Rainwater Harvesting and Your Community Association
Rainwater harvesting is a simple, eco-friendly technique that many homeowners are using to gather rainwater and use it for simple purposes. It's a great way to water gardens, wash clothing, and take care of many cleaning tasks--or even fill a child's swimming pool. As a homeowner's association, there are several benefits to allowing rainwater collection within the neighborhoods covered by your association--but there can be downsides, as well.
How is Rainwater Collected?
Rainwater is typically collected and stored in barrels outside homes, businesses, and other properties. An inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square foot roof can offer as much as 600 gallons of water. Since this water can then be used for a wide range of purposes, it's a great tactic for many homeowners. There are several systems for storing rainwater, but most rely on a system of gutters and downspouts that have been fitted with filters to prevent as much debris as possible from making its way into the collected water. At the end of the system is a rain barrel that is fitted with a spigot to make it easy to access the collected water.
The Benefits of Rainwater Collection
Rainwater collection offers several key benefits that your homeowner's association should seriously consider. You can choose to allow homeowners to do their own rainwater collection, or you can even fit public buildings with rainwater collection systems in order to take full advantage of these benefits.
- Rainwater is free! While it's not filtered or treated like the water that comes out of the tap, it does offer a free source of water to take care of many things around your homes or community.
- Rainwater is eco-friendly. It doesn't require chemicals to process and allows you to use resources that are simply falling from the sky.
- Rainwater is better for plants than tap water.
The Downsides of Rainwater Collection
Rainwater collection offers several benefits, but it does have its downsides. If you're still considering whether or not to allow rainwater collection in your HOA, make sure you carefully think through them.
- Many collection methods are unsightly, especially those created by your homeowners instead of using professional collection systems.
- The pumps required to move rainwater to gardens and other locations can be large and ugly.
- When rainwater collection systems are left open, it can lead to mosquito infestations and other issues.
- Rainwater shouldn't be used for consumption without boiling--and it can be hard to keep kids out of the collection tanks when they know water is stored there.
Can You Prohibit Rainwater Harvesting Systems?
Some states, like Texas, have made it illegal for HOAs to prohibit rainwater collection systems due to their key benefits. In other states, however, you can choose to prohibit rainwater collection if you feel that it doesn't meet the needs of your community. If you are in one of those states, however, your homeowners association regulations can still include several key points that will help minimize your worries about rainwater collection.
- Encourage homeowners to choose low-profile tanks that blend well with the existing landscaping and buildings.
- Allow professional installations, not rainwater collection systems that have been cobbled together by homeowners and that, as a result, detract from the appearance of buildings.
- Require pump houses to help conceal unwieldy pumps and other apparatus. These can be governed just like any other exterior building.
- Control where collection barrels and other pieces of the collection system are located to help disguise their appearance from the road. Keep in mind, however, that these regulations shouldn't make it impossible for homeowners to take advantage of the best rainwater collection methods!
Rainwater collection offers many benefits for both homeowners and your association as a whole. By carefully considering the benefits along with the possible hazards, you can create a rainwater collection policy that helps keep the beauty and maintain the property values of your community while still allowing each homeowner to experience these key benefits.