International Rainwater Catchment Systems Conference
Mannheim, Germany - September 2001
Legal and Political Aspects of Rainwater Harvesting
Rainwater Catchment Systems in Texas
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.
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