09 November 2015

Build Your Own Rainwater Collection System (Now!)

Whether you use a large barrel positioned under downspout, or create a more elaborate well-designed system connected to the gutters of the roof, capturing rainwater and water conservation should be a top priority for everyone who loves to garden. And now is the time to get busy!

Most Californians are fervently hoping for the promise of rain with our current El Niño weather conditions. Indications are good that we will receive more rain than last year, and maybe even a lot more rain — but experts say it isn’t likely to end the devastating four-year long drought. Many of us “true gardeners” (those of us whom would rather miss a shower or two each week to water our beloved plants instead!) are eager for a more normal winter rainfall — not only what it means for our gardens but also for the relief it will provide to agriculture and our food supply chain.

Simple Rainwater Collection Systems
Saving-rainwaterDuring the recent rainstorm last week, we set out two 55-gallon plastic trash bins under a leaky gutter. Within just a few hours of rain, the containers were completely filled! Now, we can finally water a few of our water-starved trees without guilt. The area behind our home is full of trees and foliage that provides a diverse habitat for many pollinators, birds, and bats as well as lots of wild critters that are not so loved, such as raccoons and skunks. Keeping this area healthy and vibrant is a vital part of our ecosystem. Our deck is filled with potted herbs and plants to attract bees and butterflies. We’ve used carefully saved rinse water from the dishes or water from buckets in the shower to water plants. But the most abundant water collection source has been our larger trash bin reservoirs. Even a light, misty sprinkle supplies a surprising amount of water!

These plastic bins are inexpensive and available at hardware stores everywhere. They include well-fitting lids and come in a variety of sizes. One might scoff at the meager amounts one household could collect, but look at the amount we allow to run off into the gutters. Consider that for every inch of rainfall you’ll collect .6 gallons of water. Another way to look at it is, for every 1,000 square feet of roof, you’ll capture 600 gallons of water.

Last week’s rain measured about 2 inches in some areas of the county. A 2,000 square foot roof would have captured 2400 gallons of water — and that’s rainwater from only one home!

Capturing rainwater is a lot like voting: if we all do it, we can make a difference. But, you need to get busy now to take advantage of this free water resource!

Below are some helpful links for more ideas for easy DIY rainwater collection systems:

For more elaborate, permanent residential or industrial sized systems, here are other resources to consider: