I developed an interest in rainwater collection during a two-year Peace Corps stint in Suriname, a small country north of Brazil, because rainwater was the main source of drinking water in the village where I lived. After moving back to Texas, I worked for an engineering firm, and then started a company that designs and installs rainwater-collection systems. Most of our work is in and around Austin, a hotbed of green building in a part of the state that is frequently short of water. Green-building point systems — such as LEED — grant credit for collecting rainwater, and in a growing number of municipalities rainwater collection is actually required by law. In Tucson, Ariz., and Santa Fe County, N.M., for example, rainwater collection is mandatory on new commercial buildings and on new homes above a certain size.
My company installs both potable and nonpotable systems. Nonpotable systems ( see slideshow) are most often used to supply irrigation water in areas where municipal water is available; potable systems provide drinking-quality domestic water and are typically installed in place of a drilled well. Both contain the same basic components: a...
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