WIMBERLEY, Texas (KXAN) – Homeowners and businesses in a community in Hays County frequently rely on rainwater and condensation collected from rooftops instead of more traditional water sources.
Wimberley takes another step toward sustainability as the school district builds its brand new elementary school with a system to collect rain and air conditioning condensate to flush toilets, which will then irrigate fields.
But rainwater harvesting systems aren’t new to the city.
“We wanted to reduce our environmental impact in the region,” said Patty Nilsson. “It’s such a pristine area, so we really didn’t want to drill” a well.
Nilsson and her husband live on a hilltop near the Blanco River in Wimberley; the couple moved to the house five years ago from Houston, and Nilsson said they never ran out of water, even during droughts.
Part of the reason, she said, is that their metal roof creates condensation, which can replenish the huge collection tank in dry weather.
“We will never run out of water,” she said. “Obviously when it rains we have plenty of water, but we still shower, do the dishes, do the laundry, clean, fill the pool like we did when we were in the big city, it’s just cleaner water.”
The man who installed Nilsson’s system, James Riley, said rainwater harvesting is still growing in popularity.
“It’s moving south toward San Antonio,” said Riley, owner of Rain Savers, LLC. “A lot of people are now discovering the benefits of rainwater.”
The Wimberley business owner has been installing systems since the early 2000s and still installs 10 to 15 a year in central Texas. In 2005, the Texas Water Development Board found Hays County had the fastest growth in new installations.
Texas regulations encourage rainwater harvesting. Counties can lower property taxes for homeowners who install systems, and state law says homeowners associations can’t stop people from installing them.
The City of Wimberley also does not require permits for many sizes of rainwater systems, meaning there are few barriers for homeowners looking to supplement their supply.
Riley said the cost of a complete system is comparable to or even cheaper than drilling a well, and in cities with municipal water systems, they can lower utility bills.
Additionally, with demands on aquifers around the state intensifying with new developments, conservation groups like the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association are encouraging people to find alternative water sources.
“Groundwater is going to be hard to come by,” Riley said.
Nilsson values his conservation-minded neighbors. She doesn’t care if she will have water in the future and brags to the guests about the cleanliness and freshness of the stream that comes out of the tap.
“The only thing I’ve ever told them is, when they take a shower, I just say, ‘Hey guys, I just want to remind you that we’re collecting rainwater, so you can’t lollygag in the shower’.” she laughed.