Watering Your Lawn and Garden During Times of Drought.

As you well know, California is in the midst of an extensive period of drought. 2013 was the driest year in California on record. To date, 2014 hasn’t been much better. The temperatures have been warm, too. Statewide, the period from January to September 2014 was the warmest period on record.

The current drought conditions are really taxing California’s water reserves. A picture (well, two pictures) are worth a thousand words here:

Water 1

What a difference a year (or three) makes.

As we enter what we hope will be a closer to normal rainy season, there is one idea you may want to consider to provide some water for your future landscaping and gardening needs.

Rain barrels and cisterns (larger containers than barrels) can be installed outside your home to capture rainwater runoff from your roof, allowing you to store this water for later use in your yard. Instead of allowing the rain to run off your roof into the gutters and drainspouts, often then pouring into the street and, ultimately, the sewer system and bay, consider a system that can capture and hold this water, so you can use it at a later date to irrigate your plants and lawn.

Water 2

OK, this is not exactly a new idea – clay rain pots were in use in Thailand, 2,000 years ago (however, the system has been improved!).

Water 3

Water storage containers, Thailand.

More recently, the City of Oakland supported a three-year initiative (2010-2012) to provide subsidized rain barrels to Oakland residents and other organizations.

A rainwater control system might work for you if:

  1. Your home or other building has a roof area that drains into gutters and downspouts.
  2. You have a level, firm surface to support the barrel(s) or cistern.
  3. The water is stored within a reasonable distance of the landscaping to be irrigated.

With such a system, you could capture and store rainwater during inclement weather and use it later, to water your yard instead of drawing down the region’s already low water supply. While it’s hard to estimate how many 55-gallon barrels you might need, a rule of thumb is:

Roof Area                                            Suggested Minimum Number of 55-Gallon Rain Barrels

0 – 750 sq. ft.                                                                                   1 – 2

750 – 1,250 sq. ft.                                                                             2 – 4

1,250 – 1,750 sq. ft.                                                                          3 – 6

1.750 – 2,250 sq. ft.                                                                          4 – 8

For roof areas in excess of 2,250 sq. ft., install one additional rain barrel per each additional 500 sq. ft. Please note that a 55-gallon rain barrel is big. A fully loaded one weighs around 400 lbs.

Water 4

Decorative rain barrel.

If you’re interested in this idea to protect your landscaping during times of drought, I encourage you to see the following website for further details: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/pwa/documents/report/oak036793.pdf

Keeping Oakland Beautiful is everybody’s business.

We encourage you to share your thoughts in the reply section. We welcome the dialogue and learning of others’ perspectives.

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