting the PVC fittings. The water seals must be tight to prevent water from leaking. After three hours of working, a DIY rainwater harvesting system was ready to use. It should be noted that the barrel system needs to be cleaned occasionally to keep insects and leafs out and prevent algae growth. Most of the attendants felt this was a fun, very do-able and DIY project, better yet, to be done with friends. (A detailed how-to document about RWH from GrowNYC can be found here)

HII is working on a very comprehensive low-cost DIY building retrofit project on our headquarters. It will be NYC’s first low-income, green building demonstration and education site in Southside Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Interested in learning more about green roofs, urban farming, energy efficiency and more with us? Follow us on our blogs and website!

By Celia Cui, 2012 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Service Intern

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