Harvesting rainwater in Los Angeles

Harvesting rainwater in Los Angeles

These days, just about everyone is aware of at least several dozen ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. From food scraps and aluminum cans to high-mileage cars, recycling has become a part of our daily lives. However, many people neglect to take advantage of a resource that is naturally recyclable – rainwater.

For Los Angeles residents, water conservation is particularly important. Harvesting rainwater helps conserve our scarcest natural resource.

As the name implies, harvesting, or collecting rainwater, simply means capturing what would otherwise be runoff and divert it for uses that would otherwise require drinking water, or due to shortages in times of drought, prohibit the use altogether.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the downtown area receives about 15 inches of rainfall per year. The L.A. Rainwater Harvesting program states 40 percent of the water available for drinking in the region comes from beneath the soil. Water diverted by storm sewers never has a chance to be absorbed back into the ground to recharge. Harvesting some of that water ensures that more water is returned to the aquifer.

There are several key benefits to harvesting rainwater. Tasks that previously required the use of fresh drinking water, known as potable water, can now be accomplished with rainwater.

Harvesting rainwater allows homeowners an inexpensive, environmentally responsible means to provide yards, gardens and ornamental landscaping a substantial amount of water without using potable water that, during long, dry periods, may be prohibited by law from use. Collecting rainwater for these uses is not only legal, but encouraged in Los Angeles.

The most common means of harvesting and storing rainwater involves channeling the rain that falls on your rooftop into some semi-permanent container. While some homes here have gutter systems, many only have downspouts that capture some but not most of the rain.

The basic concept for harvesting rainfall is pretty simple. You’ll need a barrel, usually around 55 gallons, (more would pose safety issues given water’s 8 pounds per gallon weight), a means to channel the water from your roof into the container and some means for allowing water that exceeds the containers capacity to escape.

Before you begin harvesting, ask yourself these eight questions:

  • What do I plan to use the rainwater for?
  • Where will I locate my storage barrel?
  • With more 400 pounds of weight, what type of foundation will I use to rest my container?
  • How will I prevent mosquitoes and pests from accessing the stored water?
  • How can I prevent the buildup of algae?
  • What method of restraint will I use to secure the barrel safely to the house?
  • How will I discharge contents from my rainwater barrel for the intended use?
  • Where will I divert excess storage water when the barrel becomes full?


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