Conserving Stormwater: Use It or Lose It

Water has always been a precious commodity, but the recent rise in frequent water shortages and droughts due to climate change emphasizes the importance of everyday water conservation. Despite the atmospheric consequences of global warming, rainstorms continue…so why let all that water go to waste?

Cisterns have a long history, spanning several thousand years. The original cisterns were simple containers (often made of masonry) that were positioned to collect rainwater for use inside and outside of the household. Modern cisterns are often involved in sophisticated water-harvesting systems, which include underground tanks and filtration systems that remove sediment and toxins. Cisterns need not be fancy to be effective. Opaque metal, wood, or plastic containers strategically placed under gutters and drainpipes can hold rainwater to be later used for watering greenhouses, gardens, and livestock. Water can also be irrigated out to yards and other areas that require frequent watering. Consider connecting a rain chain to an underground holding tank-not only will it add aesthetic appeal to your home, but the sound of rain passing down the chain will create a soft, soothing melody straight from Mother Nature’s soundtrack. Copper is your best bet, as it is infinitely recyclable. In many cases, rainwater may not be potable. Toxic sediments and contaminants from the atmosphere can be removed with elaborate filtration systems, but for casual cistern users, it is safer to avoid using the water for cooking or drinking.

  • Ensure that the cistern has a tight lid so it does not create an atmosphere that invites mosquitoes, as they breed quickly and carry disease.
  • A well-sealed, opaque vessel also keeps out sunlight (which supports algae growth), critters, and roof debris.

The modern benefits of cisterns easily extend from the home or farm to the community. Two elementary schools, one in Los Angeles, California and one in McKinney, Texas, have cisterns on school grounds.

  • California’s Open Charter Elementary School Stormwater Project of spring 2003, gave an enormous cistern an underground home. The linked irrigation system keeps the school’s new playing fields lush.
  • In Texas, rainwater recycling is assisted by a wind-powered filtration system that removes debris from the water.

So why let it drain? Let’s continue to conserve water as we put the rain to good use. For more information about rainwater collection, visit:

One Comment

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  1. Great article, Sean, regarding conservation of water through rainwater harvesting! Of all the articles I’ve recently read on rainwater harvesting I believe this is by far the best one yet!
    However, I didn’t see anywhere instructions for care and maintenance of rain gutters. Water harvesting is only as clean as the gutters are clean!
    Please explain to your readers and listeners how necessary it is to keep gutters squeaky clean, for two very different reasons; 1) Keeps rain gutters free flowing and doesn’t overflow onto the ground near the homes foundation; and, 2) Keeps gutters free of disease, virus, mold, roaches that carry 33 different infectious diseases, decaying debris, stagnant water that breeds mosquitoes which carry West Nile Virus, leaves and other debris clogging up the gutters.
    I invite y’all to come and visit with me at to see a brand new method of cleaning rain gutters that is safer, faster, cleaner, and saves you money and is called “The Best Gutter Cleaning Tool On The Market Today!”
    You’ll save time, money, energy and more water when you use the Gutter Clutter Buster. It vacuums out all debris, wet or dry, while you stand firmly on the ground.
    So, our desire is for you to Stay Well, Stay Safe, and “Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled.”

    Enjoy your worthwhile rainwater harvesting and add “one more drop in the bucket” toward water conservation.

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