by Charlene Burgi
I am often asked how I choose the subject for the blog each week. And oft-times I can honestly say it falls into my lap either by events, conversations or current experiences.
For example, soon-to-be new neighbors stopped in to visit a few days ago. They are planning to live off the grid and spoke about the solar collection and wind power that will provide their electricity. That led to a discussion about rainwater catchment. Since they are building their home, we suggested considering metal for the roof so the first rains will clean the roof surface. We also talked about how that water will be used and what method will be employed to direct the water to its final destination. Notes were jotted down for future reference.
Ironically, I visited another friend’s home to help with landscaping ideas, and there, too, the subject came up of collecting rainwater for the garden. And again today, I received an email from another friend about living off grid, and yet another email requesting a picture of a rain garden. Is there any wonder what the topic of this blog will be? Especially as the rainy season will be here before we know it, making this the time to plan. On top of all that, as I write this I am swatting mosquitoes that entered through an open door and thinking that I need to get mosquito fish into the donkey’s water troughs. Believe it or not, mosquitoes play right into the same subject.
Rainwater catchment is an excellent means of saving water, with some provisions. First, calculate exactly how much water you will capture. A good number of people purchase a 55-gallon rain barrel thinking this will suffice. But if you do the math, you will find that one inch of rain on 1,000 square feet of roof can produce 600 gallons of water for your barrel. In Marin, our average rainfall is approximately 40 inches per year. That small roof could potentially capture over 24,000 gallons of water a year—a huge job for a 55-gallon rain barrel! The provision in this scenario is to include a means to distribute the water evenly over your existing landscape after the barrel fills up.
I have seen several pictures in well-known magazines showing cut-off downspouts directed into open rain barrels. Without realizing it, these magazines are publicizing how to create a breeding ground for mosquitoes. If you are doing any type of rainwater containment, keep the water in an enclosed tank or barrel. This also ensures other critters can’t fall in without a way out. If you have a fresh water pond or horse trough, install mosquito fish to devour the mosquito larvae and place an exposed rock, log or piece of wood for critters to exit if they fall in.
Speaking of falling in—I understand there is an opportunity to fall into water and money savings starting September 1. MMWD is launching new rebate programs for high-efficiency toilets, high-efficiency clothes washers and smart irrigation controllers. I have been told we must wait until September 1 to purchase these water-saving devices to qualify. In addition, the smart controller rebates will require an onsite water conservation survey from one of MMWD’s helpful experts, so be sure to check marinwater.org/rebates after September 1 for complete details. Plan now to take advantage of this water conservation opportunity. There is more to discuss about this subject in the next blog.