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Avoid These Mistakes When Harvesting Rainwater Full Guide of 2023

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avoid these mistakes when harvesting rainwaterCollecting rainwater may seem simple – just put out a bucket! However, rushing into rain harvesting without proper planning can leave you high and dry. Let’s go over some typical errors, so your rainwater collection system stays efficient and effective.

With a few pointers from this article, you’ll be harvesting rainwater like an expert in no time, avoiding mistakes like using the wrong containers or neglecting filtration.

First, choose the right materials. Avoid toxic containers like old paint buckets. Opt for food-grade plastic barrels or glass containers instead. Make sure your collection system is debris-free and enclosed to keep out leaves, bugs, and algae.

Second, maintain your equipment. Clean gutters and filters regularly so they don’t get clogged. Check containers for leaks and repair any cracks. Keep storage tanks elevated and covered to prevent contamination.

Third, disinfect and filter. Untreated rainwater can contain bacteria, so install a filter system and treat water before drinking. Boiling, UV light disinfection, and chlorine tablets can eliminate microorganisms.

Finally, consult local regulations. Some areas restrict rain collection or require permits, so check guidelines before installing a large system.

With attention to setup and maintenance, your rainwater harvesting system will provide a sustainable source of high-quality water.

Key Takeaways

  • Use food-grade containers and avoid contaminants like paint buckets when harvesting rainwater.
  • Check regulations in your area before installing a rainwater harvesting system to avoid potential legal issues.
  • Disinfect and frequently test harvested rainwater before drinking it to avoid ingesting harmful bacteria.
  • Properly size storage tanks based on roof area and expected rainfall so you have adequate capacity to store water.

Wrong Container

Wrong Container
You’re begging for water contamination by using the wrong container. Avoid barrels or tubs from farms or manufacturing to collect rainwater. Clear containers allow sunlight in, causing rapid algae growth and increasing bacteria levels.

Make sure your rain barrel or cistern is made from food-safe material like plastic or galvanized steel specifically approved for collecting drinking water. Look for opaque containers that prevent light from entering and minimize algae. Also be wary of bird poop and general dirt accumulation in open containers.

Choose a reservoir with a tight lid to prevent contaminants from entering the water supply. With a little forethought, you can find or make the proper vessel for safely gathering nature’s rainfall bounty.

Ignore Regulations

Ignore Regulations
Don’t go setting up your rain harvesting system willy-nilly without checking local regulations first. Many municipalities and states have rules about collecting and storing rainwater. You could find yourself facing legal problems if you fail to get proper permits or comply with zoning laws.

Before installing gutters or setting up collection barrels, research your state’s laws on rainwater harvesting. Some states even prohibit the practice entirely. By taking the time to learn about and follow all current rules, you’ll avoid common mistakes like code violations that lead to fines.

Connect with your county or city government to discover the local regulations. It seems like overkill, but confirming you aren’t breaking any laws will prevent headaches down the road. With a bit of extra diligence, your DIY rain harvesting project can proceed safely and legally.

Insufficient Storage

Insufficient Storage
Ya need big enough tanks to catch and store all the water that comes off your roof durin’ the wet months. My cousin Bubba thought a couple’a 55-gallon drums would be plenty – wound up with an overflowin’ muddy mess in his backyard that first big storm.

Calculating your storage needs by factoring in roof size, rainfall, and water usage is crucial for harvestin’ rainwater. Skimp on barrels and tanks thinkin’ you’ll save a buck and you’ll find your rainwater collection system overflowin’ and wastin’ your free drinkin’ water.

Measure twice, size up accordingly, and build your storage capacity large enough to capture every raindrop you’ll need durin’ dry spells. Investin’ in sufficiently sized rain barrels or a cistern ensures you get the most from heaven when it pours, so you’ll have plenty stockpiled come drought.

Don’t Rinse Roof

After lettin’ the first gush rinse debris off your roof, be sure to switch over your rain barrels quick to capture the clean rainwater for later. Them first few minutes of rainfall help purge your roof and gutters of leaves, pollen, bird droppings and other undesirables that accumulate.

But divertin’ this dirty water away from your rainwater collection system keeps crud from contaminatin’ your haul. Let the hydrologic cycle whisk away the initial roof runoff, then start harvestin’ the good stuff once it runs clear.

Keepin’ your rainwater collectors and their intake screens free of debris ensures you collect nothin’ but fresh, pure raindrops to use for drinkin’, irrigatin’ and other purposes.

So take that first flush to cleanse roof and gutters, then let ‘er rip into storage tanks overflowin’ with the cleanest rainwater around.

Don’t Purify Water

You’ll want to purify your rainwater before drinkin’ or usin’ it, considerin’ the risks of contamination from the collection system itself. Even the cleanest-lookin’ rain can pick up bacteria, viruses, chemicals, debris and such from roofin’, gutters, tanks, pipes or other collection components.

So treat it right with filtration, UV lamps, chlorine or other methods to remove potentially harmful agents. Test frequently too for safety. Without disinfectin’, you risk ingestin’ pathogens that can cause nausea, diarrhea or worse.

Don’t just assume it’s pure H2O. Take precautions, ‘specially if rainwater’s your drinkin’ supply. A little purification provides healthy hydration from a sustainable source. But skippin’ this vital step invites contaminants straight to the tap.

