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10th International Rainwater Catchment Systems Conference
"Rainwater International 2001"
Mannheim, Germany - September 2001

Section 5: Legal and Political Aspects of Rainwater Harvesting

Paper 5.2

Rainwater Catchment Systems in Texas

Hari Krishna
Texas Water Development Board


Rainwater catchment systems (RCS) in Texas occur under two broad scenarios: land-based (agricultural), and roof-based (for household use). Under the first category, the practice of constructing ponds to collect runoff from land surfaces on farms and ranches is wide-spread throughout the state. In Texas, rural landowners can construct ponds with capacities of up to 200 acre feet (246,680 m3) for storing water for domestic and livestock use, without obtaining a permit. Those farm ponds are also often used for recreational purposes. The second category of RCS involves rainwater from roof surfaces collected through a guttering system that leads to a cistern or other containment system. This paper primarily relates to those kinds of rainwater harvesting systems.

Cisterns were used in Texas to collect and store water as far back as the mid-19th century. There is evidence of such systems being used in Central Texas until the 1930s and in some locations until the 1940s. As groundwater exploration increased, and as municipal water distribution systems were being installed, the practice of harvesting rainwater in cisterns gradually became obsolete. It must be noted however, that the modern system of constructing reservoirs to collect surface runoff for meeting municipal demands is essentially a form of rainwater harvesting, but applied on a much larger scale.

In recent years, rainwater harvesting has been receiving attention again in Texas due to several reasons. A primary factor is the inability of obtaining groundwater of good quality or in sufficient quantity in some parts of the State. The expense of drilling a well (which can cost up to US$15 per linear foot or $50 per meter), installing and maintaining a filtration system, water softener, and disinfection or other treatment systems can exceed the cost of a rainwater harvesting system. In unreliable aquifers, expending major capital costs for a well system may not be advisable. Another reason why rainwater harvesting systems are becoming more common in Texas is because people are preferring to live away from cities, in a country (semi-rural) environment, where municipal water distribution systems may not be available. Rainwater harvesting is also environmentally safe and enables the homeowner to become self-reliant, as far as his household water needs are concerned.

PDF of full document (4pp, 22kb)

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