For many people, rainwater is harvested for watering potted plants, to freshen flower beds and to refill bird baths, but few know the added benefits of conserving rainfall.

Several citizens learned about those benefits at a rainwater harvesting class led by Bell County Master Gardener Gyman Okeson on April 8 at Harker Heights Activities Center.

Okeson also gave instructions on constructing a collection system.

“None of this is rocket science … if you are good with tinker toys it counts,” he said.

Renewed interest in collecting rainwater comes from an increased demand for a decreasing water supply, escalating environmental and economic costs, health concerns and conservation during drought, Okeson said. Ambitious Texas conservationists maintain that an entire house can be run, if the right collection system is in place.

Benefits of such systems include pure low pH, mineral-free driving water, softer hair after bathing and longer lives for electrical appliances.

Okeson said there are advantages and disadvantages to each collection system set up. Roof washers separate and store the initial and dirtiest water from the cleaner runoff water. They require a bit more maintenance, but best protect the water. Chain drip guides are cheap and easy to use, but require open containers for collection, he said.

“A plant pot filled with coarse gravel can be used to strain out bigger debris.”

Cisterns must be durable, water tight and sized appropriately for where they are placed. Their size depends on how much rain needs to be collected. Most vessels cost 30 cents to $1.25 per capacity gallon and are fiberglass. But they can also be made of rock, concrete, tarps, swim pool liners or commercial grade steel.

At the end of the class, Ernesto Alvarez and his wife of Harker Heights were excited to learn how rain barrels will help their gardening.

“We’re looking to cut costs, [and] grow fruits and vegetables,” he said.

For more information about rainwater harvesting, call Bell County Master Gardeners at (254) 933-5305.

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