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Collecting rainwater isn’t a new idea – but it’s a good one. Conserving water is essential in drought-prone areas of the world such as parts of Africa and Australia, but it also makes sound environmental and financial sense in neighborhoods closer to home.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, using a rainwater tank can trim a household’s water use by up to 1,300 gallons per year. In their simplest form, collection tanks capture and store rain from downspouts. A hose or an electric pump is connected to the bottom of the tank to draw out water.

Many tanks are made of polyethylene, a lightweight, sturdy, and affordable material. Fiberglass tanks, though more expensive, are also light and can stand temperature extremes. Metal tanks—copper, stainless steel, or polymer-coated steel—are durable and resist rust. Concrete tanks keep water cool but attract algae growth and are prone to cracking.

You can install a basic tank yourself, but plan to hire a professional to install complex systems that involve excavation, site grading, or external hookups. Costs for tanks range from $50 for a 55-gallon plastic collection tank to thousands of dollars for a whole-house system.

Decide which tank is right for you by looking at your household size, your annual precipitation, your available space, and the amount you’re currently spending for water.

Source: eco@home