by Charlene Burgi
As I drove north along Highway 5 this Wednesday, I noticed enormous thunderheads as I looked toward my destination to the northeast. I still had several hours of drive time before getting to the ranch. My mind raced as I considered various ways to get Sydney and Kiki into the house if it was storming. Both animals are known to head for the nearest closet to hide during the rare occasions they experience thunder bumpers in Marin. I wasn’t sure how they would behave on leash outside if the sky opened up.
Eight Cal Fire trucks passed me as I drove through Burney, and I breathed a sigh of relief knowing the trees were limbed up and vegetation was clear on the ranch. We were as protected from wildland fire as we could be. If the trucks were coming from a lightning strike, they made short order of the fire as there was no sign of anything amiss. The fire crews up here are awesome!
As I turned onto the cinder road to the house, I was amazed at how wet everything looked. It was dark, yet the foliage twinkled with droplets as my headlights flashed by. I was grateful we had missed the storm, that the animals wouldn’t stress out, and that watering the garden wasn’t top priority in the morning. At that moment it struck me. In the process of moving, remodeling and renovating the house in Marin, I hadn’t had time to think about rainwater catchment for Lassen.
Walking around the house perimeter this morning, I assessed the current rabbit damage. (Yes, they found all the Oriental poppies I planted last week.) I also paid attention to the wettest areas on the ground around the roofline. I made mental note that the rainwater tanks need to be placed where the ridge and hips of the roof meet to form the trough that collects the majority of water. Luckily, one spot is in the designated area for growing vegetables and near the greenhouse location.
Since we can’t use gutters due to snow pack, I am designing an underground system to collect water off of the barn and shop for the animals. The design is simple: A shallow trench is dug along the rooflines of these monster buildings and perforated pipe placed in the trenches. The pipe must be set so it drops one inch in elevation for every eight feet of pipe so the water doesn’t collect in the pipe. Filter fabric is used over the top of the pipe and the trench backfilled with drain rock or large cinders. The end of the pipe daylights into the donkey’s water troughs. The overflow can be diverted into the seasonal dry creeks on the property and help fill the stock pond. This will also save electricity used for pumping the water up from the well.
While this particular water collection application may not be needed at your home, you can walk the perimeter of your house before it starts to rain. Don’t do as I did and be one step behind. See where the gutters connect to downspouts and determine if any of these areas would benefit from rainwater. For example, I have plants under the patio roof or eaves in Marin and Lassen that still require water during the winter months. Also consider the overflow as part of the equation when determining a location for your collection tank. I guarantee you will collect more water in Marin than you can use. Here is the formula for calculating the amount of water you can collect on your specific property:
Supply = Rainfall x Catchment Area x Conversion Factor
The supply is measured in gallons of rainwater collected. Rainfall is inches of rain. Catchment area is the square feet of roof water captured. Multiply this by a conversion factor of 0.623. Knowing Marin often has over 55 inches in a year, how many gallons would your tank need to be to capture all the water on your roof? As I said earlier, plan for overflow! One more very important thing: If you are going to use this system for an animal water trough, please call the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito & Vector Control District. They will put mosquito fish in your tank at no charge. All other rainwater systems must be enclosed to protect the environment and you.