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Harvesting rain in Bermuda is life and law

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - 5:04pm

white Bermuda roofs The other day my neighbor and I were discussing the current hurricane season and her recent trip to Bermuda. She was fascinated to learn that the island has basically no public water system and thus, has perfected a method to build very strong roofs that also collect water. It turns out, the little island of Bermuda has made big progress in harvesting rain water and has even written the practice into law!

Collecting water a fact of life

According to the US Consulate in Bermuda,

“The tap water in Bermuda is generally considered safe to drink. Bermuda relies almost entirely on its annual rainfall to provide the country's entire source of water, although some desalination of seawater is taking place. Houses usually rely on their own rainwater collection system or have a combination of rainwater (for cooking and drinking) and piped or delivered water (for showers, toilets, and laundry).”

When you are a small island with limited resources, you learn to be resourceful. What if our water source simple stopped working? We would have to find a better way. My first thought is a rain barrel that collects roof water through the gutter system into a large barrel. Bermuda homes not only collect, they clean the water.

The perfect rain collecting roof

Homes in Bermuda are built with large water tanks, or cisterns, underground and water is pumped into the house for use. This is the home's main water supply. Water is captured from specifically designed roofs that are made from limestone slabs. These slabs are tiered to slow the water flow and positioned to direct the water into a gutter which is connected to the tank system. To keep the water as clean as possible, roofs are painted with either a traditional limewash, or a non-toxic white paint every two years, which explains Bermuda's signature white roofs that are so beautiful against the blue sky and pastel homes.

Harvest you own water

Inspired by the tiny nation of Bermuda? The easiest system to install is a rain barrel that connects to a gutter of your house. You can also use passive rainwater collection like swales and rain gardens to create a beautiful garden with minimal water requirements. I have even heard of people filling in their backyard pool to create a very large water collection system!

Janine Nickel (@Twincident on Twitter) documents her neuroses, the drama of raising twin girls and offers product reviews and giveaways at

Photo credit: Andrew Currie on Flickr