♫ Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head ♫

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Installing the First Rain Barrel

Our most recent agricultural improvement has been the installation of our first rain barrel. This has been on our to-do list for quite a while, and after the set up was complete, we realized how easy it really was. This is the first of several rain barrels that we plan to install this season. The only cost of installing a rain water collection system is the rain barrel itself. There are many different styles that range from simple plastic barrels to extravagant and beautiful cisterns that also act as planters.

Rain barrel front view
Low Cost & Easy Setup Rain Barrel. As it fills up, it will retain a more cylindrical shape. There is a filter on the top which will prevent debris from entering. There are also filters in the gutters that drain into the barrel.

The Importance of Collecting Rain Water

Collecting rain water has many benefits, the most obvious of which is that it saves money. But an even more important reason to harvest rain water is that a shockingly large portion of our world is becoming increasingly arid, and due to unsustainable farming practices, ground water levels are rapidly depleting at the same time. A significant portion of our country’s food supply is grown in California, and that state is experiencing the worst drought conditions on record and water rationing is already being implemented. Collecting the rain water that does fall seems like an obvious way to help mitigate the problem, at least in the short term. In the satellite photo below, you can see just how much of Earth is currently desert – and it is much more than one would assume!

deserts-ringed-in-red BORDER
Satellite View of Earth – Desert Land Circled in Red

The Desertification of Earth

In his fascinating TED Talk, environmentalist Allan Savory, discusses the growing desertification of Earth and how human practices such as non-sustainable farming techniques are contributing to this global epidemic. In the satellite image above, you will notice that all the circled portions are becoming increasingly desert-like in their conditions. Ironically, one of the main causes for this desertification, can also be used to help make the land lush again – grazing animals. But instead of overgrazing and over farming the same sections of land over and over again until the ground is barren, we can rotationally graze animals in a way that mimics nature to help restore pasture land. Savory’s proposed solution is genius in its simplicity, but the fact remains that it is a long term plan and would need to be implemented on a large scale. In our current political climate, it does not seem like this is likely in the short term. Therefore, alternatives such as rain harvesting can help provide a stop-gap to the desertification problem. You can watch Savory’s fascinating TED Talk here.

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Map of Average Rain Fall in the United States. The orange sections are extremely arid. These orange sections also constitute a large portion of where US agriculture is grown.

The Lushness of the Northeast

This map shows the average rainfall in the United States, and there is no mistaking the fact that the western half of the country is rather dry. Between the average rain fall numbers, and the satellite photo above, it is clear that the northeast of the country has the most rainfall and groundwater. Because we live in the most lush area, it is a no-brainer we should take advantage of this good fortune and harvest rain water to help our agricultural pursuits. So, as we near the end of the “April Showers” we decided it was imperative to get our catchment system up and running. We plan to install at least three more rain catchment systems before the end of the season.

rain barrel collage 2
Examples of Different Rain Barrel Setups. You can use just about anything!

What is Rain Collection?

Collecting rain water can go by different names – rain water harvesting, rain collection or rain catchment systems – but the concept is the same. It is the technique of collecting, storing and using rainwater instead of municipal tap water. The rain water runs down the gutter system, is filtered, and stored in a cistern for later use. The obvious usage is to irrigate the landscape, but the rain water catchment setup can also be tied into residential systems and used to wash laundry, flush toilets and a myriad of other water-related uses.

         Additional Benefits:

  • Rainwater is better for landscape plants and gardens because it is not chlorinated
  • It can solve the drainage problems on your property while providing you with free water
  • It uses simple technologies that are inexpensive and easy to maintain
  • It can be used as a main source of water or as a back up source to wells and municipal water
  • The system can be easily retrofitted to an existing structure or built during new home construction
  • System are very flexible and can be modular in nature, allowing expansion, reconfiguration, or relocation, if neccesary
  • It can provide an excellent back-up source of water for emergencies
ancient-temple boosted
The Belur Temple, in India, build in 1117 AD. The temple was recently restored so that the rain water collection system could be made functional. The area that this Temple is located in is currently in severe drought conditions. Photo credit: BBC.com

A Long Standing Tradition

Rain harvesting systems are documented throughout history. More than two-thousand years ago the Mayans built elaborate rain water collection and filtration systems to sustain their civilization. There is also evidence of farming communities in the present-day Middle East and India using rain harvesting technology to irrigate their crops in the third century AD. In Ancient Rome, rain water catchment systems were vital to the city/state’s functioning and prosperity.

rain barrel side view

Save the Rain!

With such a long history, 21st century rain harvesters should feel proud to carry on this important tradition. It is more vital now than ever to be creative and resourceful in water conservation. All it takes is one look at the satellite map posted above to realize how arid Earth is becoming. And although the solution to the arid conditions on Earth is multifaceted, collecting the rain that otherwise falls off of your roof and into the sewers is a great place to start. Not to mention the added benefit of watering your plants for free!

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Sources:

“A Mayan Water Storage System With Lessons for Today.” Rainharvestcoza. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <http://www.rainharvest.co.za/2012/07/a-mayan-water-storage-system-with-lessons-for-today/&gt;.

“California Department of Food and Agriculture.” CDFA STATISTICS. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/Statistics/&gt;.

“California Facing Worst Drought on Record | NOAA Climate.gov.” California Facing Worst Drought on Record | NOAA Climate.gov. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/california-facing-worst-drought-record&gt;.

“History of Harvesting the Rain | Save The Rain.” History of Harvesting the Rain | Save The Rain. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <http://www.savetherain.org/get-informed/history-of-rain-catchment/&gt;.

“In Pictures: Natural Ways of Increasing Indian Yields.” BBC News. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-20261745&gt;.

“Rainwater Harvesting.” IWS. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <http://www.watercache.com/education/rainwater/&gt;.

“Rainwater Harvesting Guide.” Rainwater Collection. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <http://www.rain-barrel.net/rainwater-collection.html&gt;.

“Rain water Harvesting”. Tamilnadu State Government, India. Retrieved 23 January 2012. Wikipedia.com

Savory, Allan. “How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change.” Ted Talk. 1 Mar. 2013. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ted.com/speakers/allan_savory&gt;.

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