2012-03-29 / General Stories

Rainwater Harvesting

by Linda Jo Conn

It was insane, but last year I had almost come to tolerate the severe drought in Central Texas. I was beginning to see the advantages of the absence of rain. I never fussed about tramping around in mud to feed my animals. I was not blinded by raindrops blurring my spectacles. I did not worry about hydroplaning when I drove down the highway. I never regretted leaving my windows open or my umbrella in the closet at home.

Nevertheless, as we all know, things are better if we do have sufficient rainfall.

Rainwater is something I collect and store. There are many simple and easy to construct systems that most individuals can assemble to capture and store the rain water that runs off their roofs into storm drains and ditches. I have several very rudimentary rainwater collection systems attached to outbuildings near my vegetable garden. They each consist of a very basic gutter system with downspouts that empty into a storage container.

Last summer, I drained one container, a fifty gallon polyethylene rain barrel. Finally, we received almost 1.2 inches of miraculous, precious precipitation. The catchment area for the barrel (the roof area that drains into it) is only about a 7’x10’ area, but that modest amount of roof surface collected enough rain to fill the barrel to within a few inches of its overflow opening!

A surprising amount of water can be harvested from a surface during a rainstorm. The rule of thumb is that every square foot of horizontal collection area will yield 0.6 gallons of water for every inch of rain, i.e., 100 square feet (a 10’x10’ surface) will deliver approximately 60 gallons of water per inch of rain.

What do I do with this stored rainfall? I fill birdbaths and irrigate seedlings, vegetable starts, and producing plants in my garden. I provide a self-filling drinking pan for the dogs and cats (and who knows what other varmints). I carry rainwater to hanging baskets and ornamental container plants. I have discovered that a grandchild with a watering can have a lot of fun “helping” Nana in the garden.

Rainwater harvesting is contagious. Let’s get those rain barrels set up and ready for the next shower!

For more information on rainwater harvesting, see http:// rainwaterharvesting.tamu.edu/. Conversations on simple rainwater harvesting methods will be hosted by Linda Jo Conn, Master Gardener, Little River Basin (Milam County Texas) at Woodson Lumber Company, 8714 N Hwy 77 in Lexington at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm on Saturday, March 31.

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