Expensive System

Expensive System
Don’t blow your budget on some fancy ready-made rainwater harvestin’ setup when you can DIY a simple, cheap system that’ll get the job done just fine. With basic materials from the hardware store and followin’ online plans, you can build a customized harvestin’ rig to meet your needs without breakin’ the bank.

Just be sure to research local regulations so your DIY operation stays up to code. Focus on proper roof coverage, sturdy containers and secure piping without overdesignin’. Skip the bells and whistles – a basic gravity-fed system will provide ample rainwater if sized right.

And you’ll get the satisfaction of waterin’ your garden from water you collected yourself. So don’t shell out a fortune for prefab parts when handy homemade options get water flowin’ from the sky affordably.

No Intake Screen

No Intake Screen
Y’all best be installin’ some intake screens on your rain barrels, or you’ll end up with a big ol’ mess of gunk cloggin’ up your system faster than a hog gulps slop! Them collection barrels gotta have a screen to filter out leaves, sticks and critters from contaminatin’ your rainwater supply.

Just plop a wire mesh sheet or some fabric over the intake spot where water flows in from your gutters.

Without a collection screen, you’ll be dippin’ up sludge along with your liquid gold.

So take a minute to fit a filter over your barrel’s intake when settin’ up your rain catchin’ operation.

No Water Spigot

No Water Spigot
After y’all get that debris filter on, it’s time to focus on how you’re actually gonna get the rainwater out. You gotta install a water spigot for easy access without contaminatin’ the supply.

  • Use a food-grade plastic bucket or proper rain barrel, not some rusted ol’ metal garbage can – toxins from the container leach into your water.
  • Attach a hose to the spigot so you can easily fill waterin’ cans. No more tippin’ and spilling from top dipping.
  • Add a small pump for good water pressure through the spigot if gravity flow is too slow.

Proper containers and a spigot make harvestin’ your liquid gold a cinch. No struggling to extract water from makeshift rain collectors. Just open the tap and fill up when you need it! A quality rain barrel with spigot gives you the freedom to easily access your own abundant water source.

Neglect Maintenance

Neglect Maintenance
You should inspect and clean your rainwater harvesting system regularly or risk contamination from debris, algae, and other pollutants. For example, if gutters and screens get clogged with leaves during fall, rainwater will pick up bacteria, chemicals, and toxins on its way to your storage tank.

Make a habit of checking your gutters after storms and keeping them clear of accumulating organic matter. Let the first few minutes of rainfall wash your roof before diverting water to avoid collecting dirt and bird droppings.

Routinely clean out your catchment tank, unclog filters, and scrub algae if you see it growing. Test for bacteria before drinking and follow all local regulations for collecting rainwater.

Neglecting maintenance makes your system ineffective and contaminates the very water you aim to purify.

Don’t Test Water

You absolutely must test rainwater before drinking it or using it for cooking. Even with clean gutters and a well-maintained system, rain can collect air pollution, animal waste, and other contaminants on the roof’s surface.

Invest in water testing kits and analyze samples frequently, especially after heavy storms. Check for bacteria, pH, metals, and chemicals. While most rainwater won’t immediately make you sick, harmful compounds can build up over time.

Protect your family’s health by testing rainwater, no matter how clean you think your catchment system is. Use a quality wire mesh screen, keep your gutters dirt-free, and always verify water purity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the best materials for constructing a rainwater harvesting system?

Use opaque plastic barrels or food-grade containers to store the harvested rainwater. Galvanized steel tanks also work well. Be sure to prioritize materials that are corrosion resistant. Funnel rainwater from gutters into the storage containers through a screen to filter out debris.

Only use safe, food-grade materials that will be in direct contact with the water you plan to use.

How often should I clean out my rainwater storage tank?

You should clean out your rainwater storage tank every 3-4 months. This prevents buildup of debris, bacteria, and other contaminants. Use a stiff brush to scrub inside walls. Drain all the water, rinse thoroughly, refill, and treat before drinking again.

Is it safe to use rainwater for drinking and cooking?

Using rainwater for drinking and cooking can be risky without proper treatment. You should boil, chemically treat, or filter the water first to remove any contaminants. Regularly test samples to ensure it is pathogen-free before consuming, as rain can pick up bacteria, chemicals, and debris from the roof and storage.

How can I determine the right size for my rainwater harvesting system?

Calculate the area of your roof in square feet. Estimate annual rainfall and determine daily water needs to properly size the system. Aim to collect 1 gallon per square foot from a minimum of 10% of total roof area.

Are there any tax credits or rebates available for installing a rainwater harvesting system?

Unfortunately, there are currently no federal tax credits or rebates available for installing a rainwater harvesting system. However, some states and local utilities do offer incentives, so be sure to check if any apply in your area before getting started.

Contacting local government offices directly can help uncover any limited-time local rebates.


A rainwater harvesting system seems simple, but don’t let carelessness drain your efforts. Like tending a garden, caring for the parts together nurtures the whole. Monitor your collection with a keen eye, keep pests away with fine screens, and sample the reserves to keep your tanks healthy.

With proper maintenance you’ll reap a flowing bounty; neglect brings stench and swarm.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.