The ongoing drought may make rain barrels seem like a waste of space, but did you know that you could have filled an entire barrel just with the rain we received on the first rainy day of the season?
It’s true – it takes only one inch of rain on an average-sized roof to fill a 1,000-gallon tank, and most rain barrels only hold about 50 to 55 gallons.
That means that each of us could have filled multiple barrels just with the rain we have received so far this year. This is one reason so many Southern Californians are installing rain barrels as part of their efforts to conserve water and lower their environmental impact.
Rain barrels are not the only way to harvest rain water; however, they provide an efficient, convenient method for rain collection that requires very little effort on your part. Once they are installed, there is very little maintenance, which makes this a simple, nearly effortless way to take a step towards a greener lifestyle.
The best way to install a rain barrel for maximum efficiency is to reroute one of your downspouts to deliver the water from your gutters into your rain barrel. You can also connect a series of rain barrels together to collect even more water from a single downspout. However, you can start harvesting rainwater even before you get around to directing your downspout into your barrel system.
I bought my first rain barrel last year and decided to simply set it under a corner of my roof line where I usually have a steady stream of water. It rained later that day and, by the next morning, the barrel was too heavy to move. We got a little more rain that day, and my 55-gallon rain barrel was completely full. So that shows just how easy it is to capture 55 gallons of water that can then be used around your house and property.
The first step, of course, is to purchase and install a rain barrel or rain barrel system. If you would like to get a better idea of your catchment potential, The Ecology Center has a handy guide to help you determine the amount of water you can collect from your roof and how many barrels you may want to add to your system.
10 Ways to Use Rainwater from Rain Barrels
Once you have your system installed and begin harvesting rainwater, here are 10 ways you can use it as part of your water conservation efforts:
1. If you still have a natural grass lawn, you can reduce its water consumption at least a little by irrigating it with rain barrel water.
2. You can also use your harvested water to provide water for a drip system that irrigates non-food plants.
3. Use your rainwater to irrigate trees that do not produce food.
4. Use reclaimed water to water houseplants and flowers.
5. Rinse your recyclable cans and bottles with rainwater instead of water from the tap.
6. Spray down walkways, decks, driveways and patios with reclaimed water.
7. Use recycled water to fill your toilet tanks to flush your toilet.
8. Rinse down dog houses, sheds and other exterior surfaces with harvested rainwater.
9. Wash your car with rainwater – and get extra points if you park it on your lawn or near other plants that can be irrigated with the water as you wash it.
10. If you replaced your natural grass lawn with artificial turf, you can use reclaimed rainwater for the occasional spraying off it needs to continue looking clean. You can also use rainwater mixed with vinegar in a spray bottle to spray down areas your pets use as a restroom.
Now…you probably noticed that I did not mention some obvious uses for water, such as drinking, filling your dog’s water bowl and irrigating your vegetable garden. While there are some studies that show it is safe to use collected rainwater for these purposes, it requires special care to minimize risks and it is generally considered best to avoid these uses. If you are interested in watering plants grown for food with harvested rainwater, read this fact sheet published by Rutgers, which includes best practices for doing this.
For the most part, it is best to use potable water for drinking, filling water dishes for animals, and irrigating plants and trees grown for food. At the same time, you can increase your water conservation efforts by using your collected rainwater for some of the purposes mentioned above.
How do you use water from your rain barrels? Let us know in the comments below!
California continues to be in a state of drought, and if you have driven out by Lake Casitas lately, you know just how close to home this drought is hitting. Most of us have taken steps to reduce our water consumption, and nearly all Californians are living under mandatory water restrictions.
For example, as of July 1, 2016, Casitas Municipal Water District customers can only water outdoors on Saturdays before 10:00am or after 6:00pm, and customer allocations were reduced by 10%.
It is imperative that we continue our water conservation efforts and that we all look for more ways we can reduce the amount of water we use inside and outside of our homes.
To help you determine how you can save more water in your everyday life, here are 10 things you can do to conserve water:
1. Save Your Cooking Water
Water used for cooking vegetables or grains can be saved, allowed to cool, and then used for other purposes. Two of the best ways to reuse cooking water is to fill your toilet tank or water trees or a vegetable garden.
2. Replace Your Shower Head
If you haven't changed out your shower head since the early 1990s, it is definitely time for a new one. Older shower heads use about three times as much water as newer versions, so this is an easy way to immediately reduce the amount of water you use. Even if your shower head is post-1992, the newest models are likely more efficient than what you are currently using. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends choosing a shower head with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute.
If you are a Casitas Municipal Water District customer, contact them to see about getting a free low-flow shower head as part of their water conservation project.
3. Invest in Rain Barrels
Rain barrels come in a variety of styles and are widely available locally and online. While you may shell out a bit more for the perfect barrel to match your home's architectural style, you can easily find basic rain barrels for less than $100. Plus, you may be eligible for a rebate through the Ventura County Rain Barrel Program.
You can opt for just one rain barrel, but you might be surprised at just how quickly they fill up. This means that you will probably want more than one, so you may want to purchase them at the same time to make sure they match.
