Catching and saving rainwater is nothing new.Generations ago,families saved water in barrels,pondsor cisterns for use in watering plants,washing clothesand even drinking.Such water-saving is still commonin many parts ofthe world.The Pacific Northwest’sreputation for rainy winters makes it hard to rememberthat summers are often dry.But between the months of May and September Seattle receives about seven inchesofrain,only 20% ofour annual precipitation.Using native and other drought-tolerant plants canreduce your garden’s water consumption.Limiting theamount ofspace devoted to thirsty lawn grass can alsoreduce water demand.But saving rainwater is also agreat way to reduce your need for municipal watersupplies.And with rainfall below normal this winter, your saved rainwater may help keep water in streamsand rivers for salmon next summer.
Several years ago
, King County
s demonstration garden
the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, feature
rainwaterlanding on the roofofa house.Rather than channelingthe water through downspouts onto lawns or intostorm drains, the catchment system pour
water intoconcrete storage tanks,called cisterns.Cisterns,often made ofconcrete,store large amounts of water,but can be expensive and time-consuming toconstruct.A simpler alternative is the old-fashionedrain barrel.There are manufactured rain barrels on themarket,or you can construct your own with largeplastic drums or even garbage cans.One ofthe simplestsystems is made up ofseveral barrels connected withpipe;a spigot is attached low on each barrel and anoverflow drain on the last barrel in line directs any extra water to a safe location.Some simple planning will prevent the most commonproblems with rain-saving.
Use a tight-fitting,light-blocking lid to keepchildren and animals out ofthe water and stop thedevelopment ofalgae.
Add a screen to keep leaves and other debris out of the water.
Use an overflow device to direct excess water away from your home
s foundation when the tank is full.
Monitor the cistern to ensure intakes and overflowsaren
Water stored in this system is not potableunless treated,and should not be used as drinkingwater.Ifthis all seems like a lot ofwork for a little water,remember that one inch ofrain falling on 1,000 squarefeet ofroofadds up to 623 gallons.That
s enough tokeep a lot ofpetunias happy!
Water Saving in the Garden
Some basic facts about cisterns and rainbarrels
King County Department ofNatural Resources and Parks
201 S. Jackson St., Ste.
Jo SullivanWater Conservation Program Manager