“Rainwater, the cleanest and healthiest water for our gardens,” said Laura Maher, an organic seed saver and Ventura County water saving expert pictured above, “but this wonderful water is dispersed and lost into rivers, lakes, and oceans.” Kids can harvest water right where they live and use the water for their fruit and veggie gardens by attaching a rain barrel to the down spout from their roof. Rain barrels usually hold 60 gallons, but fill quickly in a rain storm. Gutters, downspouts, and pipes can be installed from the roof to various sizes of tanks and cisterns, even placed at some distance from the house, as long as the tank inlet is at least one foot lower than the bottom of the gutter. Tanks should use screens to keep out insects and be dark colored to discourage algae.
Native plants used in a home’s landscape require the least amount of water and offer food and shelter for beneficial insects and wildlife. By using native plants rather than a lawn, contouring the landscape, making curb cuts from the street, and building swales, homeowners can harvest an abundance of rainwater on site. Swales are recessions in the soil or low tracts of marsh land that hold water and keep organic matter on site. To create a swale, dig down six inches and use the dirt to make a berm on the downhill side. This swale will manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration. By using mulch and cover crops, the flow of rainwater during a storm can be slowed and encouraged to percolate into the soil.
Families can also divert gently used water from their shower, bathtub, bathroom sink, and laundry to water trees and shrubs. However, greywater users must switch to plant friendly laundry soap as salts and Boron are micro-toxins that can build up and kill their plants. One simple reuse option is using a bucket in the shower to catch the cold water before it heats up. This can often be the right amount to water patio plants and veggies or flush a toilet in an apartment. Families can harvest and store the most water by creating swales and by sculpting their landscape to keep the water on site.