Only 1 percent of the earth's water is considered usable, and as the world's population increases, demand for freshwater expands as well. Collecting rain for later use or simply diverting it to prevent waste is the essence of water conservation. Methods to utilize rainwater range from simple to extensive. All require extra effort, but with a bit of ingenuity the rewards can be substantial. (See References 3)
Downspouts are often located near an easy runoff pathway, such as a driveway. Most often this water is wasted. Even worse, this water generally sweeps through streets, picking up chemical waste and toxins before landing in waterways and oceans. Changing the flow of the downspout is one way to conserve rainwater. Simply moving the downspout so that the water is directed onto a lawn or garden allows this water to be used. As water percolates through the layers of soil, impurities are filtered, creating cleaner groundwater. Before altering the flow of water, though, homeowners should ensure that the ending location of the downspout is well-draining and sizable enough to handle the possibility of large amounts of water. The designated area should also be appropriately landscaped; a vegetable garden may not be the best choice because the roof may contain toxins. (See References 2 and 3)
Place a rain barrel under a downspout to collect rainwater. Barrels range in size and can be equipped with a spigot or hose for easy use. Rainwater is ideal for watering plants, cleaning the car or windows, or adding to the pool. The average household can save up to 1,300 gallons of municipal water solely during dry summer months. In areas of intermittent precipitation, a rain barrel can be utilized between rainstorms. Aside from saving water that may ultimately become runoff, the barrel saves money. (See References 1 and 3)
A cistern is useful for large-scale rainwater collection. A cistern collects water from a water source such as a roof or catchment area. Placed underground or above ground, cisterns generally hold much larger amounts of water than rain barrels. Filtration systems work well with cisterns. For nonpotable use, the filter need not be extensive. In situations where water is to be used for drinking, filtering must be thorough. (See References 2)
Proper landscaping practices can greatly increase rainwater conservation. Mulch and compost retain water and prevent erosion. Use gravel or pavement to let rain seep into the soil. Where erosion occurs, plant ground covers, native trees and shrubs to stabilize the soil. (See References 3)
Andrea Peck has been writing since 2006. Her work has appeared in "The Rogue Voice," "Information Press" and "The Tribune." Her writing focuses on topics about gardening and the environment. Peck holds a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and a minor in biology from San Diego State University.
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