Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rain Barrel

Meet "Urna Thurman," a recent addition to our garden. This rain barrel is attached to a downspout from the roof. 

When we added thirsty vegetables to our otherwise drought-tolerant garden, I knew we'd have to look for additional water savings strategies.

Because Southern California relies heavily on imported water, conserving it is crucial. Transporting water long distances requires a lot energy. Indeed, according to the state Department of Water Resources, nearly 20 percent of all power used in California goes to move and treat water. Wasting it is shooting ourselves in the foot, so to speak, because the more greenhouse gasses we pump into the air, the more we exacerbate global warming. 

One of the most certain projections about the effects of global warming is the decline of snowpack in places such as California's Sierra Nevada. We rely on snowpack as a kind of reservoir that stores precipitation when actual reservoirs are full and water demand is lower, saving it for drier months. Ecosystems, too, rely on gradually melting snow fields to feed streams and water forests through the warmer months.  Southern California also imports water from the Colorado River, where early snowmelt and more intense drought cycles will also wreak havoc. This is on top of the ecological carnage created by Southern California's diversion of water from places such as the Owens Valley and the lower Colorado River.

I bought Urna from Gardener's Supply Company. She wasn't cheap (more than $200), but isn't she shapely? It'll be a longtime before the amount I save on my water bill adds up to the cost of the barrel. That's not the point. I love mountain yellow-legged frogs and other species in our gorgeous Sierra. I can't bear to hasten their decline. 

Gardener's Supply sells cheaper versions. You can also make one. Here's a link to a $10 version.

Storing water is also part of my earthquake preparedness plan.

To learn more about the projected impacts of climate change in California, check out my radio series

For help with sustainable gardening, consider one of the dry gardening events on Emily Green's Change of Rain blog.


  1. Wow, that's the prettiest rain water collection system I've ever seen. Congrats!

  2. EAPPster,
    Thanks! Say, how's your garden doing in this heat? Some of my corn shriveled up. At least I think it was the heat. I haven't deep watered it because I hear it's shallow-rooted. Wet got one good ear off each of three plants, but now the ones lower down don't look like they'll go.

  3. I know you are posting to a wider audience, but I have it on good authority that water in San Gabriel, Alhambra, and South Pasadena comes from underground wells. The water table is very high here. However, I also know that underground aquifers are dependent upon rainfall, and we shouldn't take advantage of it just because we turn on the tap and it's there.

  4. Melinda,
    A lot of water districts replenish their aquifers with imported water. I'd be surprised if ours never did, but it's possible.
    In any case, we're part of a much larger watershed, reducing demand in one area, in theory, would help another reduce its reliance on imports--even if it simply meant better allocation of local water.

  5. I made a rain barrel for 10 bucks using a vinyl trash can

    It was easy to do

    you can see pictures at http://gravitygarden/rainbucket

  6. GG,
    Thanks! I've updated my copy with your link. DIY is always good. But with the toddler, the garden, etc, we just don't get around to some things. Plus, you got to admit Urna is pretty. She's placed near our patio where we entertain guests, so it's nice to have something a little more attractive than a trash can.


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