Sustainability

Prepare for drought by harvesting rainwater

Students at RPI probably do not really think about where their water comes from. We usually take for granted that there will always be plenty of fresh water flowing from our faucets. However, we must start to pay attention to water shortages that are happening around the world and even in our own country. In the near future, water, not oil, will be considered liquid gold.

Rainwater harvesting is one way we can alleviate the threats of water shortage. Harvesting rainwater means to accumulate and store rainwater before it infiltrates the ground. Harvesting methods can range from very simple, inexpensive designs to industrial scale rainwater collection. For example, many companies sell rain barrels that you can attach to the end of your gutter. Any rain that falls onto the roof of your house will end up going into the barrel. You can even connect barrels to each other to allow excess water from one barrel to flow into the other. Industrial methods are a little more complex. One design involves placing a huge tank underground (for example, under a parking lot) and collecting rainwater from the roofs of much bigger buildings. Once harvested, rainwater is perfect for use in irrigation, toilets, and other non-potable water needs.

There are many other advantages to harvesting rainwater. In areas where water restrictions are put into place, rainwater provides an independent water supply. By collecting rainwater for non-potable use, there is more water available for more important uses. Using rainwater also decreases amount of water you use from the water company, which means more money in your pocket.

The U.S. Green Building Council, which rewards qualified buildings with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certifications, suggests using rainwater collection as a step in the right direction for LEED certification. Getting a building LEED certified is akin to a movie winning an Oscar; it’s a big deal. Even existing buildings can become more sustainable by installing a rainwater harvesting system.

Rainwater harvesting should not be a trend of the future, it should happen now. We all need to do our part to prevent water shortages from occurring.