4 ways to capture pure, free rainwater
Here are some stylish ways to take advantage of precious rainfall and keep your garden lush.
Plant a rain garden
When rain falls in Seattle, homeowner Lyn Dillman smiles: Water that used to run down the street now pools in a thickly planted infiltration basin at the garden’s edge, where it percolates into the groundwater below.
“It’s a win-win situation,” says landscape designer Malissa Gatton. “The garden helps reduce this household’s environmental footprint. Anybody could do it.”
If you have soil that drains well, a rain garden is a great option. Channel rainwater from the roof into a shallowly buried pipe that empties into an infiltration basin or swale at least 10 feet away from your house.
Grow water-tolerant plants such as shrub willows in the basin.
Design: Malissa Gatton, In Harmony Sustainable Landscapes, or 888-472-7748.
Note: Who owns the rain?
Many states and municipalities give you the freedom to catch and use rainfall; some jurisdictions even require it. Check local laws to learn about your water rights. You may even qualify for tax credits to help pay to install a system.
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Hang a rain chain
Rain chains replace downspouts. The 8-and-a-half-foot chain pictured here spills into a 16-inch-diameter bowl (it attaches to the bowl so it won’t whip in the wind). The water then overflows slowly into a rock-covered catch basin.
Info: Copper Bells rain chain ($169) and hammered-copper dish ($45), RainChains.com, 888-480-7246.
Install a rain barrel
Rain barrels typically hold about 50 to 60 gallons each ― enough to irrigate houseplants or pots on the deck. The best type is made of recycled food-grade plastic (or use a recycled wine barrel like the one pictured), with an intake line, spigot, overflow attachment, screen cover to keep out leaves, and removable solid cover.
Position the barrel beneath a downspout. To keep the rainwater pure, remove the solid cover an hour or two after rainfall has washed pollen and other pollutants off the roof.
Rain barrels cost about $100 to $150 each.
Add a cistern
An inch of rain puts about 600 gallons of water atop a 1,000-square-foot house. Rain gutters capture it. From a downspout, you can direct it into a cistern to help water your garden.
At Islandwood Environmental Learning Center on Bainbridge Island, Wash., three steel cisterns store rainwater from a nearby roof. By the time vegetables start growing in spring, the tanks are full and the water travels through a gravity-fed drip system to irrigate crops.
Info: The pictured cisterns are from Texas Metal Cisterns ($380 for 200-gallon size to $1,070 for 1,200-gallon size), Texas Metal Cisterns, 512-565-0875.