Which is best between well water vs rain water harvesting?
I live in Manitoba, north of Winnipeg, in zone 7, roughly 2 kilometres from a large river. We are looking to build a new home and weighing the pros and cons of drilling a well vs installing a rain water harvesting system for our water supply, as this is a small community without dedicated water lines.
Can you give us an idea of what we should consider when researching. In addition to comparing cost, are there drawbacks to either option. Like is there any issues with rain water harvesting during our frozen winters? As we age, is there issues with maintenance for either option that could be prohibitive? Can either water source be made potable affordably, or would bottled water most likely be required for drinking and cooking?
First let me say, we are strong advocates of stormwater management, rainwater harvesting and all strategies for water consumption. Water conservation is an urgent global matter, so it isn’t lightly that we ever steer anyone away from rainwater collection for any use, but a full system for collecting and purifying rainwater for use in homes is an expensive and complicated set up that isn’t always necessary.
When people are researching off-grid green living ideas including rainwater harvesting, they often land on Earthship pages, but those are little more than gimmick homes that should never have been exported out of the desert. You can read more here, where we do discuss the pros and cons of rainwater harvesting in rural areas and whether or not it is a good idea.
Earthships don’t work in cold climates
The short story is, that if you are in an area with abundant ground water, the financial cost as well as the ecological cost of capturing rainwater on a roof, then storing and treating it, often greatly outweigh the equivalent costs of well water.
You would of course know better than us, but the north of Winnipeg, Canada, is not likely a region in desperate need of alternative water solutions such as this. Were you to take the water from your roof and simply divert it away from your home and let it be absorbed into the earth, it will be naturally filtered and waiting there for you to pump it out of a well.
Rainwater collection is a very noble undertaking, but when you take the time to really go over the benefits and drawbacks of a rainwater system with all the plastic components that are required including storage tanks, including their replacement cost and maintenance, it isn’t always the ‘greener’ solution, nor will it be cheaper.
And to your specific questions, all issues such as freezing can be over come, and it likely can be made drinkable, but this is part of why it becomes such a hassle. If it were any of us, we would simply dig a well.