Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rain Water Collection Systems Make Great Sense

During a recent visit to my brother’s house in Minnesota, my sister-in-law Julie, also a gardening enthusiast took a few minutes to show me the new rain barrel they purchased. All I could think was, “Wow, have rain barrels come a long way!” When I think of rain barrels I conjure up images of musky old oak-stave barrels sitting in a dark corner of the house where nobody can see them. I remember so well floating my toy boats in the one at grandma and grandpa's farm!
The Fiskars 5998 58 Gallon collection system with Spiced Granite Finish

Search for rain water collection barrels

As charming as they were I think many HOAs would shun them. These days, thanks to advances in modern materials, rain barrels, or rain water harvesting system as they have come to be known, have become aesthetically pleasing, often blending into the landscape due to the use of earth colors and textures. The system Julie showed me is manufactured by Fiskars. It is a 5998 Salsa 58 gallon Rain Harvesting System with a Spiced Granite finish. Fiskars offers a variety of styles and sizes of rain water collection systems.

Modern rain harvesting systems collect rainwater off of a home or businesses roof via the building’s gutters and downspouts. A 500 square foot roof typically will fill a 55 gallon barrel in one hour in a moderate rainstorm. The way the Fiskar’s system works, as do most systems, is by connecting into the building’s downspout. Once the barrel is full the water is carried away from the building by the downspout. This prevents the rainwater from running over the top of the barrel and collecting near a building’s foundation. The Fiskars barrels have a spigot located near the bottom which allows a hose to be attached to the system and allowing for easy watering of plants.

Using rain water to water plants has some very significant benefits both to the plants and to the environment. Municipal water, which has been treated for drinking, contains chemicals which are harmful both to the soil and to the plants. Collected rain water contains only small amounts of chemical contaminants leached from the roof and for the most part is pure water. This is very advantageous to plant health. Using rainwater also reduces runoff that can carry harmful sediments into streams.

I did a little math and based on US Census figures there were approximately 1.2 million single family homes in Arizona in 2000. By my calculation, if every single family home in Arizona collected an average of 100 gallons of rain water each month, that would be 120 million gallons collected or 368 acre feet of water per month or 4419 acre feet per year. Based on the rising cost of municipal water, the ever tightening water use restrictions, and the health benefits to plants, it makes good sense to install a rain collection system. Best of all, rainwater is FREE!

Until the next time, happy gardening!