By Kat Sawyer
The Bay Area is experiencing our wettest winter in years, and although it has been overwhelming at times, the soaking rains offer California relief from its prolonged drought. Those of us with rainwater harvesting systems installed on our homes finally have the satisfaction of catching some raindrops!
Most residential rainwater harvesting systems are made up of small tanks due to size constraints. We often catch much more than we can hold, but even small rainwater harvesting systems can play a role in urban stormwater management. Diverting rainwater out of the municipal sewer system during rain events reduces the strain on water infrastructure. Harvesting rainwater holds rain back from quickly running off and stores it in the landscape, reducing erosion in local creeks and recharging groundwater.
Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your rainwater harvesting system:
- Go beyond the capacity of your tank size by moving more water through the system. Use your rainwater on a regular basis during the rainy season to take the pressure off the municipal stormwater system and recharge groundwater. Some people leave their spigot slightly open to release the water slowly and drain the tank for maximum collection in the next rain. As the
rainy season comes to a close, hold onto your rainwater to save it for use in the dry summer months.
- Inspect and clear gutters and screensafter rain events. (Especially if you have trees near your system.) Keep gutters free of debris so that water flows freely into your tank.
- Check connection points for leaks on ongoing basis and fix as necessary (tank outlets, pipes, valves, & downspout). Make sure pipes are not bent, broken, or disconnected.
- Direct overflow pipe to a planted area or drain. Ensure that excess water (overflow) does not puddle/pool and drains away from buildings into storm drain systems or pervious terrain.
- Remember to inspect your system when it is raining. Look for leaks, make sure first flush diverter is working correctly, and verify that that rainwater is being diverted to the tank.
- Incorporate rainwater into ongoing garden activities so that the system is consistently in use and problems are more readily identified and mitigated.
- Make note of how long it takes to drain your rain tanks in the summer months so that you have an idea of how much municipal water is being offset by your rainwater harvesting system. If you have room, you may want to increase your capacity.
Let’s capture the rainwater while we can!