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Harvesting Rainwater

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Estimating your water needs is important if you are considering installing a rainwater harvesting system for your home. A quick look at your water usage (and the demand for it) provides a clear answer as to whether or not a rainwater harvesting system is right for you. 

However, from a practical perspective, I don’t know why you wouldn’t harvest rainwater.

We all think of the obvious when we think of our water usage, but let’s look a little farther. As you read this article you will notice a few, “Oh, yeah” moments of things that didn’t come to mind to consider when determining your water needs.

Water Usage

First, we need to determine the average use of your home. This is easily done by analyzing your water bill for a concise answer. However, this chart from the government gives you averages from across the country if that helps.

Typical water use at home per person


A "full tub" varies, of course, but 36 gallons is good average amount.

 Tip: Taking a shower instead of a bath should save a good bit of water.


Old showers used to use up to 5 gallons of water per minute. Water-saving shower heads produce about 2 gallons per minute.

 Tip: Taking a shorter shower using a low-flow showerhead saves lots of water.

Teeth brushing

1 gallon. Newer bath faucets use about 1 gallon per minute, whereas older models use over 2 gallons.

 Tip: Simply turn the faucet off when brushing teeth.

Hands/face washing

1 gallon

 Tip: Simply turn the faucet off before drying your hands and face. If you don't mind a brisk wash, don't run the faucet until it gets hot before using it. Installing a faucet-head aerator will also reduce the water flow rate.

Face/leg shaving

1 gallon

 Tip: Simply turn the faucet off when shaving.


6-16 gallons. Newer, EnergyStar models use 6 gallons or less per wash cycle, whereas older dishwashers might use up to 16 gallons per cycle.

 Tip: EnergyStar dishwashers not only save a lot of water but also save electricity.

Dish washing by hand:

About 8-27 gallons. This all depends on how efficient you are at hand-washing dishes. Newer kitchen faucets use about 1.5-2 gallons per minutes, whereas older faucets use more.

 Tip: Efficient hand-washing techniques include installing an aerator in your faucet head and scraping food off, soaking dishes in a basin of soapy water before getting started, and not letting the water run while you wash every dish. And it's best to have two basins to work in--one with hot, soapy water and the other with warm water for a rinse.

Clothes washer

25 gallons/load for newer washers. Older models might use about 40 gallons per load.

 Tip: EnergyStar clothes washers not only save a lot of water but also save electricity.

Toilet flush

3 gallons. Most all new toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush, but many older toilets used about 4 gallons.

 Tip: Check for toilet leaksAdjust the water level in your tank. But, best to install a new low-flow toilet..

Glasses of water you drank

8 oz. per small glass (not counting water for Fido or your cats). Also, note that you will be using water for cooking.

Outdoor watering

2 gallons per minute, depending on the force of your outdoor faucet. This may not sound like too much but the large size of lawns and yards means outdoor water use can be a significant use of water.

Unless you are living off-grid, you are probably going to harvest rainwater for things like:

  • Irrigation for the lawn,

  • gardens, and pond,

  • Washing the car,

  • Cleaning the deck and walk ways,

  • Washing the windows,

  • Bathing the dog.

And perhaps recreationally:

  • Such as keeping the hot tub or pool topped off this summer.

  • Maybe even a garden shower to rinse off after working in the yard or before getting into the pool.

  • A rainwater harvesting system is a one-time investment that will obviously pay for itself quickly by reducing your monthly water bill.

Cost of Equipment and Upkeep

Let’s look at the cost of a simple rainwater collection system, as well as necessary upkeep. Let’s keep this simple and you can progress from there. The first step that I would recommend would be 50 gallon rain barrels at the bottom of each of your downspouts. I have included links here to the type of items that we use so that you can see what I'm talking about and see what other people that have purchased the item have to say. You get a better idea for making your own decision.

We then attach either soaker hoses that run to the garden beds or a regular hose for filling containers for other uses.

Environmental Factors

If you live in an area that is prone to periods of drought, a harvesting system can help. In fact, if you are experiencing water shortages in your area, using rainwater could be one of the best decisions you will ever make. In addition to the uses we’ve named, you can harvest rainwater and purify it easily for drinking should the need arise.

Now that you know a little bit more about rainwater harvesting and estimating your water needs, it's time to make an informed decision. It is a minimal and very logical investment for people who are:

  • Tired of high water costs,

  • Living in areas experiencing drought and shortages

  • More environmentally conscious

Quite honestly, harvesting rainwater is a win-win situation for everyone.

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