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About 12 years ago I did a major home remodel and I remember when the building inspector told me that in order to get final sign-off of my permit that I needed to install rain gutters throughout the house. The gutters had to be directed to the driveway or directly to the street. I proceeded to comply to get my final approval, but I wondered why my rain water had to be drained away from my landscape.

After two years of watching rain water flow to the street, I decided to do something about it. I re-hired the same rain gutter contractor and had them reconfigure all of the downspouts so that rainwater would flow into several rain capture strategies, including landscape planters, dry well, permeable driveway, and a rain barrel. Fortunately, my house sits in an area of Los Angeles that has well-drained soils – my soil is very sandy and drains about 2 to 3 inches per hour. – which is key to having these strategies succeed.

Here are four rain capture strategies that I used around my home.

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1. Use Raised Planters: I built a raised planter in front of the house to capture half of the roof drainage. Since I buried part of my raised foundation I made sure we waterproofed the house footing to eliminate moisture from migrating to the wooden sill. I kept the soil level 6 inches below the top of the foundations. I reconfigured the front portion of the roof water to this planter.  I planted a combination of Chondropetalum and Agaves which will take both drought and wet conditions. However,  mostly drought these days. (image A)

Diagram by: Richard Quinn

Diagram by: Richard Quinn


2. Install a Dry Well: I raised my front yard around 14 inches so that none of my front yard drainage would run over the sidewalk. I installed a “Dry Well” along the street edge. You can see the two plastic drain covers which not only captures the surface water, but also gave me a place to observe the drywell. The drywell basically consist of a 20 foot long, 24″ diameter perforated PVC pipe in a 36″ deep trench that is filled with gravel and a 12″ layer of topsoil. This has been my flower garden, strawberry patch and vegetable garden for the last 10 years. (Image B)

Driveway
3. Think Permeability:  I re-built my driveway to be more permeable. I placed gravel strips along the entire length of the driveway to capture all the surface water. It essentially created a series of “mini-check dams” that stopped the miscellaneous water from running down to the curb. Each gravel strip had a 24″ deep by 12″ wide gravel filled area to hold the water. What you see on the surface is a 4″ wide strip which most people think is simply a aesthetic design feature.

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4. Add Rain Barrels:  I installed rain barrels to capture, hold and re-use the rain water. We use this water to irrigation our surrounding landscape. If you go on to the City of Los Angeles DWP website you may qualify for a rebate. Check it out.

If you need help installing it, the City of Los Angeles has a great video. Rain barrels are inexpensive and easy to install. Here is a video from the DWP website:

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  1. Tricia O'Connell #
    July 9, 2015

    For the dry well, did you mean a 4″ diameter perforated pipe (not 24″) like is used in a french drain??

    And for the driveway, the 12″ gravel area also runs underneath the concrete and you only see 4″ at the top surface, right? The concrete isn’t likely to crack from vehicular motion with just gravel and soil under all of the edges? I am working on a house and we are planning on cutting into the existing concrete driveway to make it permeable. But I don’t know if there’s any way to do the 12″ you did since we are not installing concrete on top. Any thoughts?

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