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  • As consultants, how do you RainBee principals make your money?
    We don't. We volunteer our consulting time, expense, and resources to pay forward help that we, ourselves, have received from people who, over our lifetimes, were willing to donate THEIR time and expertise to us. It is our sincerest hope that RainBees we consult with will do the same and pay forward the expertise they gain while installing their rain harvesting systems. Together we can conserve water resources and make the world a better place.
  • What is rainwater harvesting?
    Rainwater harvesting is capturing and storing of rainwater for landscape irrigation, potable and non-potable indoor use, and for storm water abatement. Harvested rainwater can be particularly useful when no other source of water supply is available, or if the available supply is inadequate or of poor quality.
  • Why is there so much interest of late in rainwater harvesting?
    Rainwater harvesting is enjoying a revival in popularity for two reasons: its inherently superior quality and an interest in reducing consumption of treated water. Rainwater has long been valued for its purity and softness. It is slightly acidic, and is free from disinfectant by-products, salts, minerals, and other natural and man-made contaminants. Furthermore, aquifers are being depleted and rainwater harvesting is valued as a water conservation tool to reduce demand on more traditional water supply sources.
  • My home is a 2,000-square-foot roof in Spring Branch, how much water can I expect to collect in a year?"
    An efficient rainwater harvesting system can collect approximately 0.62 gallons of water per square foot of roof area, per inch of rainfall. In practice, however, there is always some loss due to first flush, evaporation, splash-out, overshoot from gutters, and possible leaks. We recommend you use an efficiency of about 75 to 85 percent for the system. For your Spring Branch home, using a collection rate of 0.62, a system efficiency of 0.85, and an average annual rainfall of 32 inches, you can expect to collect about 34,000 gallons of rainwater per year (0.62 x 0.85 x 2,000 x 32 = 33,700 gallons per year).
  • What is a "wet" system vs a "dry" system?"
    A 'dry' system plumbing configuration is when you direct the water from your roof to your tank without it going underground. The reason it is referred to as 'dry' is because when it is not raining, the water drains from the conveyance pipes, so they dry out. These are simple systems because water is fed directly into a tank via gravity. All of the conveyance pipes must be above the tank inlet and slope toward the storage tank for the system to work properly. In dry systems, the conveyance pipe run is usually short, and this type of system usually involves only one or two downspouts. A 'wet' system configuration is a lot more complex but in most cases it is more secure. This style of plumbing directs the water from your roof, underground, through pipes and up into your rain harvesting tank. In a wet system, rainwater collected from the roof goes into air-tight PVC downspouts to sealed underground pipes and is channeled back up to the top of the tank via a riser pipe located near the tank. There must be enough of a drop (about 2 feet) from the bottom of the gutter to the top of the tank to allow gravity to fill the tank. These systems are "wet" systems because water remains in the pipes after a rainfall. For more information see Dr. Sunn's article on the differences Click Here.
  • How much does a rainwater harvesting system for a typical single-family home cost?
    A complete rainwater harvesting system for a typical single-family home will generally cost between $10,000 and $20,000. The single largest cost in a rainwater harvesting system is the storage tank. The cost of a tank depends on its size and construction material. On a per gallon basis, this cost can range from about $0.5 for a plastic tank to more than $4 for a steel tank. Other components such as gutters, downspouts, roof washers, pumps, and pressure tanks will add to the cost of the system. Professionally installed systems can further increase costs. If the intended use of the system is to collect water for drinking, costs for disinfection must be added to the total cost. We can help you design a cost effective system to suit your needs.
  • Are there any tax incentives for installing a rainwater harvesting system?
    Texas Tax Code §151.355 exempts rainwater harvesting equipment and supplies from state sales tax. To claim this exemption, a purchaser of rainwater harvesting equipment must furnish a Tax Exemption Application Form 01-339 (back of form) to the supplier of the equipment.
  • Why should I be interested in rainwater harvesting when there is so much water already available for my use?
    It is a fallacy that there is an over-abundance of water available for our use in the Texas hill country. The population of Comal County is expected to double over the next 50 years and existing surface water and groundwater resources are being depleted. That decline is measured by the Comal Trinity Groundwater Conservation District. Already, there are places in the county, as well as in surrounding counties, that are experiencing shortages because demands are greater than available supplies. Rainwater harvesting provides us an opportunity to conserve and extend our existing resources.
  • Why do plants seem to like rainwater better than public service or well water?
    Rainwater has some intrinsic qualities that make it attractive to both plants and users. It is pure, soft, and only slightly acidic. It is also free of disinfectant by-products, salts, minerals, and other natural and man-made chemicals that are typically added to water from centralized water supply systems. Plants tend to thrive under rainwater irrigation, appliances last longer because the water is mineral and salt-free, and the water tastes good because it is relatively free of chemicals.
  • Where can I see an installed rainwater harvesting system in the greater Bulverde area?
    In addition to the collection site at the Texas A & M University Agrilife center in New Braunfels, Dr. Sunn and Dr. Grainger welcome interested parties to view their respective sites. To arrange a site visit at the Agrilife Center in New Braunfels, or our site on the north side of Canyon Lake, Call Dr. Grainger at 903.452.0801. To tour our Bulverde site, call Dr Sunn at 210.286.8050.
  • Is collected rainwater safe to drink? Does it have to be inspected or tested before being used?
