11 Uses for Rainwater at Home: Garden, Laundry, & Compost
With the right equipment, much of which is inexpensive and quite basic, it is possible to collect rainwater that can be used for a host of purposes around the home. The best rainwater collection system will depend on the typical frequency and volume of rain that you get, where you want to collect rainwater from, and how you will use the run-off once you’ve collected it. Typical uses range from filtering and distilling it for drinking to using it for watering plants and cleaning cars.
Below are 11 possible uses for rainwater at home, ranging from basic to those that require a considerably more complex setup.
The 11 Uses for Rainwater at Home
1. Watering the Garden
Watering the garden is perhaps the most natural use of rainwater and requires minimal investment. You can install a water butt under a rainwater pipe or under the lip of your roof. It is even possible to connect these rainwater collectors to an automatic irrigation system, effectively storing water when there is a downpour for use when there is little or no rainwater around. As well as watering the garden, you can also use the water you collect to provide sustenance to your indoor flowers.
2. Watering the Compost
Compost piles and compost bins need regular watering, and experts advise that piles need watering once or twice a week during the summer months, but it is something that many of us forget to do. Using the same water butts, you can collect rainwater, and then pour it on the compost pile using a watering can or connect the compost pile to an irrigation system.
3. Washing the Car
It isn’t just the car that can benefit from a regular rainwater soaking. Motorbikes, bicycles, lawnmowers, and other outdoor equipment can all benefit from a good cleaning once in a while. Collect the water using a simple butt collection system and consider a pump that enables you to spray the water from your hose. Alternatively, fill your bucket from your rainwater supply. In either case, this is a much more environmentally friendly way of cleaning your car compared to using fresh water that has been filtered and treated for human consumption.
4. Filling Bird Baths
Birds use bird baths for bathing and drinking, and one or two baths don’t take a lot of water, but if you fill them regularly, it can add up. Use a rainwater supply but ensure that the water is as fresh as possible when you offer it to the birds. It isn’t safe for dogs and cats to drink from puddles, but if you have a filtration system in place for your rainwater system, you can give the filtered water to your pets, too.
There are several benefits to using rainwater to feed your washing machine. Rainwater is naturally soft water, which means that it won’t cause as much damage to the machine itself, and it will require the use of less detergent during the cleaning process, too. The water should be filtered before being used to clean clothes, but a mechanical filtration system that is rated to clear out debris down to 500 microns should be suitable.
6. Flushing the Toilet
The average person uses more than 30 liters of water a day just by flushing the toilet. Whether your water is metered or not, connecting the toilet flush to a rainwater collection system is better for the environment. You will need to connect a rainwater filtration system to prevent larger debris from blocking the toilet and causing damage to your rainwater system.
7. Household Cleaning
Rainwater is soft and it has very little or no chlorine or calcium. This means that it doesn’t streak or cause streaks when washing windows or other surfaces. As such, using rainwater can reduce the amount of work required to wash your windows, but you will want to use a filtration system to get rid of dirt and debris before dousing your windows. The water can also be used to mop floors and for other general cleaning purposes.
8. Feeding a Water Feature
Ponds, waterfalls, and other water features naturally fill with some rainwater, but levels are unpredictable unless you connect your water feature to a rainwater collection system. Filtration will help remove large debris and using this kind of setup enables you to ensure that the water feature is at an appropriate level at all times.
9. Create a Rain Garden
Creating a rain garden does take some work, and it may require that you completely redesign at least one area of your garden. But it naturally uses water that falls from the roof and other areas of the house and naturally diverts the water to an area of your garden. Water-loving plants are placed in this section of the garden, and you can enjoy a wild garden that is naturally fed. These gardens are good for irrigation, prevent pooling and collecting of rainwater around the house, and can attract wildlife naturally to your garden.
It is possible to use rainwater for bathing, but you can’t just feed the shower directly from a rainwater collection system. Rainwater does contain bacteria and when the water is turned to steam, as occurs when it is heated and vaporized, the bacteria become easily ingested. As such, rainwater needs to be filtered and usually goes through UV disinfection before it can be used, but doing so could be a great way to add an external shower to your property. Using rainwater for bathing and drinking, as below, is usually only used where access to mains water is impossible.
11. Drinking and Cooking
Similarly, it is possible to have rainwater fed to your kitchen sink for use in cooking and even drinking, but it will have to go through a series of filtration and purification steps, and you will need to ensure that the water is potable once it has been filtered. This type of system can be expensive, and you will need to regularly test the water to ensure that you are safe to drink it. Generally, it is recommended that people use rainwater for purposes like cleaning cars and watering the garden while saving tap water for drinking and consumption.
For a lot of people, rainwater is a plentiful resource, at least during some months of the year. However, it is usually allowed to soak into the ground or down drainpipes and into the wastewater system. With even a basic rainwater collection system, it is possible to reduce the amount of mains water you use for things like watering the garden or washing the cars. Depending on the type of collection and any filtration system you have in place, it may be possible to use rainwater for an even greater array of processes.
Featured Image Credit: Bianca Grueneberg, Shutterstock