It’s frequently stated, though rarely overstated enough, that there is a pending freshwater crisis. In many of our daily lives, we use water regularly without much thought for how much we use which is a testament to the efficiency of our municipal water systems but in just a few years, large portions of the world are expected to have severe water shortages despite our best efforts.
There is no one, simple solution to the freshwater crisis but there are a lot of things that can be done in the meantime. Though there are many potential solutions, all of which can contribute, the one I really want to talk about is rainwater harvesting.
But first, I think it’s important to fully understand the nature of the freshwater crisis.
The Freshwater Crisis
You might not know it but freshwater is already in short supply. While water scarcity is a common issue in places you might expect, like sub-Saharan Africa or countries in arid regions, it’s also manifesting in some less obvious places. In 2018 Cape Town, South Africa, a city with a population of close to 4 million, nearly ran completely out of water. California has also been rationing water and has codified it into law for the next decade or so.
Even more states are expecting to experience shortages in the near future. In a 2013 survey, 40 out of 50 state water managers expect to wrestle with freshwater scarcity in their state in the next 10 years. And that was 2013, it’s almost been 10 years already. And, when you look at the statistics, they are right to be worried.
- Out of all of the water on the planet, only 2.5% is freshwater and over half of that is trapped in glaciers and ice caps.
- Groundwater provides water for 50% of the population and nearly all of the rural population and groundwater depletion is already happening in large swaths of the US.
- Water demand is expected to increase by 55% between 2000 and 2050.
Needless to say, water is a resource that is already being over-consumed as the world depletes its groundwater supply, and consumption is expected to increase significantly in the near term. No matter where you live, water scarcity will affect your life in a matter of time.
Why We Need Rainwater Harvesting
So what can you do about it? Well… there are a lot of things, especially reduce your consumption, but rainwater harvesting is one that you can start today with a simple water barrel and have an immediate impact. Here’s how.
It can replace some of your water consumption
Daily, we run our faucets, take showers, and do the laundry without thinking twice about it but water comes from somewhere. Our cities put an enormous effort into treating and distributing water their populations and some of them are starting to fall behind. By collecting your own rainwater and using it for some of your daily needs, you reduce the strain you would place on your local water system.
With a rooftop rainwater harvesting system, you can replace large portions of your consumption too. In fact, the average American can replace approximately 85% of their water needs but this depends on a number of factors. You can calculate your collection potential with this rainwater calculator.
It’s water that would have been lost
Additionally, large portions of the water you collect ends up being essentially wasted in the form of storm runoff. While a portion of rainfall absorbs into the ground and helps recharge groundwater, another portion of it runs down our curbs into runoff systems, picking up pollutants along the way and ultimately, ending up essentially useless.
Rainwater harvesting can have a significantly positive impact on the rainwater crisis by reducing the strain on the local water systems, reduce water pollution, and capture good water that would have been lost otherwise. While there are plenty of ways to have an impact, rainwater harvesting is one of the most impactful and efficient.