The EPA has identified untreated stormwater runoff as one of the greatest threats to our waterways.
How does something like rainfall cause pollution? Rainfall that hits impervious surfaces like building roofs, driveways, parking lots and roads cannot be absorbed into the ground. Instead, the water becomes runoff, flowing downhill and collecting any litter, bacteria or pollution it encounters as it moves.
It is no small amount either; just one inch of rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof creates 623 gallons of runoff! Runoff coming from rooftops often is diverted onto driveways or parking lots, where it picks up motor oil and debris before flowing into storm drains.
Storm drains do not treat water. Instead, they channel water into stormwater ponds, leading to waterways that flow to the ocean, carrying any suspended pollutants with it.
One way to reduce the amount of runoff created from our homes and businesses is by harvesting rainwater. Rainwater harvesting is legal and encouraged in South Carolina! Although it takes special treatment for harvested rainwater to be potable, there are several ways to make untreated rainwater work for you around the home while preventing it from collecting pollution and entering our waterways.
The most common way people use rainwater around their property is to water house plants, landscape plants or ornamental plants. However, with special considerations listed in this factsheet, harvested rainwater can also be used on garden plants. Other uses for rainwater include washing and refilling birdbaths or fountains, cleaning shoes and watering small patches of lawn.
There are rainwater harvesting options for every budget:
Rain barrels – A rain barrel is usually a 50-55 gallon drum placed at a downspout or a spot where water concentrates when running off the roof. A rain barrel can be bought at a hardware store, or it can be a fun DIY project for those on a budget.
Cistern – A cistern is for rainwater harvesting on a larger scale. They start at 100 gallons and can be above or below ground.
Rain gardens – A rain garden is a depressed, landscaped area designed to slow water down, which gives it time to infiltrate into the soil instead of running off – reducing the amount of pollution it picks up.
Clemson Extension is hosting a Virtual DIY Rain Barrel Workshop on Friday. Participants will pick up the materials to build a rain barrel (including a pre-cut 55-gallon drum) at either the Florence County or Sumter County Extension offices between noon and 1 p.m. Friday. Participants will receive an email with a step-by-step instructional video and other rainwater harvesting resources on the day of pick up. Spots are limited. Register here: eventbrite.com/e/diy-rain-barrel-virtual-workshop-tickets-151835779905 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
For more information on rainwater harvesting visit hgic.clemson.edu/?s=rainwater+harvesting
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.