Rainwater Harvesting Advantages and Disadvantages:
Ever since a young age, we have been taught that our planet consists of about seventy percent water. However, not all of the water is suitable to use for every purpose. Almost all of the water on Earth is in the oceans and seas. Luckily for us, there are several methods to combat the ever-growing water crisis. Currently, the most sought out and trusted option is rainwater harvesting.
Due to the high salinity these water bodies possess, it is not possible to consume it or use it for much good. This leaves much of the world with a water shortage issue.
In this article, we’ll discuss in-depth what rainwater harvesting is and the advantages and disadvantages of rainwater harvesting.
What Is Rainwater Harvesting?
Until recently, groundwater has been the major water source for most parts of the world. It provides us with water which is suitable for agricultural, domestic and industrial uses.
But unfortunately, the ease and simplicity with which people received this water resulted in a lot of it getting wasted. And thus, rainwater harvesting was born.
Rainwater harvesting involves the collection of the run-off from a structure or other surface in order to use it in the future. Normally, this is done by harvesting rain from the roof.
The rainwater collects in gutters that drive the water into downspouts and then finally into a storage vessel. The collection systems can vary. They might be as simple as collecting rain in barrels to as complex as harvesting it into cisterns to supply an entire house.
Rainwater Harvesting means using methods to restore groundwater and decrease urban flooding. It also helps in ensuring there is the availability of water in scarce zones.
But despite all of this, there are a few downsides to rainwater harvesting too. And since every coin has two sides, let us discuss the advantages and disadvantages of rainwater harvesting.
Advantages of Rainwater Harvesting in Points:
Plants Grow Better by Rainwater:
Rainwater also has the exact pH level required by plants to grow their best. Any serious plant grower will be aware of the fact that plants prefer slightly acidic water to neutral or acidic water.
Water provided by the localities tends to be on the alkaline side of the pH scale. This is to prevent the metal water pipes from getting rusted.
It’s also true that using rainwater which has been stored for some time, is much better for plant use. That is because it allows organic materials like leaf parts, bird droppings (which, surprisingly, is a great plant fertilizer) to go into the soil. These substances enhance the quality of soil and result in better plant growth.
Perhaps the most important aspect of using rainwater for gardening is the nitrates it provides. Plants are unable to convert the nitrogen in the atmosphere into the form which they can utilize: nitrates. Hence, using rainwater provides sufficient nitrates to plants, which boosts their growth.
Most of the water that we use for purposes other than drinking comes from rainwater harvesting.
We use a lot of water for bathing, cleaning, and doing the laundry. Rainwater is absolutely suitable for all of these purposes.
Unlike other sources of water, rainwater does not contain harmful substances like pollutants, pharmaceuticals, and added chemicals.
It is soft water, and that means it does not require very large amounts of detergents while cleaning either.
Using rainwater will play a huge role in cutting down the number of water bills for entire communities.
Installing a single rainwater harvesting tank will reduce the amount of municipal water being provided to an area. It also makes sure that in case of contamination of municipal water due to some reason does not lead to a water shortage.
Using Rainwater Reduces Soil Erosion:
Soil is a precious natural resource, and plants need it to grow. But the poor quality of plants withers away soon, due to reasons such as storms or even strong winds, and leave the soil barren.
Bare soil, when exposed to wind or hard water, gets carried away- and that is what’s called soil erosion.
Since rainwater is soft water, it does not produce scale and corrosion as hard water does. It also reduces the chances of flooding in some areas.
Harvesting rainwater is a good option in venues such as theme parks, schools, and restaurants on a larger scale.
On a smaller scale, we can use it for irrigation purposes in residential areas where plants are grown.
Rainwater doesn’t have any toxic chemicals, which makes it suitable for irrigation.
Using rainwater also reduces the intensity with which we depend on groundwater as a source.
When water channels are dug up into the ground for finding a water source, it causes a lot of environmental damage.
It is a good idea to use rainwater whenever and wherever possible since it has so many great uses. Continued dependence on a single water source will end up in a water crisis eventually.
In areas where drought occurs, it is not possible to dig up the Earth in the hope of water that doesn’t exist. In such cases, stored rainwater will save lives.
Disadvantages of Rainwater Harvesting in Points:
Although there is no definite wrong with utilizing rainwater, it does have a few drawbacks. Let us discuss some of them:
Rain is not predictable:
It is not possible to say for sure when it is going to rain. Despite the tremendous advances we have made as a race in the past century alone, we still are unable to master the task of predicting whether accurately!
Sometimes it rains too little, and sometimes it doesn’t rain at all. For areas that have switched to using rainwater as their main source, this can cause a problem. Hence, unlike groundwater, it is not advisable to completely rely on rainwater.
Setting up a harvesting system is expensive:
Just like other natural resources, rainwater harvesting is a technique that costs a lot in the short term.
When you first set up a system of storing the water, it may cost you a sizeable amount of money. Prices can go up to $2500, which is a number not many people can afford.
It will take as much as fifteen long years to make up for the initial amount spent. But that too depends upon the amount of rainfall your system receives!
Damage by Natural Causes and Animals:
It is common knowledge that mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. If the rainwater is kept unused for longer durations, it may become a breeding ground for such vectors.
Pests like mice, lizards, cockroaches may begin to live in the harvesting system. But we can avoid this if we take care to maintain the cleanliness and do regular clean-ups.
Other than this, factors such as the amount of air pollution in the area also matter. If the air is dirty, its constituents accumulate in the stored water.
Insects and animal droppings may fall into the water and cause diseases and hazards for the consumers.
Sometimes when it rains for days continuously, especially during the monsoon, water in the harvesting tanks overflow. This results in a lot of it getting wasted and going down the sewage pipes and drains.
Plants do not require all of the water stored in the harvesting systems, so most of the time, the tanks might remain full. This means that any rain in the future will be of no use, as no extra water can be stored after the catchment is full.
The number of people in the world is increasing every single day. It is only obvious that at one point, the interest in natural resources will spike up. Solar panels, wind turbines, and rainwater harvesting are some of the few notable examples. It has been stated by many environmental researchers that the need and demand for rainwater will increase double the fold in the future.
Rainwater provides quite a number of advantages to us, and several of them have health benefits too. It is smart to switch to rainwater in areas where poor rainfall is not an issue. In areas where rainfall is unpredictable, rainwater harvesting can be used as a seasonal and alternative source instead of a primary source.