Homeowners can send the water into their irrigation system through their gutters, Vogel said, although he recommends having a first flush diverter before the rainwater goes into the system because of leaves and other debris potentially clogging drip systems. It also may be necessary to have a pump installed to make water pressure high enough to make the irrigation system functional.
He said it’s important for an above-ground rainwater catchment tank to be opaque, so algae growth won’t be a problem. Barrels can be painted on the outside to achieve opacity if they are roughed up a little on the outside and painted with plastic-friendly paint, Vogel said.
Below-ground rainwater tanks are more expensive to install but don’t have the same algae issues. They also solve the problem of some homeowners associations banning the above-ground version because of looks.
Some residents are using rainwater to wash clothes or to wash cars. It even can be used as drinking water.
Vogel said the water needs to be treated in some way if it’s to be potable. Some of the primary concerns are animals that have been on the roof like squirrels and birds and dust that accumulates, especially on homes near highways. Rainwater also can pick up small particulates from the roof, depending on the roof’s age.
“(Do) whatever you would do to well water,” he said.
A PVC pipe on the way into the system with a “weep tube” can act as the first flush diverter, catching the first items that come off the roof with runoff then going into rain barrels.
Residents who want to catch rainwater can find instruction and help on fact sheets on Vogel’s website, lid.okstate.edu/rainfall-harvesting.
Food-grade barrels can be found through industries that market food or at area hardware stores like Atwoods, he said. They need to be rinsed multiple times before being used as rain barrels.
“It goes to the same source, it’s just controlled,” Smith said.
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