RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Citizens of Colorado can now enjoy one of the true staples of green homeownership: the rain barrel. Once a hallmark of water-conscious outlaws in the state, barrels had been considered illegal under an old law stating that all rainwater was essentially public property, and as such, couldn’t be diverted from municipal water supplies. But two new laws passed this week changed all that, and now, with reckless abandon, Coloradoans are free to divert rainfall to their hearts’ content. Here are five things that they, and you, can do with captured rain:
1. Water your crops.
Collect water in a rain barrel and use it on your lawn, garden, and indoor houseplants. You can make your own barrel, provided you use a container constructed from food-grade materials (the City of Bremerton, Washington’s website has detailed instructions). Or go the easy route and buy one premade from recycled plastic from any number of online retailers.
2. Create a rain garden.
With all the rain we’ve had in the Northeast this spring, barrels wouldn’t make a dent in storing all the precipitation that’s fallen. Digging trenches seems a more appropriate solution, as are rain gardens, collections of flood-tolerant plants. They divert the water from storm drains, which can overflow and wash pollutants into nearby rivers and streams during heavy rainfall. You can download how-to guides for creating your own from the University of Wisconsin Extension Service.
3. Flush your toilets.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bermuda, and some Caribbean countries, it’s required by law for new buildings or extensions to include some kind of rainwater harvesting system to supply water to things like showers and toilets. And why not? It doesn’t make sense to flush down waste with drinking-quality water. These systems will require some changes to your plumbing, but depending on how involved you want to get, it can cost as little as $600 or as much as to $2,000 (or more). Find a local professional in your yellow pages or visit HarvestH20.com.
4. Turn it into a toy.
Fill up your kids’ water guns or water balloons with collected rainwater, or use it to fill up the kiddie pool. Why raise your water bill just so kids can soak each other (or you)?
5. Wash your car.
Regular garden hoses can spray water at a rate of 8 gallons per minute. If it takes you a half hour to hose down and then rinse soap off your car, you’ll use about the same amount of water as 16 loads of dishes. And commercial car washes use anywhere from 17 to 112 gallons of water, according to a survey from the International Carwash Association. Your car doesn’t need all that to get clean! Splash the vehicle down with a bucket of rainwater, soap it up, and then rinse it off with more rainwater.
Published on: July 1, 2009