You can use your harvested rain water to irrigate ornamental landscaping to conserve water and lower your water bill.
4. Stop Brushing Your Teeth in the Shower
Several years ago, we somehow got on the trend of brushing our teeth in the shower as a way to save water. Since you need no water to brush your teeth until it's time to rinse your tooth brush and rinse out your mouth, it is actually better to brush your teeth outside of the shower. Brushing them in the shower just prolongs your time in there, which means using more water.
5. Shorten Your Shower
While we are on the topic of bathing, we might as well mention an oldie but goodie. Shortening your shower by just a few minutes is one of the easiest steps you can take to conserve water in your home. You might be able to do this by shaving your legs every other day instead of every day or by washing your hair fewer times per week.
6. Install a Gray Water System
Gray water systems allow us to reclaim water we use in our homes to reuse for irrigation purposes. They are most often used to reclaim water used in washing machines. Water recaptured in this manner is best used for ornamental landscaping and should not be used to irrigate plants grown for food.
Depending on the type of gray water system you choose to install, you may need a permit. If you are working with a contractor, they can handle this process for you. If you are thinking about making this a do-it-yourself project, contact Building & Safety at the County of Ventura to see if a permit is necessary.
You can see a gray water system model at the Ojai Valley Green Coalition's resource center, which is located at 206 N. Signal Street, Suite S and is open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 5:00pm.
7. Reclaim Water Without a Gray Water System
You don't have to install a gray water system to reclaim some of the water you and your family use. With a few buckets and bowls, you can capture water used while showering, washing your hands or cleaning produce.
Again, it is best to use reclaimed water to irrigate ornamental landscaping. If you want to use this water on plants grown for food, be sure to only use non-toxic, all-natural or organic shampoos, conditioners and soaps.
8. Fix Leaks Quickly
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a one-drip-per-second leak can waste 1,661 gallons of water in one year. Check your sinks, bath tubs, shower heads, toilets and outdoor faucets for leaks, and fix them right away to conserve water and save money.
9. Go Meatless Once a Week
You can save hundreds of gallons of water every year just by refraining from eating meat one day each week. If you also skip dairy once a week, you can save even more water.
10. Use Your Dishwasher Wisely
You can save more than 10 gallons of water per load if you wash a full load of dishes in your dishwasher, rather than by hand. If you have an Energy Star dishwasher (which you should), you can expect to save even more water. Large items, such as pots and pans should be washed by hand so that you do not take up space in your dishwasher that could be better filled with several small items.
What is your favorite way to save water in your everyday life? Let us know in the comments below!
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is the marketing director for The Davis Group and a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing.
by: Aimee Jo Davis-Varela
One of the many benefits of living in the Ojai Valley is the ability to enjoy outdoor living any month of the year. Cooking outdoors is an important part of this, and most of us look forward to hosting family barbecues or grilling with our friends when the weekend rolls around. While grilling is an eco-friendlier cooking method than indoor cooking in most cases, dowsing charcoal with lighter fluid and charring meats until they are barely recognizable are not that great for the planet or your family’s health.
The smoke from burning charcoal or wood is filled with carcinogens and unhealthy compounds that increase environmental pollution and can accumulate in our bodies, increasing our risk for a variety of ailments. When you use lighter fluid, you are also filling the air with harmful petrochemicals that are bad for you, your family and the planet. Top that off with some chemical-laden pest control products to keep your guests comfortable, disposable plates and cups that end up in a landfill, and even more chemicals being released into the air with every bit of fat that drops from your meat onto the grill, and you can see how conventional grilling may be a lot of fun but is not the healthiest activity.
Fortunately, all you need to do is take a few simple steps to green your grilling routine and make your next al fresco dinner party an earth-conscious affair. The first step, of course, is choosing the right barbecue. Propane is better than charcoal, natural gas and electric grills are better than propane, and solar-powered grills, hydrogen-powered grills and corn-burning grills are even better. Of course, if you don’t want to part with your beloved charcoal barbecue, you can go greener with your grilling by switching to lump charcoal, natural charcoal or plant-based ethanol discs.
Once you’ve found your perfect barbecue grill and are ready for your first cookout, try these simple tips to lower your carbon footprint and enjoy healthier, eco-friendlier grilling:
1. If you have to light your cooking fuel, use an electric starter or charcoal chimney, and skip the lighter fluid.
2. Avoid excess smoke by keeping your grill clean. Avoid chemical cleaners and use a paste made from baking soda and water instead.
3. Purchase local meats and produce to avoid the energy and pollution of transporting foods.
4. Purchase organic foods to avoid feeding your family and friends chemical-laden products and to help keep those chemicals out of the air, water supply and soil.
5. Make the most of your fire by preparing the entire meal on the grill and making enough for leftovers.
6. If you do not want to use your indoor dinnerware outdoors, purchase cloth napkins and tablecloths, reusable plates and glasses, and other reusable party supplies for your grill-based gatherings.
7. Use natural pest control methods, such as citronella oil candles, bay leaves tucked under chairs, rosemary or sage tossed into the fire, or marigolds, sage, mint or rosemary planted around your outdoor living areas.
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