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The history of rainwater harvesting systems

The history of rainwater harvesting systems

Many of us now know about rainwater harvesting systems and what they are used for, but it was not always as popular as it is now. Water butts, and online searches for rainwater harvesting is up 200% in the last year so, the public are becoming more interested in collecting rainwater and more people are using it for more than just watering plants. This water can also be used for cleaning cars, flushing toilets and more, which can help a household become eco-friendlier. The wealth of knowledge on this subject is growing as communities educate each other on rainwater harvesting and the benefits of becoming more self-sufficient. Modern water supplies are filtered and brought in from reservoirs, but how did our ancestors get hold of water when they did not have systems we have now?

water from sewer

The Romans

Millions of tourists flock every year to see the many towns and cities in the UK that have remnants from the Roman Empire still standing. It is a real testament to Roman engineering that some of these buildings and constructions still exist and people can visit them. One notable structure that still stands are Aqueducts. Some of these are still used in parts of Europe as railway bridges and as a transport for water. Originally, these were placed to help bring water down from outside sources such as fresh springs to fill latrines, public baths, private households and fountains. The water was moved downwards using gravity and had sedimentation tanks built in to take away any debris. This was a remedy to people collecting rainwater in storage jars and cisterns as their populations and need to build structured civilisations grew.


Filtering & Purifying Water Around the World

Early water treatments included boiling water in the sunshine but if boiling water this way was impossible, other communities would use sand in cisterns to filter rainwater. As people started to cook using heat, water was boiled over fires to kill disease and impurities. Although boiling water is one of the most effective ways of killing bacteria and diseases, distillation was invented in the 8th Century as a slower, heat free but very effective way of creating safe water.

As our knowledge of chemicals and compounds grew, Ancient Egyptians found that adding Alum to unfiltered water would group all impurities together and make it easy to skim particles and debris away. Also, the use of filtering using charcoal popularised as civilisations found it to be advantageous. Some of these methods are still used in areas of the world where running water is unfiltered.

For millions of years, civilisations have found ways of improving water quality and taste, but there was not one standard way of providing pure water to populations. Thanks to leaps in science in the last 150 years, most of the world has been able to have safe drinking water in our houses. Also, with inventions such as the Gutter Mate, we have been able to filter debris from rainwater straight from our gutters with ease.

Modern Day

With advances in technologies, we are now able to harvest rainwater and cut back on the filtered water that is now our main supply. In a way, it is almost like we have had to take a step back in time to become eco-friendlier and help take the strain away from modern reservoirs and the demand for pure water. Studies also suggest that rainwater is actually better for watering plants, fruit and vegetables as it is less treated and more organic.

rain off a roof

Rainwater harvesting packages and water butts have come in leaps and bounds over recent years as we take huge steps away from storage jars and filtering water by hand. On large scales you can have rainwater pumped back into your house (after being properly filtered) and smaller scales, you can install a water butt and harvest rainwater relatively cheaply and fuss-free.

If you are interested in having rainwater pumped back into your house, call us on 01462 429720 or explore our systems and packages. To start a rainwater harvesting project, delve into our large range of water butts and decorative water butts (so that you don’t compromise on style!).

Our full range can be found here at Water Butt Warehouse.


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