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Rainwater for Drinking – Considerations

So you are considering using rainwater as a backup or emergency water supply. Rainwater is a great solution for both however there are things that need to be considered prior to installation. 

One major item for consideration is whether you have public water supply to your property. If you have public water supply anywhere located on your property, then you must have backflow prevention properly installed. This avoids the situation where rainwater mixes with city water into the public supply or the public supply mixing with the rainwater you have in your cistern. If the rainwater system is being installed for non-potable use, prior to any conversion to using in the home for potable use, the backflow prevention device must be installed. If you do not see this as part of the quote for the installation or conversion, then you as the property owner, should be asking where that information is. This expense can be a larger fixed expense due to needing a plumber or someone who is licensed to perform this connection (some irrigation licensing does have this endorsement) and having to pay their rates on the length of time it takes them to perform the installation as they generally charge by the hour as well as trip charges in some cases. 

While rainwater is the safest form of water available to us, this is prior to it hitting the ground and/or touching other surfaces. Rainwater can become contaminated just like any other water source. In order to ensure the rainwater is safe for drinking or potable use in the home, a filtration system which includes separate filters and a UV light should be used. This ensures that the water is properly disinfected for potable use. We recommend gutter foam in the gutters, a first flush diverter as well as using the filtration system because the cleaner the water is going in, the cleaner it will be for it’s intended use. In some cases, tree limbs may also need to be trimmed to allow for less organic matter in the water. 

We will discuss filtration topics in separate blog posts in the future but in the meantime, here are 2 great resources we found that discuss filtration of rainwater in great detail:

Potable Rainwater: Filtration and Purification

Rainwater Quality and Filtration

In conclusion, rainwater is a great source for primary water supply, emergency water supply or a backup water supply. Please do your research and ensure you abide by your local regulations for rainwater harvesting in your area before you install a system. Water safety is all of our concern and responsibility. 


As always, comments and/or questions are always relevant and welcome. 

RainDrop Harvesting Solutions, LLC
www.RainDropSavers.com


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Drinking Water and TDS

When you drink from your tap, refrigerator, or bottled water do you think about TDS in your cup? Water standards are in place that enable our cities to keep our drinking water safe and within the correct limits. However, it is often interesting to do your own test just to see what the results are.

Defining terms:

Dissolved solids refer to any minerals, salts, metals, cations or anions dissolved in water. Total dissolved solids (TDS) typically comprise inorganic salts (principally calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates) and some small amounts of organic matter that are dissolved in water.

The current EPA TDS standards & info (taken from http://www.tdsmeter.com/education?id=0018): In terms of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises against consuming water containing more than 500mg/liter, otherwise known as 500 parts per million (ppm) of TDS, although many health specialists believe that ideal drinking water should be under 50 ppm or lower. The average tap water in America contains approximately 350 ppm of TDS although it is not uncommon for municipal or local water supplies to exceed this. If TDS levels exceed 1000mg/L, however, it is generally considered harmful to human health and should not be consumed.

We recently were told by a customer that they performed a TDS test on their water. We had installed 2 rainwater systems on their property. This property has a small herd of cattle and while we were installing there was dust settling all over our tools and equipment that the animals stirred up daily. The guttering has normal screen and both systems have first flush diverters on them. The customer told us that they tested bottled water at 3 TDS. One of their systems had 1.3 TDS and the other had 1.8 TDS. They were amazed at the results that the rainwater they collected has less Total Dissolved Solids than the bottled water.

By no means are we saying this water is drinkable straight out of the cistern. We are purely recounting what the customer told us. We have seen this test performed on other types of water as well with very similar results. With proper treatment the water from the cistern will be safe to drink. It also requires less treatment in many cases than well water.

We encourage educating yourself on the subject of Total Dissolved Solids in drinking water. There are multiple resources out there discussing the subject in depth. There are many inexpensive options out there as well allowing you to test your own water in the privacy of your own home if you are curious enough to do so. Your city’s municipal water supply is supposed to supply you with information about their annual results of the drinking supply. This is often on their website or sent to their customers. We are lucky to live in a country that enables us access to clean, safe drinking water.


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Staggering Amount of Water

Recently we were asked to measure for a local College Station apartment complex for the rainwater harvesting potential. We knew there would be plenty of roof space for harvesting but the sheer amount of water that can be collected was mind blowing, even for us since we work with these numbers every day. 

If we collect from every surface in this apartment complex, one inch of rain harvests 53,181 gallons of rainwater. Unfortunately it will not be feasible to capture from every surface since we have limited space for tanks to hold the water. On average (taken from data from the past 10 years) we have had 35 inches of rain annually in College Station, Texas. This means that we could capture 1.8 million gallons of water from this one apartment complex alone in town. 


This is a staggering amount of water that can be harvested and used for numerous purposes. Landscaping is the first use that comes to mind. Filling pools or fountains to beautify the property is another. Potable water use is also an option for drinking, showering and washing clothes etc. 

It is more of a challenge to retrofit an existing complex, but it can be done. We are going to propose capturing from the roofs nearest the areas the owner would like to see the water be used for since that makes the most sense from an economical standpoint. It seems a shame to waste the rest, but since we simply don’t have an empty lot to put a 50,000 gallon tank on the property, we are faced with doing the best we can with the allotted space. 

It is easier to plan for rainwater harvesting with new construction because you can plan where the tanks and everything will go from the start. Retention ponds and drainage can be placed and set where those can be collection points as well into tanks to reduce evaporation issues. 

I am thrilled to see business owners starting to step up and attempt to at least see what it would cost to increase their green footprint. Food for thought is that maybe one day, in areas of severe drought, water of this magnitude could be harvested not only for use, but to be purchased by the cities for treatment and usage for consumption. 


As always, comments and/or questions are always relevant and welcome. 

RainDrop Harvesting Solutions, LLC
www.RainDropSavers.com