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Is Rainwater Harvesting Right For Me?

Is Rainwater Harvesting Right For Me?

Rainwater harvesting is becoming increasingly popular in Canada. From a residential rain barrel to massive commercial installations, rainwater harvesting systems can help reduce water bills, fortify against droughts, and conserve overworked local freshwater sources.

This article explores the benefits and potential drawbacks of rainwater harvesting. It also reviews different systems and solutions to help you determine if rainwater harvesting is right for you and your property.

Is Rainwater Harvesting Right for Me?

In one of its simplest forms, rainwater harvest involves securing one or more rain barrels to your home’s downspouts. More sophisticated rainwater collection kits can store far greater volumes and often include robust filtration and self-cleaning systems. These systems can provide potable drinking water and can even connect to your home plumbing system.

A rainwater harvesting system may be right for you if:

You Want to Reduce Water Bills

Rainwater collection can reduce or even eliminate water expenses related to lawn and garden irrigation. Larger systems can also provide non-potable water for laundry and bathroom plumbing. With the right filtration system, you can collect potable water that is safe for drinking and cooking.

You Want to Improve Drought Resilience

Drought conditions are becoming uncomfortably common in many parts of the country. Municipal water systems rely on groundwater aquifers or upstream glacial and snowpack melt. In hot, dry, and low-snowpack years, water restrictions are likely. Rainwater harvesting systems give homeowners or homesteaders an added layer of drought resilience. Collected rainwater can be used for garden or landscape irrigation and reduce your reliance on and overall use of municipal water. 

You Want to Increase Your Self-Sufficiency

Rainwater harvesting systems can serve as backup water sources not only for drought conditions but for emergencies as well. That could be a natural disaster, an unsafe water advisory, or disruptions to municipal infrastructure. A stable backup water supply also allows you to grow your own food more reliably.

Positive Impacts of Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting doesn’t just benefit your pocketbook and plants—it can benefit the planet, too. Their use is increasingly encouraged across Canada as a way to:

  • Conserve Potable Water Sources: Rainwater harvesting plays a vital role in reducing overdraw on groundwater or upstream snow and glacial melt. These freshwater sources are becoming increasingly stressed and unreliable; rainwater harvesting can help conserve these essential potable water sources.
  • Mitigate Watershed Pollution: Collecting rainwater reduces pollution caused by stormwater runoff, where flow surges wash harmful pollutants into the watershed. This improves water quality and riparian biodiversity.

Potential Downsides of Rainwater Harvesting

Like anything, rainwater harvesting involves tradeoffs. Some challenges to consider before investing in a large system include:

  • Mosquito Breeding and Pathogen Control: Ever notice how mosquitoes love small, unmoving bodies of water, like ponds and wetlands? They love rainwater collection vessels just as much. Improperly sealed rainwater storage systems are a literal mosquito breeding ground, so proper installation and ongoing maintenance are critical. They’re not something you can just “set and forget.” Systems need regular cleaning and maintenance to deter pests and pathogens from proliferating.
  • Turbidity and Contaminant Concentrations: Most rainwater harvesting systems are “direct collection” designs that channel rainwater that falls on building roofs into a holding tank. Unfortunately, certain roofing materials contain harmful chemicals, heavy metals, or other contaminants that will make any collected water unsafe for drinking and, in some cases, even inappropriate for irrigating lawns and gardens.

Understanding your roofing materials should be the first step to seeing if it is compatible with a rainwater harvesting system. For high-quality potable water, you’ll want a roof and gutters made from NSF P151-certified materials.

Is Rainwater Harvesting Illegal?

Many people associate rainwater harvesting with the humble rain barrel—why would this ever possibly be a legal issue? Indeed, small-scale rainwater collection is often encouraged by municipalities and provinces. But on a larger scale, rainwater harvesting must comply with plumbing and safety codes—especially if that water is to be used for drinking, bathing, or cooking. So, although it is legal across Canada, rainwater harvesting is subjected to various regulations.

Canadian Rainwater Harvesting Guidelines

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has developed a Residential Rainwater Harvesting Systems Handbook to help homeowners and developers design, construct, and manage rainwater harvesting systems aligned with model national building and safety codes.

These model codes set by the CMHC are not law, but provincial legislation may partially adopt them as official regulations. For example, rainwater harvesting is legal in Alberta, but systems must conform to standards set by the Alberta Building Code and the National Plumbing Code. The province has developed Rainwater Harvesting Guidelines to help property owners understand the technical requirements of larger residential rainwater harvesting systems.

With appropriate technical capabilities, a rainwater harvesting system can potentially be used for all of your indoor and outdoor water uses. But when breaking ground on a big rainwater harvesting project, be sure to look into local bylaws and provincial regulations relating to rainwater harvesting to understand what you can and cannot do.

Assessing Different Rainwater Harvesting Systems

Almost all residential rainwater harvesting systems will have the same key characteristics: a catchment area (usually a roof), a conveyance system (eavestroughs and downspouts), a storage vessel, and a distribution system. 

Different residential systems fall into two broad categories based on the location of the rainwater collection tanks.

Above-Ground Rainwater Harvesting Systems

Above-ground rainwater harvesting systems feature a large tank or container at ground level. The systems are budget-friendly, easy to install, and easy to maintain. The primary downsides to above-ground systems include the need to drain and winterize them and the space requirements. 

Placing your tank in a heated garage or shed can allow for year-round use. But wherever you put it, above-ground systems require a good chunk of real estate.

Below-Ground Rainwater Harvesting Systems

Below-ground rainwater harvesting systems, meanwhile, retain your property's usable space by installing the storage tank below the surface. Below-ground systems can store water year-round as long as the tank is buried safely below the frost zone.

Below-ground systems are more versatile and efficient, but they are an investment. Costs associated with excavation and installation mean they can be considerably more expensive than above-ground systems. However, that investment is often worth preserving yard space. For rural properties, a large below-ground rainwater harvesting system could even be used in place of a drilled well.

Find the Best Rainwater Harvesting System for Your Home

Whether you go above or below, the best way to get started with rainwater harvesting is through a home DIY kit from CleanFlo Water Technologies, Canada’s leading designer of rainwater harvesting systems. Each kit includes all of the hardware you need to get a rainwater harvesting system up and running. The Bring Your Own Tank (BYOT) design means the kits can adapt to any storage vessel, from a small rain barrel to a large underground tank.

With a CleanFlo Kit, anyone can easily install a rainwater harvesting system for a simple, eco-friendly landscape irrigation solution.

CleanFlo Design and Installation Services 

For more advanced systems capable of providing water for small plot intensive urban farming, indoor plumbing, or full-on water self-sufficiency, technical requirements rapidly become far more complex. This is when you must begin thinking about filtration, pathogen management, tank installation, and other considerations to ensure your system aligns with the National Plumbing Code and local bylaws.

To help with this, CleanFlo offers design and installation services to create the perfect system for any property and budget. They work with homeowners, builders, and architects to ensure site-specific rainwater harvesting systems are safely and appropriately implemented. You can learn more about their design services and get a free quote here.

Get Started on Your Rainwater Harvesting System Today is an official distributor of Cleanflo Water Technologies Rainwater Harvesting Kits. We supply cost-effective systems to property owners across Canada eager to reduce their water bills, conserve resources, and bolster their self-sufficiency. Along with rainwater harvesting kits, we also specialize in vertical gardens and innovative outdoor tech

We’re passionate about building sustainable, functional, and beautiful living spaces, and we can’t wait to help you get your rainwater harvesting project started! Please connect with us at or call 1(888) 851-8852 with any comments or questions.
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