Ag Buzz: Harvesting H20

By Nikki Honosky, WVSU Extension Associate

The summer heat has been in full effect for the last few months and while it is beneficial, it does mean you will have been having to water your plants more often. While you will always have to water your plants, there are ways to make it easier on yourself. The method that will help you is called water capture. Sometimes this method is referred by many other names like rainwater harvesting. Basically what water capture is involves collecting any water run-off from any structure, such as any rooftop, in storage containers for later use.

There are a few various methods that you can do water capture with ranging from the simple to the more complex. It depends on how much time and effort you’re willing to put into the project. It also depends on what you’re using it for and just how much water you would need. This is because some of the simpler methods can only hold so much water compared to the bigger systems.

Water capture has many various benefits that can be very beneficial for you. Rain water is comparably clean in comparison to tap water. You have control over your supply and is better for any plants due to not having any contaminates in it that could be in the city’s water. It helps to reduce any runoff problems that you may have. Another important benefit is that your water capture system could be used as a back-up water source for emergencies. The systems that you use can be very flexible allowing you to do many things depending on what you want to do with it.
The simplest and easiest method is using a rain barrel. The rain barrel is also the most common and the one that most people know about when referring to water capture. This method involves placing an empty rain barrel under the rooftop gutter runoff. It involves little effort on your part and it takes up little space, so it shouldn’t be hard to fit wherever you want to place it. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t hold much. It can hold up to 50 to 100 gallons depending on the size of the barrel. Any more than that and the barrel will start to overflow, which wastes the water runoff that can’t be held.

The next step up is referred to as a “dry” system. It is equivalent to the rain barrel system, but allows for a larger storage volume. This method involves taking a large water storage container placed a little bit away from your property. The gutter is also altered in order to divert it to funnel into the water container. It’s easy to put in and isn’t expensive. Its name originates due to the fact that the collection pipe dries up after any rain because it’s meant to empty into the container. It can hold plenty of water and isn’t too terribly complicated. The downside to this is that it must be placed next to your home.

The next method is referred to as a “wet” system. It is essentially the opposite of the dry system. The system is installed underground with a collection of pipes and its name comes from the fact that water is always filling up the pipes. Collection pipes are put underground to connect many downspouts from a multitude of gutters. The pipes will connect to an empty storage tank that is also placed underground. Rainwater will fill the piping and force the water to rise vertically in order to spill into the tank. The connection must be water-tight and the tank elevation must be below the lowest gutter on your home. This system helps to collect the most water from multiple sources compared to the other methods and can be located away from your home. The problem with this method is that it is the most expensive to use due to installing the pipes and tank. The cost will also go up if you end up constantly doing maintenance on the pipes.

You can easily learn more about this by doing research on the Internet or by asking those that are experienced with water capture for advice. If you have any questions, you can contact me at the WVSU Extension Office at the Welch Armory. I am available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. Feel free to give me a call at (304) 320-5446.

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