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If you haven’t noticed, this month at AHBE Lab has been dedicated to water conservation and sustainability – ranging from posts about city and state infrastructure, to those revolving around personal household habits, to offering “how-to” instructions for saving and reusing water. We even brought a little levity to what is a pretty serious challenge. I thought I’d chime in with a diagram illustrating how collecting and using water at home can be utilized for creating a sustainable ecosystem at the residential level.
There are essentially 2 parts to the water collection system shown above: 1. the exterior rain water collection and, 2. the interior grey water system (kitchen, bathroom and laundry). Both systems can be as extensive (adding a new grey water piping system) or as simple (bucketing out clean shower water) as you want to make it. Three steps are required for both interior and exterior systems:
- Monitoring current water use
- Developing the infrastructure to use water efficiently
- Create and implement these new integrated systems into daily habits
Designers everywhere are looking to add water sustainability features into communities, including grey water systems, like this one for Eco Village.
Our plans above recommend integrating exterior features like permeable paving, rain barrels, and irrigation to maximize water use when availability is limited while also aiding in replenishing local aquifers. Inside, our proposed home is equipped with a grey water system, partnered with biodegradable laundry detergents and soaps which won’t harm soil, alongside buckets strategically placed to capture water at drains and sinks to be reused for gardening or landscaping purposes.
Though these propositions may seem difficult to implement, they do have recent precedent. Other countries like Australia and Israel have already integrated these solutions on a city, state, and country wide basis. There is research being done about the Los Angeles River and urban drainage which may help us use the water normally washed away into the ocean. No matter how small or large, bringing these different ideas to the table can help alleviate many of the water related issues we’re facing as a city and as a state.
Aspirations and admiration of a garden as beautiful as this one from Lou Murray has motivated me to search for supplemental water sources for my garden.
With California residents experiencing a record breaking dry season, many landscapes are feeling parched, while garden caretakers are feeling pressure to conserve water. When Los Angeles receives any rain, I feel a sense of relief for my small backyard garden (although this much needed rainfall seems to come and go all too quickly), but realize we can’t rely upon rain alone for our gardens. So I’ve been trying to find ways to efficiently save water during these drought years and take care of my garden, and my research has brought me to the conclusion rain barrels are an essential rainfall collection solution.
Collecting rain using catch barrels and utilizing the water for garden irrigation is a water wise strategy, and the practice is even supported by many city organizations. For instance, the City of Los Angeles offers great incentives for residents who choose to install rain barrels through their “Keep Los Angeles Beautiful” program, periodically offering rebates which bring down the cost of rain barrels to the subsidized price of “free”.
While readymade rain barrel catchment systems are occasionally available for free or for sale online, anyone can build their own rain barrel system quite easily following these steps using parts available at local hardware stores or big box home improvement retailers:
Step 1: Gather required parts and materials (all equipment is available at most home improvement stores)
- Large catchment basin of your choice; a plastic garbage can or wooden barrel work equally well
- Mesh fabric to keep debris out of basin
- Plumber’s teflon tape
- Washer and nut fitting for spigot
- Cutting tool
Step 2: Determine the best placement for your rain barrel
Locate an area in which you a redirect the rainfall from your gutter into your container and safely situate a large container without the worry of it tipping over (remember, water is very heavy, so a stable base is mandatory). If the ground isn’t stable, you might need to lay a foundation or build a raised platform.
Step 3: Cutting the inlet and outlet for your rainfall
With the gutter source directed toward your container, cut an opening at top of the basin and secure a fabric mesh over it. This mesh will keep debris out of the basin. Afterward, drill and cut a hole on the bottom of the basin, matching the opening to the ring size of your spigot.
Step 4: Installing the spigot
Attach the spigot into the drilled and cut hole and secure it into place with a washer and nut.
Step 5: Start collecting
Now the hard work is done! Position the barrel directly under the gutter downspout. The next time it rains you’ll enjoy the rainfall even more knowing the water you’ve collected in helping conserve water and benefitting your garden!