Monday, October 21, 2013

Let the rain linger with rainwater collection or rainwater harvesting

Heavy recent rains remind us that we do have the blessings occasionally (even if the occasions are three years apart!) Let this be a lesson to you to  collect that rain the next time it falls. The winter is a great time to plan and implement a rain saving program. There are several projects that can help you keep water on your property longer: install rain barrels or rain collection tanks; design and create a rain garden; design and install other landscape features to capture rain.

A rain garden is a depressed area in the landscape. Not necessarily a pond, but a low point in the yard where water can settle. Plants are grown in the area that like their feet wet for extended periods. Sedges, rushes, grasses, lilies, standing cypress, some penstemons, and iris are examples of plants that appreciate standing in moist soil. 

Installing some rain barrels around your house will be the easiest way to capture some water to save for a dry day. Rain barrels come in a variety of sizes and styles, even setting out 5-gallon buckets under downspouts will catch some rain for those precious plants you love. However, I suggest starting with at least a 50-gallon barrel of some type. 

Before installing your barrels, you want to be sure you know where the water runs off your roof. Roof valleys are the best location, as are the ends of long runs where the gutter downspout is located. Keep your gutters free of leaf debris so the downspouts are not blocked and leaves or shingle particles don’t fill up the barrel. If you don’t have rain gutters, look for the most worn out spot of soil around the eaves of your house, it shouldn’t be hard to miss.

Once you have selected the best spots to place barrels, level the ground where they will go. Fill the area with pea gravel then stack some landscape bricks, cinder blocks or paving stones on the gravel to support the barrel. This will keep the barrel from sinking into the mud and possibly tipping over. In most areas where I have installed rain barrels, I raised them up so gravity can flow the water for me. Stack the bricks higher on your pad for this.  

Make sure your barrel has a screen on top where the water enters to keep out debris and mosquitos. If, however, you are starting with the five gallon bucket set-up, be sure to put some mosquito dunks in the water. Mosquito dunks contain a bacteria that keep mosquito larvae from maturing, this keeps you and the neighbors happy. 

Many commercial barrels come with or can be outfitted with a hose bib or faucet. This makes utilizing your fresh water easier than dipping it out with a watering can. Hook a hose up to the bib and add a valve on the other end of the hose to close it off when not in use. 

All of the barrels pictured here were available in the Austin area at local nurseries. A new favorite of mine is the green 100-gallon barrel purchased at Plastic Mart in Burnett and western Travis County.

But there are numerous rainbarrel and tank resources in the Central Texas area. I encourage you to look around and have fun designing yourwater collection system, it will be such a benefit to you and your landscape or veggie garden!

If you live on a larger property or have a commercial property, consider installing a rainwater harvesting system. These systems generally collect and store 500 gallons or more and include filters and pumps. For great examples of these visit the Windsor Park Library, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, or the LCRA headquarters on Lake Austin Boulevard.

A great reference for rainwater collection is “Rainwater Harvesting” by Brad Lancaster from Tucson, Arizona. His book includes easy to understand diagrams. He also highlights innovative approaches in other cities to collecting and keeping rainwater in planted areas rather than allowing it to run off parking lots and roads. Believe it or not, there are other cities in the country much more advanced than central Texas for water conservation and use. 

The city of Austin is offering rebates to water customers for installing rainwater harvesting systems (500 gallons or more)

Hays County offers rainwater collection incentives

The LCRA provides information on rainwater collecting


Stacey Beck said...

I'm just sitting here kicking myself because I have never thought of this. Seriously, it's genius! I'm definitely going to be using this idea. What a perfect way to go green.

Jason Knight said...

I wonder if my town has any ordinances against gathering rainwater. I live in Utah and we don't get as much rain as I would like, but it is a good area. I would love to gather rainwater like that to help water my garden throughout the summer.


Jason Knight said...

I should pick a few of these up for my home. They would make a world of difference in keeping my garden watered. It is the biggest problem that I have with growing a garden.


Dolores Brown said...

Okay! That's cool! I just have a regular boring rain gutters. Those are pretty cute. I think I might think about doing something like that. I kind of want to make my landscape new and exciting.

Bill Stewart said...

That is a great idea for using rain water. That gives me a good idea for a landscape. I have been wanting to change up my yard for a couple of months now.

Jennifer Davies said...

That first barrel looks great with the house! I never would have thought to make the rain barrels part of the landscaping. It looks great that way. What if you had a few different sized barrels with it, using the rest as flower pots?

Jenn |

Brittany Matthews said...

This is something that I have been thinking about incorporating this into my landscape design. I have been trying to get my yard looking how I have always wanted it. Right now I am working on raised garden beds.

Gerald Vonberger said...

This is very cool! So much rain water goes to waste that you could be using for other things. I like this idea. My family is really into emergency preparedness and rainwater, although less-than-pure, is still a valuable resource to store for emergency. This could really come in handy. Imagine all the landscape design features you could incorporate that have useful functions.

Gerald Vonberger |

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Thiago daLuz said...

I imagine this makes it easier for gardening. My brother is getting into gardening for the first time. Tips like these will be a big help for him. I'll pass this along! Thiago |

0s0-Pa said...

Now that is a nifty little home maintenance trick I should give a try, especially now that the rain is starting to fall!

bryan flake said...

Your rain water system looks like what my wife and I need for our yard. We spent a whole lot on sprinkler water last summer. We are just trying to figure out how to manage the rain water system with out yard landscaping. Are they hard to incorporate in keeping the lawn watered?!services/cihc

Wally West said...

This is a great idea! I am definitely going to do something like this for my yard. I have been trying to find a way to change up my backyard. I have had it the same for over a decade and I think that it is time to make it different. I want to redesign a portion of the yard and I need a landscapers help for that. Hopefully I can get it done in time for my wife's birthday party.

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