    Collected rainwater is generally safe to drink after filtering and UV treatment. As rain falls through the atmosphere and on to the catchment surface it may pick up microbial and chemical contaminants and particulate matter. These possible contaminants are easily removed before the water is used. Currently, there are no federal. state, or county water quality standards for harvested rainwater. However, The Texas A & M Agrilife Center in New Braunfels can be contacted for testing both well water and harvested rainwater that you plan to use for drinking purposes.
  • What are some of the benefits of rainwater harvesting?
    There are a number of benefits to using water from rainwater harvesting systems: - The water is practically free: the only cost is to collect and treat it. - The end use is located close to the source thereby reducing costly distribution systems. - Rainwater provides a source of water when a more traditional source such as groundwater is unavailable or the quality unacceptable. - The zero hardness of rainwater helps prevent scales from building up on appliances and, therefore, it extends the life of appliances. - Rainwater is free of sodium. - Rainwater is superior for landscape use and plants thrive on rainwater. - Rainwater harvesting reduces flow to storm sewers and the threat of downstream flooding. - Rainwater harvesting helps utilities reduce peak demands during summer months. - By harvesting rainwater, homeowners can reduce their utility bills.
  • What are some of the challenges to harvesting rainwater?
    Some of the challenges of rainwater harvesting are: - Although we receive about 30 inches of rain each year in the hill country, rainfall events are unpredictable. Nevertheless, rainwater harvesting can be relied on as a long-term, drought-proof source of water supply if your collection area is large enough and your tank is appropriately sized to "bank" water for possible droughts--about a 3 to 6 months supply. We can help you calculate this. - The capital cost for a rainwater harvesting system is typically higher than the cost of obtaining water from a centralized distribution system. However, it is comparable to the cost of drilling and installing a new groundwater well. Check with your bank and builder. - Rainwater harvesting systems require care and maintenance after installation which may not be suitable for all homeowners. - Rainwater storage tanks may take up valuable space around the house--particularly on small lots. In Texas, rainwater harvesting systems are not subject to state building code and the absence of clear construction guidelines may discourage homeowners and developers from installing these systems.
  • Which factors affect a rain harvesting decision?
    Do you want a rain capture system that supplies irrigation for your landscape or doubles as a source for potable water? Will it supplement or replace an existing well? Your roof’s material and square footage figure into initial designs as well as plumbing infrastructure and your anticipated usage volume. We'll help you with the details and explain options from storage tank location to pump requirements. We offer custom consulting--without charge--that will help you decide on the best system for your property.
  • What is potable water?
    Potable water is another name for fresh drinking water. Water of sufficient quality to serve as drinking water is often called potable water.
  • What is the difference in filter screens between mesh filter and microns?
    Wow, great question! Some manufacturers use a "mesh" number or size while others use a micron size number. As the mesh number increases, the size of openings decreases, thus the larger the mesh number, the finer the filtration. Micron is a term of measurement used to describe the size of tiny particles--a human hair measures about 70 microns in diameter. Wire "mesh" is actually a measure of the number of wires (or threads) per linear inch. When looked at both horizontally and vertically, it is roughly the number of holes in a piece of screen that is one inch square. Here are the general conversions: Mesh Micron 50 280 100 152 150 104 250 60 1000 12
  • What is a UV water purifier and how does it work?
    A UV water purifier exposes living organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, or cysts (like Cryptosporidium and Giardia) to a germicidal ultraviolet wavelength. The UV light disrupts the DNA in pathogenic microorganisms so they cannot reproduce. As water passes through the ultraviolet light filter bacteria is neutralized making the water safe to drink.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of UV water purifiers""
    Advantages of a UV water purifier - Disinfects without chemicals. Ultraviolet wavelength doesn't leave by-products in water like chemical disinfectants. - Adds no tastes or odors. UV disinfection does not chemically alter the water in any way, shape, or form. - Easy to maintain. An annual UV lamp change is the most frequent maintenance needed. - No water wasted. The UV treatment process requires no water to the drain. - Protection during natural disasters. When water is compromised, a UV system keeps your drinking water safe. Disadvantages of a UV water purifier - Does not remove contaminants. UV only deactivates living organisms, so the system needs prefiltration to 5 microns to remove small particlates. - Heats the water. When you're not running water and it's sitting in the chamber, the UV lamp heats the water up (about a pint). - Doesn't work during a power outage. A UV system requires electricity to run. - The UV bulb must be changed about yearly
  • Will the effluent from an aerobic septic system have too high a salt content to be used on shrubs and trees in the long term?
    No. The fact that the effluent has come from an aerobic septic system is completely irrelevant to its salt content. The only chemical additive in those systems are the chlorine tablets for neutralizing bacteria. The salt content in the effluent water comes from upstream. If the water is treated by a water softener, it picks up salts. If the water originates from a well, it may also contribute to salt concentrations. Neither of these salt sources will cause undue damage to your soil chemistry passing through an aerobic system because the field sprayers scatter it across a wide area that then gets rained on. Even when spread around established trees and shrubs, aerobic effluent has no adverse effect on the plant. This results in dilution of those minimal salts, leaving plants unscathed, even in the long term. However, using those waters in potted plants will negatively affect that soil chemistry and plant vigor even in the short term. If you still have concerns, we recommend looking into installing a rain harvesting system for watering your shrubs. Pure rainwater is the top of the pyramid for plant water quality and soil integrity. See for more information.
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