City governments in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Tucson, Ariz., as well as the state government in Maryland are planning to capture, harvest and re-direct rainfall to avert future water shortages, according to news reports.

All governments should consider setting up rainwater capture systems, says Bob Boulware, president of Design-Aire Engineering, an Indianapolis building renovation firm that specializes in rainwater harvesting and other sustainable design services. Boulware also is president of the executive board of the Austin, Texas-based American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association. The association promotes rainwater catchment systems in the United States.

“Don’t be afraid of it, would be my best advice for government administrators who are considering rainwater catchment, Boulware says. “Rainwater catchment has been used successfully all over the world for millennia, and is a viable option in a water shortage environment.”

Boulware urges government administrators to use a trained professional for the design of the system. “Installing a central rainwater harvesting collection system, especially for potable water applications, is slightly different from installing a rain barrel for your garden, but the difference is important for satisfactory operation of the system.”

Boulware told that water captured in a rainwater harvesting system (RHS) can be very good quality. “Don’t assume it is a secondary water source since all water starts out as rainwater. Rain is super clean water, free from the sky and sustainable. Since it is used before if flows across the landscape into the creeks and rivers, the captured rainwater actually may be safer that the city water or well water now being used.”

RHS technology has succeeded in other parts of the world, says Joe Clark, business development director of Sandy Springs, Ga.-based RainbankUSA. “RHS is nothing new in Europe and Australia, and the capture, filtering, storage, and delivery technologies have been evolving to ‘state-of-the-art’ for the past twenty years. Systems that are used to capture rain and groundwater are mandated in drought-stricken Australia, and are used to mitigate flood damage in Germany.”

Clark told that RHS could help replenish the water table if it is used for irrigation. “By capturing rainwater that would otherwise run-off downstream into the ocean, and slowly releasing it back into the ground through irrigation or wastewater treatment facilities, RHS provide a means for replenishing the water table and preserving streams and rivers.”

The photo shows a rainwater harvesting system at the Kilauea military camp that is in the Volcanoes National Park in the town of Volcano, Hawaii. The system has a 3-million-gallon total storage capacity. The camp uses about 23,000 gallons a day, and relies on rainwater collection as its water source.

For more information on the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, go to the group’s Web site.