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Rainwater harvesting: a sustainable practice

By Morgen Ayers

By Morgen Ayers
BCRAGD Water Conservation & Community Outreach Coordinator

Residents in Bandera County rely heavily on groundwater from our aquifers for the survival of their household and ranching operations. The aquifers in Bandera County that supply us with groundwater have very slow recharge from rainfall - ultimately meaning that we are using this resource faster than the aquifer is naturally recharged with it.
The situation that we are left with is one of non-sustainability for an already non-renewable resource. During times of drought we pump more groundwater from our wells for livestock, gardens and wildlife, which further stresses our aquifers.
Fortunately, there are methods that allow us access to water without pumping it from the aquifers. One successful method is rainwater harvesting.
Simply put, rainwater falls onto a roof, runs off into its gutters, and eventually down into tanks or cisterns. The captured water can be utilized instead of groundwater, a process which is especially beneficial during periods of little or no rainfall.
Rainfall events are obviously the limiting factor. The limitation of very few rainfall events can be lessened with increased roof area to capture the rainfall and increased storage capacity for that rainfall. This way the system can capture and store a larger amount of the rain-getting the most bang for the buck.
Local increased interest in rainwater harvesting systems prompted a recent public event in Bandera. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension partnered with Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) to facilitate water education programs, the last of which was titled Rainwater Potential.
These programs were sponsored by Bandera Electric Cooperative, Ranchers and Landowners Association of Texas, and Hill Country Alliance. The Rainwater Potential event was held on the morning of Saturday, August 22. This workshop's presenters were Scott Shaffer, a water treatment specialist and founder of The Rainharvest School (based out of La Grange, Texas), and his wife Deborah Shaffer who runs The Rainharvest School with him.
The hands-on experience in building and maintaining rainwater harvesting systems made Scott and Deborah Shaffer ideal presenters. Their presentation covered five filtration methods for rainwater harvesting at home. Details on building a rainwater harvesting system, building a cistern pad, and testing your rainwater were all part of the workshop.
BCRAGD has rainwater harvesting manuals and resource-heavy literature available for the general public. Requests for electronic copies of these resources can be emailed to dmauk@bcragd.org or mayers@bcragd.org. Every landowner is encouraged to explore the possibility of utilizing rainwater harvesting in some capacity to augment their water usage and conserve their groundwater resources.