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Rainwater Harvesting: Explosive Growth Across The US
by Trish Donahue and Doug Pushard

There are as many reasons for the growth of rainwater harvesting as there are communities promoting and implementing such programs around the U.S. Such factors as drought, population growth, and increasing environmental awareness are driving the popularity of community and state based incentives. Large-scale economics, increasingly driven by the need to acquire new water sources, and the need for new and more effective infrastructure, i.e., water treatment and distribution, are necessitating innovation in the field.

The Reasons Behind Rapid Growth

National interest is growing rapidly, as evidenced by active programs, which now exist in almost all 50 states, including states with historically abundant water, (i.e., Alaska, Florida, and Hawaii), and states typically lacking in rainfall (i.e., New Mexico and Arizona). Some areas have multiple reasons for promoting
water conservation or rainwater catchment, while others are singularly focused.

Desire to reduce storm water runoff Alaska; Washington; Portland, OR
Desire not to build new water distribution systems to rural neighborhoods Puma, Hawaii
Poor water quality or dropping water levels Central Texas (rural areas), Florida
Cost of acquiring new municipal water supplies Albuquerque, NM; Santa Fe, NM
Drought conditions Albuquerque, NM; Santa Fe, NM; Bellingham, WA; Cary, NC
Population growth Albuquerque, NM; Santa Fe, NM; Florida; Moscow, ID; Puma, Hawaii
Locales in bold have multiple reasons for promoting rainwater catchment



Explosive growth and lack of municipal water is driving the growth in Hawaii. "About 75% of the current residences in the Puma District of Hawaii are on water catchment systems", according to Trisha Macomber, an academic support specialist for the University of Hawaii's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, and author of "Guidelines on Rainwater Catchment Systems for Hawaii." And the area is exploding with one tank retailer selling over 1,000 tanks a year and new building permits recently averaging about 300 a month."


"It's out of care and respect for their environment that they take these steps to conserve", according to Anitra Accetturo, Water Conservation Specialist for the city of Bellingham, Washington, where the city does not meter water use to single-family residences. Though water conservation is solely a matter of choice, lower usage and rainwater harvesting efforts by local residents has been increasing. The city has offered subsidized rain barrels in the past and has a very active education program.


In Lee and Bastrop counties in Texas, people talk about their concerns of local water districts now putting meters on their water wells that produce over 34 gallons per minute. "They want to know that no one can just some day cut them off. These folks have a choice of wells or in some cases municipal water, but more and more of them are opting for full rainwater harvesting systems", states Sam Brown, owner of Brown's Water Works in Dale, Texas.


Florida, with a seemingly endless supply of water, cites growing population and dropping well levels as the factors driving growth. Nearly 2,000 people have attended the rainwater and water conservation workshops in the Hillsborough County area since they started in 1998 and attendance has been increasing almost every year since the program's inception. This year's attendance through June of 2005 has almost surpassed the total attendance for all of last year.

And More...

New interest in Alaska is being driven by increase of rain and lack of storm system infrastructure.

Though the reasons for the trend toward water catchment vary according to region, America's growing thirst for water and increasing awareness of the finite nature of this precious natural resource will be driving growth and the need for innovation of rainwater harvesting technology for a long time to come.

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