Dear EarthTalk: How can I make good use of the rainwater that runs down my roof and into my gutters?
—Brian Smith, Nashua, NH
For most of us, the rain that falls on our roof runs off into the ground or the sewer system. But if you”re motivated to save a little water and re-distribute it on your lawns or plants—or even use it for laundry, dishes or other interior needs—collecting rainwater from your gutters” downspouts is a no-brainer.
If it”s allowed in your state, that is. Utah and parts of Washington State have antiquated but nonetheless tough laws banning anyone but owners of water rights from collecting rainwater flowing off privately owned rooftops. Such laws are rarely enforced, however, and one in Colorado was recently overturned.
According to John C. Davis, writing in E — The Environmental Magazine, just about any homeowner can collect rainwater, given that the roof and gutters do most of the work. And since an inch of rain falling on a 2,000-square-foot roof produces some 1,200 gallons of runoff, one can harvest enough to supply all the water needs of a family of four for about two weeks. Of course, most of us would only use rainwater to irrigate our lawn or garden, and there should be plenty to go around for doing that in all but the most drought stricken areas.