The No. 1 question Michael Martins of Oregon Rain Harvesting gets is “Is it legal?”

“A lot of people think collecting rainwater in Oregon is against the law — not true,” said Martins, owner of the West Linn, Ore., business. “So long as you capture the water from a manmade structure it’s very legal and is a safe and cost-effective way to reduce the environmental impact of our need for water.”

Martins started the company coming from Hawaii, where rainwater harvesting has been a common practice for the past 100 years.

While Oregonians have made great strides toward sustainability, he said, the way they use water has mostly been left out of the equation. Such “overindulgence” compounds the demand on public water systems and places unnecessary stress on waterways, aquifers and rivers.

“We extract water from wells and rivers, purify it with chemicals, only to flush it down the toilet,” Martins said.

“After water is used once, we chemically treat it to be within safe guidelines, then put it back into the rivers. It’s a broken system,” he said. “Rainwater is abundant in the Northwest and harvesting it is a viable and cost-effective option for pure, chemical-free, unadulterated water.”

Oregon Rain Harvesting’s nationally accredited installers have designed and installed thousands of rain-harvesting systems, from the simple rain barrel for watering a vegetable garden to 100,000-gallon farm irrigation systems. Each system is custom-designed based on the client’s needs and the intended use of the collected water. The complete cost of a rain harvesting system is typically half the cost of an average well, he said.

Martins appreciates the opportunity to educate customers as an exhibitor at the Northwest Ag Show about the benefits of rainwater harvesting.

“Many customers are on wells that are not able to meet the demands of a ranch or farm,” Martins said. “Wells are not sustainable; they may be running dry, have low flow or produce hard water,” Martins said. “The nice thing about ag is most (farms and ranches) have large barns or arenas so over the winter, we can collect all the water they could possibly need for an extended dry summer.”

Harvested rainwater may be used for non-potable applications such as lawn irrigation, washing cars, flushing toilets or as a chemical-free potable replacement for municipal or well water.

Self-sustaining systems employ cisterns placed above or below ground. Whole home potable water is achieved with multi-stage filtration and a purification system specifically designed for rainwater harvesting.

Local building officials may not be familiar with rainwater for consumption, he said. If necessary, the company will work with municipalities for a variance.

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