Rainwater Harvesting

Book delves into harnessing the power of rain.

The Works

Rainwater Collection Barrel

Think of last week’s thaw, and the vast amount of water that, in the form of rain and melting snow, ran down our drains. Now imagine that water resulting in a healthful vegetable garden or a verdant lawn. It’s not wishful thinking; it can happen thanks to rainwater management.

Given our region’s aging water infrastructure, and the way people here complain about their water bills, it’s surprising that household rainwater management hasn’t established a firmer foothold in metro Detroit. Homeowners pay hundreds of dollars a year to water their lawns and vegetable gardens, all while letting thousands of gallons of rainwater run right down their often overflowing storm drains. In many cases, all it takes is a few rain barrels and some hoses to establish a rainwater collection system. The barrels can be pricey, starting at around $80 and going up, but good deals can be had on slightly used food-grade barrels, which might otherwise be discarded. What’s more, there are a variety of innovations that help get the water where you need it most, ranging from soaker hoses to T-tape.

Food Thought

Rainwater Harvesting 
By Brad Lancaster
Rainsource Press, 304 pp., $30

Information on how to build your own rain barrel system is splashed all over the Internet, in how-to videos and step-by-step tutorials. But for those looking for an overview, it’s best to read up on those people who’ve been leading the way in the rain-scarce Southwest. Take, for instance, Brad Lancaster’s books on Rainwater Harvesting, filled with tips on not just rain barrels, but on harvesting the forces of sun and shade, wind and weather, and gravity itself to help keep your land green, the environment safe and save you a few dollars in the bargain. People in the Great Lakes State may not need the kind of “zero-runoff” rain management they do in, say, Arizona, but there are still all sorts of ingenious ways to make the most of what falls from the sky.

Get into it enough and you’ll find that there is already a small library of books about “rain gardening,” which goes far beyond barrels. You might find yourself planting shade trees, even digging out a swale on your property. What’s more, some cities have grants to help people build these sorts of “gray water” systems, as they hold water that would normally tax storm drains in a deluge.

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