caption: Kevin Sutherland examines the rain barrels.
[Nyerges is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,””Extreme Simplicity” and other books. He conducts regular survival skills and ethnobotany walks. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.ChristopherNyerges.com.]
At the home of Carol Kampe in Pasadena, California, nearly all the rain that falls on her roof is collected in rain barrels. She showed me the down-spout of the southwest corner of the house which drained into a rain barrel. This was a large plastic barrel –the type that I’d seen used to import pickles into the United States. The entire lid could be screwed off to gain access to the water. The top had been modified with a screen to remove debris that came down from the roof, and a spigot was added to the bottom so one could easily use the collected rain water.
Kampe has 10 rain-collecting barrels strategically located to collect the most rain from the house and garage roofs. Two of the barrels were 65 gallons each, and the other eight were 60 gallons each. The rain thus collected is used for outdoor purposes only – watering her fruit trees and other plants in the yard.
“Generally, I have enough rain water in my barrels to last me until August,” says Kampe. This means that she is able to rely on the rain for watering her yard for approximately 2/3 of the year. She estimates that she saves perhaps $300 a month in payments to the water company.
“But I don’t do this for economic reasons,” Kampe adds. “I do it because we live in a desert here in Southern California. Water will become more critical as time goes on. So it is just a shame to waste all this good rain.”
Kampe has a common-sense approach to her rain harvesting, something that is easy to do and is both ecological and economical.
She was living in her home just a few years and then purchased seven of the rain-collecting barrels. She has since added three more. The barrels were purchased for about $100 each by a company that modifies the pickle barrels into rain-collecting barrels. The company also provides hoses so that the barrels can be connected “daisy-chain,” so that the overflow of one barrel fills other barrels.
Rain barrels are not light, and water weighs a little over 8 pounds a gallon. That means a 60 gallon barrel full of rain water weighs in the neighborhood of 480 pounds. So when planning a rain collecting system like this, one has to recognize that the full barrel is not going to be moved. Other barrels can be connected to the barrel under the downspout so that the overflow can be collected in a spot away from the house.
Also, Kampe is able to simply unscrew the lid of her rain barrels and scoop out water as needed for individual plants.
Kampe laughed at all the current talk about “living green” as if it were something new. “We were doing all this back in the 1970s,” she says, describing how they recycled and collected rain in Indiana.
Emphasizing the need to save and conserve water where you have a desert and an ever-increasing population, Kampe echoes Santyana, pointing out that “anyone who doesn’t read history is doomed to repeat it.”