How can I reuse or recycle rainwater?

rain-puddleContinuing our week of water themed posts, we’ve had an email from Chris:

Being a good green hippy, I’ve got two waterbutts in my garden, which I use to collect water for my garden. But now it’s winter my garden doesn’t need watering and the butts are nearly full even though it’s only November. I imagine I could use all the water now and they’d fill up again within a couple of weeks. Can you or your readers make any suggestions?

One answer might be to plumb in the water butts to feed your households non-drinking water needs such as toilet flushing and perhaps even laundry – not just for this time of year, but for use all year around when you’ve got the water to supply it. I really want to set up a greywater system, including rainwater, to feed the toilet cistern if nothing else but I suspect it would too problematic in this awkwardly tall house as the water would have to be stored two storeys below the bathroom – but if we have another toilet put in lower down in the house, I’ll definitely look into it.

I remember someone telling me at some point that rainwater is also good for cleaning windows as it typically has less mineral deposits in it than tap water (so will leave less residue) – but Googling doesn’t seem to confirm or deny that — anyone know?

Staying outside, you could use the water if you need to clean paths of stuck-on leaf mulch or cleaning out the greenhouse ready to shut it down for winter.

Any other suggestions?

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7 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle rainwater?”


  1. Clare says:

    I’m not the most practical person in the world, so this might be a really stupid idea — but about your problem with the rainwater having to be stored two floors below the loo…

    In most houses I’ve ever lived in, there’s been a cold water tank in the attic to maintain water pressure — mains water is under enough pressure to get it up to the roof, but not to send it all round the house as needed. Or something…

    Wouldn’t it be possible to collect rainwater from the roof into an attic tank and then use that to flush the upstairs loo?

  2. Carrie says:

    Rainwater is the best for washing your hair. I leaves it silky smooth, especially after using a long time.

    And, I think the washing windows idea is a great one! Minerals are difficult to get off of glass. I’m definately going to try this one.

  3. 1. Transfer the water into pails for use in the bathroom when doing #1.
    2. Use rainwater in the laundry room for soaking items that need to be soaked and soaped before washing, .e.g. rugs and washable mats.
    3. For washing shoes, gumboots, bicycles and skates with.
    4. For mopping the floor or cleaning the bathrooms with.
    5. For general cleaning in the kitchen — rinsing the dishes, cleaning the sink, cleaning the rubbish bin and washing the dishcloths.

  4. CarbonWhat? says:

    Do people really have the time to capture and use rainwater?

  5. Simon says:

    Hi Louisa

    I’ve been thinking about this one for a while as well – the conventional systems use a large tank buried in your garden and pump water from this, apparently the energy used to do this is still less than the energy used to provide the same amount of drinking water so environmentally it’s still cool.

    If you’re like me though and don’t have the money for an expensive system like this (they are a few hundred quid in materials alone) this is no good.

    I’m considering redoing our bathroom soon and one of the idea I’ve had is to put in a rain water butt above the toilet and use this to feed the cistern. I’m fortunate in that the main drainpipe runs down the wall to the back of the toilet so my plan is to drill through the wall and have a regular water butt filler send the rainwater it captures from the drain pipe through the wall to the butt.

    Since the biggest butt I can find that will fit in the space is a few hundred litres and the average flush about 6L I expect that in summer months we may well use all the water before it can be refilled, so I plan on adding a secondary mains fed water supply by installing a ballcock in the bottom of the butt, that way if the water level does drop too far I will still be able to flush my toilet!

    Hope the above helps – its obviously dependant a lot on the location of down pipes in your house and your willingness to drill through exterior walls/board off areas of you bathroom etc

    @Clare above – yes my first idea was to put the butt in the roof space too but then you’ve still got the problem of pumping water uphill as the gutter will nearly always be lower than your roof space (unless you’ve got a staggered roof obviously). Even then I don’t think you could put much more than the size of water butt I am on about up in the average roof as any larger and the smaller joists used for ceilings are going to start having problems with the weight. Not knocking you – like I say that was my first idea too but I ruled it out as impractical for those reasons

  6. shannon says:

    i think that you could use it for your toilet and then it will save your money and lots of it this has not been invented yet but you could easily invent it yourself just change the water system in your pipes another thing abot it is that it would have to be cleaned professionally this would cost a lot of money for pure water in our toilets but with this system you woudnt have to pay anything and if i think of any other ideas i will inform you x



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