When you think of spring, you probably think of the warm sun, blooming flowers and foliage, and colourful gardens. Well, in order for life to grow, there needs to be some rain, and spring in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) usually brings a lot of it. So, in the spirit of looking forward to the the spring showers, let’s take a closer look at the idea of rainwater harvesting.
Rainwater harvesting is an ancient art and is still practised widely in rural areas and abroad; only recently has the concept started becoming more popular in urban centres. In its most simple form, rainwater harvesting consists of a barrel or bucket under a downspout, which collects water for garden irrigation. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has a detailed outline of almost all you need to know about rainwater harvesting. We’re giving you a brief preview!
A more sophisticated rainwater harvesting system features an array of systems that can be directly connected to your home plumbing so you can use rainwater for laundry, your toilets, and even for drinking.
There are four main components of a rainwater harvesting system: Catchment, Conveyance, Storage, and Distribution. The Catchment area is usually the roof. The Conveyance system, usually eavestroughs, downspouts or piping, is needed to transport the water from the roof into the storage area. The Storage area is typically a barrel, cistern, or tank of some sort, and the water is stored here for future use. The Distribution system can be anything from a watering can to a complex plumbing network.
At this point, you’re probably thinking that this sounds like way too much work. Well, there are a few benefits that may change your mind. First of all, you reduce the amount of water you use through your municipality, so your water bill will be lower. In the long run, this could mean significant savings.
Rainwater harvesting systems also reduce the impact on local stormwater and sewer infrastructure, so you’re doing your community a service! If you live in an area that’s prone to droughts and watering bans, then you’ll be happy to have a tank of water on your property because you’re allowed to access this source for watering purposes even if there is a ban in place.
Of course, there are some responsibilities that come with owning and operating a rainwater harvesting system. It requires ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure there is no blockage, contaminations, or leaks. These maintenance checks are usually quick and easy and only need to be conducted every three, six, and 12 months. Some municipalities require mandatory annual inspections by a licensed plumber. It’s also important to drain the storage tank every three to five years to check for deterioration and debris.
If you’re considering installing a rainwater harvesting system, keep in mind that this is not a DIY project, unless you’re implementing the most basic form of harvesting (bucket and downspout). Make sure you use a certified plumber and electrician to get the job done safely and correctly. We wonder if there will ever be a time when rainwater harvesting is a feature offered with new homes in the GTA.
CMHC has a good list of tools and additional resources you can reference! Good luck with your rainwater harvesting project!