Save the Rain! How and Why to Collect Rainwater

Saving rainwater is a practical way to help the environment, keep your landscaping healthy, and save you money.

Thank goodness for the much needed rain this week. It’s a relief to see the thirsty trees getting the water they need. As I’m looking out my window, I’m also noticing how much water is hitting my roof, going down the rain gutter, down the driveway, and then into the street gutter where it is lead to a storm drain and then directly into the ocean. As I’m watching this happen, I’m thinking of the countless gallons of water from our local water resources that will be used this summer to irrigate landscapes.

Us Californians really need to take our water issue seriously, so let’s not take this gift of rain for granted. Let’s harvest it!

Catching rain water is easy, inexpensive, and thanks to our water conscious Governor Jerry Brown, it no longer requires a permit to do so. If we all do our part, we can reach the statewide 20 by 2020 goal, which aims to reduce the demand of potable water by 20% by the year 2020.

Not only will harvesting rain help to save our water resources, it also decreases the amount of pollution that goes into our creeks, streams, rivers, and ocean water. Pollutants such as oil, animal waste, trash, herbicides, pesticides, and other chemicals hitch a ride on the rainwater as it goes into storm drains which ultimately end up in the ocean. This causes harm to aquatic life and pollutes the water. Stormwater is actually the leading cause of water pollution in the nation. To learn how to be a part of the solution read about SLO’s Stormwater Management Program at this link.

Furthermore, when you let rainwater go to waste, you have to pay for potable city water to irrigate your landscaping, and are limited to two watering days a week due to irrigation restrictions. Plants also prefer natural rainwater over water that has been treated with chlorine, fluoride, and other chemicals.

So how can you catch this rainwater for use during our climate’s dry season?

There are many ways to harvest rainwater, and, if you are eligible, you can even receive a rebate to cover some of the costs.

Install rain barrels at your house. This is the most commonly practiced and one of the more inexpensive ways to catch water. Click here for a video tutorial on putting together rain barrels for your home.

An even simpler method is disconnecting your downspout and redirecting the water to your yard. Toronto, a city in CA even made this a mandatory practice. This is a great video on how to disconnect your downspout and collect rainwater: Click here

Making a dry well in your yard is a great way to keep rain water from running off. Watch this how-to video by landscape contractor Roger Cook: Click here

Make a Bioretention Planter Box. Huh???? Bio retention is a process developed in the early 90s which uses soils and plants to remove pollutants from storm water run off. To learn more about bioretention, you can read this from the EPA.

Removing impervious surfaces such as concrete, brick, and stone can help rainwater soak into the ground rather than run off. Replacing these surfaces with permeable pavers is a way to have the best of both worlds. You can have a nice looking patio that also allows rain to soak into the ground.
Create a Rain garden in your yard. A rain garden is a shallow depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses which also uses bioretention to clean the water that is absorbed. To read more about rain gardens follow this helpful link.

San Luis Obispo Storm Rewards Program

San Luis Obispo has a Storm Rewards Program which is an incentive program to install rainwater harvesting practices. The cities of San Luis Obispo, Nipomo, and Arroyo Grande will give out rebates up to $999 to homeowners or businesses that have a rainwater harvesting system installed. Here are all of the different projects that will be covered under the rebate:

  • Bioretention Planter Box
  • Disconnected Impervious Surfaces
  • Dry Well
  • Gutter/Disconnected Downspout
  • Interceptor Trees
  • Pavement Removal-removing pavement and replacing it with a permeable surface
  • Rain Barrels
  • Rain Gardens

Follow this link to learn more about SLO’s Storm Rewards Program.

If you don’t live in SLO, Nipomo, or Arroyo Grande, harvesting rainwater can still be a very inexpensive project, and can even save you money in the hotter months when you aren’t using city water to irrigate your landscape.

Follow this link for a San Luis Obispo County Homeowners Guide to Rainwater Management.

As residents of California, we must all take action to protect our water supply. If we all water our gardens with rainwater that we harvest, we could help to replenish our drying aquifers and work towards bringing our water supply back to a healthy level. I, for one, am going to the hardware store today to buy myself some rain barrels and am gonna catch me some rain!