Rain Water Harvesting
What is Rainwater Harvesting?
Rainwater harvesting is an ancient practice of catching and holding rain for later use. In a rainwater harvesting system, rain is gathered from a building rooftop or other source and is held in large containers for future use, such as watering gardens or washing cars. This practice reduces the demand on water resources and is excellent during times of drought.
Why is it Important?
In addition to reducing the demand on our water sources (especially important during drought), rainwater harvesting also helps prevent water pollution. Surprised?
Here’s why: the success of the 1972 Clean Water Act has meant that the greatest threat to Salt Lake’s waterbodies comes not from industrial sources, but rather through the small actions we all make in our daily lives. For example, in a rain storm, the oil, pesticides, animal waste, and litter from our lawns, sidewalks, driveways, and streets are washed down into our sewers. This is called non-point source (NPS) pollution because the pollutants come from too many sources to be identified. Rainwater harvesting diverts water from becoming polluted stormwater; instead, this captured rainwater may be used to irrigate gardens near where it falls.
What is Wasatch Community Gardens Doing?
At the 4th East Garden, rain is diverted from the gutters of an adjacent building and is stored in a tank in the gardens. A 1-inch rainfall on a 1,000-square-foot roof produces 600 gallons of water. The tank is mosquito proof, so the standing water does not encourage West Nile virus. We also have 3 - 55 gallon collection barrels at our Fairpark Garden that we installed during our Rainwater Harvesting workshop in 2008. We have been able to collect enough water in our barrels to carry our Youth Garden through periods when our water was off because of city water issues. Because rainwater is chlorine free, it is better than tap water for plant growth, meaning healthier plants. And it’s free!
What can I do?
Spread the word! Educate those around you on the importance of lifestyle decisions.
Tell people not to litter, dump oil down storm drains, or over-fertilize their lawns.
Install a rainwater harvesting system at your home, school, business, or local community center.
Contact your local elected officials, and let them know you support rainwater harvesting!
What are Other Cities Doing?
Many cities have adopted creative, low-cost ways to stop wasting rainwater by diverting it from their sewage systems and putting it to use where it falls. Here are some examples:
Seattle’s P-Patch Community Garden Program has created rainwater-harvesting systems and issued urban-design guidelines that promote paving with porous surfaces, landscaping planting strips and setbacks, and vertical and rooftop landscaping.
The City of Toronto Works and Emergency Services Downspout Disconnection Program offers a free service to homeowners to disconnect downspouts from the sewer system and install rainbarrels, available at a discount.
The City of Vancouver designs and manufactures rain barrels for use by residents for garden irrigation. The City subsidizes the cost of the rain barrels by 50%.
Chicago’s Water Agenda 2003 includes a rooftop garden initiative, a pilot project for permeable alleys, and rain gardens planted in the City’s rights-of-way. These gardens use native plants and gravel drains to move water more quickly into the soil. In more natural settings, the City directs water through planted “bioswales” and into wetlands that filter water and provide habitat.
Austin, Texas, offers rebates of up to $30 for newly installed rain barrels and of up to $500 for installation of a rainwater harvesting system, following approval of its design by the City.
Portland, Oregon, has granted a permit for a household to harvest rainwater for use indoors during all but the dry summer months.
Wasatch Community Gardens and Tree Utah would like to give a big thanks to our Rain Water Harvesting Workshop sponsor Swire Coca-Cola.