It has been raining and pouring here in California (and, man, did we need it). As our lush landscape returns, we are reminded that water is essential to our being. The EPA estimates that about half of of municipal water use is devoted to landscaping and a third to residents’ home use. Harvesting rainwater is great way to conserve resources AND feed your hungry garden. Need more convincing?
• Rainwater is free of charge and requires zero energy to arrive at your doorstep
• Rainwater supplements other water sources that need to be conserved
• Rainwater is the perfect solution for outdoor use like plants and ponds because it is low in minerals and treatment chemicals
There are lots of ways to utilize this (hopefully) abundant source of water ranging from easy and some work required, to major dedication.
Looking for the minimum effort, maximum effect option? Divert your downspout into a rain barrel. Instead of allowing rainwater to be channeled to the nearest runoff location, utilize those water droplets for gardening and landscaping needs. Most rain barrels come with a diverter kit that allows you to connect your downspout directly to the barrel. Rain will fill up the container until it’s full, after which it will continue to drain through the downspout as it was before. We love this rain barrel with an integrated planter on top, or opt for something more discreet like this chic slatted rain barrel. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious you can make your own out of a trash bin and a few other items from your local hardware store. Gravity helps water drain at the bottom of the barrel into a garden hose or watering can. Make sure your system is enclosed to keep mosquitos out and remember to disconnect the system during freezing temperatures (water expands when it’s frozen and can dismantle your hard work).
A Bit of Elbow Grease
Traditional backyard landscapes have a difficult time retaining water naturally yet they are the perfect canvas for a rain garden. A rain garden is built in a shallow depression so that it can collect excess water and allow it to slowly absorb into the ground. Once you have an understanding of how water is moving about your property, you can build an outdoor eco-system that places plants in three different zones depending on their water needs (we see lady fern & lavender in our future). As we consistently move to more paved surfaces in populated areas, it’s important to maintain a natural balance between storm runoff and local aquifer absorption. Rain gardens help reduce the amount of runoff which oftentimes carries a heavy load of pollutants to nearby water resources, making them a win-win.
Committed to the Cause
If you were inspired by the previous options, check out this home rainwater harvesting system that collects water in the arid Arizona Sonoran Desert. Providing over 90% of the household water needs, this harvesting system is effective on every level. Gravity assists rainwater as it travels from the slatted metal roof through multiple downspouts and into several large cisterns. Identifying the proper locations for downspouts and running them underground, gives this system a particularly clean aesthetic. An electric pump allows water to be pumped back into the house or other areas of the property for daily use. Desert dwelling never looked so green!
It should be noted that any major home improvement project should be thoroughly researched and vetted against state laws. Some states encourage rainwater harvesting through tax credits while others have more strict regulations to maintain proper water use. Check your state legislation here. Rainwater is not suitable for human consumption without treatment so please be mindful about how you are using your collected droplets. Happy harvesting!