It’s hard to believe right now that we will ever see a week without rain, but with a little preparation now, you can still have happy plants during our rainless summer months! Harvesting rainfall, storing it, and using it during periods of drought is a practice as old as time, but its implementation for landscaping in urban areas today helps with many North Texas issues, specifically:
● Reduces pressure on city water
● Shrinks your water bill
● Captures salt- and mineral- free (ie. chlorine) water for plants
● Reduces urban erosion and contaminated run-off in stormwater systems
While there are many methods of varying complexity and expense to collecting, storing, and using rainwater, all have the same basic components: catchment surface, distribution, and holding area. Our two favorite methods below are some of the easiest and most cost-effective in an urban residential setting.
1. UTILIZE A RAIN BARREL
○ By replacing your downspout with a rain chain, or diverting your existing downspout into a 50-gallon water barrel, you collect a significant amount of rain from a fairly small amount of rainfall. The barrel can then be attached to a pump and hose or a regular spout for hand watering and used in your landscape.
○ For those more mathematically-minded, there are Supply calculations that will help you determine your required storage capacity based on catchment surface runoff coefficients, the storage capacity of the rain barrels, and roof surface area. For example, 1 inch of rain on a 1000-square foot wood shingle roof can produce 85-gallons of water.
○ The collected water is NOT potable water, as there can be trace metals, pesticides, and microbial contaminants from animal droppings.
2. MAKE A RAIN GARDEN
○ A rain garden is a shallow, depressed landscape feature that collects rainwater run-off from impermeable surfaces. During a storm, rainwater is immediately diverted from a catchment area like a roof or paved parking lot and collected here where it will soak into the soil within 24-48 hours.
○ Typically the rain garden will be downhill on a small slope from the catchment area, and small berms will be placed on the downhill perimeter of the rain garden to contain the rainfall.
○ Plants selected to be planted in the rain garden should be native and able to tolerate both waterlogging for 48 hours and 3 weeks of drought.
○ This method requires minimal upkeep, and can be an easy source of color in your yard in the form of native perennials and wildflowers!