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Texas Guide to Rainwater Harvesting - 2005

Texas Guide to Rainwater Harvesting - 2005

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Published by: Central Ohio Rain Garden Initiative on Aug 12, 2010
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In Texas, average annual rainfall
decreases roughly 1 inch every 15 miles,

Figure 4-2. Average annual precipitation
in Texas, in inches


as you go from east to west (Figure 4-2),
from 56 inches per year in Beaumont to
less than 8 inches per year in El Paso. As
one moves westward across the state, the
prevalence and severity of droughts must
also be considered.

To ensure a year-round water supply, the
catchment area and storage capacity
must be sized to meet water demand
through the longest expected interval
without rain. For instance, in West
Texas, the historic longest span of
continuous dry days has exceeded three
months. For reference purposes, a
contour map of historical maximum
number of dry days in Texas is shown in
Figure 4-3 (Krishna, 2003). If the
rainwater harvesting system is intended
to be the sole water source for a
household, the designer must size the
system to accommodate the longest
anticipated time without rain, or
otherwise plan for another water source,
such as a well backup or hauled water.

Also, rainfall from high-intensity, short-
duration rainfall events may be lost to
overflow from storage tanks or splash-
out from the gutters. Although these
intense rainfall events are considered
part of the cumulative annual rainfall,

the total available volume of such an
event is rarely captured.

Another consideration is that most
rainfall occurs seasonally; annual rainfall
is not evenly distributed throughout the
12 months of the year. The monthly
distribution of rainfall is an important
factor to consider for sizing a system.
Monthly rainfall data for selected Texas
cities is given in Appendix B.

Monthly Rainfall

Two different estimators of monthly
rainfall are commonly used: average
rainfall and median rainfall. Average
annual rainfall is calculated by taking the
sum of historical rainfall and dividing by
the number of years of recorded data.
This information is available from
numerous public sources, including the
National Climate Data Center website.
(See References.) Median rainfall is the
amount of rainfall that occurs in the
midpoint of all historic rainfall totals for
any given month. In other words,
historically for the month in question,
half of the time the rainfall was less than
the median and half of the time rainfall
was more than the median. Median
values and average rainfall values for
representative Texas cities are provided
in Appendix B.

Median rainfall provides for a more
conservative calculation of system sizing
than average rainfall. The median value
for rainfall is usually lower than the
average value since large rainfall events
tend to drive the average value higher. In
other words, the sum of monthly
medians is lower than the annual average
due to the fact that the arithmetic
average is skewed by high-intensity
rainfall events. For planning purposes,
median monthly rainfall can be used to
estimate water availability to a

Figure 4-3. Maximum number of dry days
(Krishna, 2003)


reasonable degree of certainty (Krishna,

For example, in the sample calculations
at the end of this chapter, the average
annual rainfall for Dallas is about 35.0
inches, but the sum of the monthly
medians is only 29.3 inches.

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