For Californians looking to capture water around their yards, rain barrels (or cisterns) can be a good option. Rain barrels are containers that divert and collect water that otherwise would flow off a roof, through gutters and downspouts and become runoff. The rainwater captured in rain barrels is typically used for outdoor irrigation purposes.Rain barrels come in a wide variety of sizes, materials, designs and colors. The most common rain barrels for residential use are 55 to 90 gallons, but some can be much larger. Prices can very quite a bit as well – often ranging from about $50 for DIY (do-it-yourself) kits and up to several hundred dollars for ready-made rain barrels.
In addition to providing water for use during dry times, rain barrels have other benefits:
- Keeping relatively clean water out of the combined sewer system and make it available for use
- Reducing the energy and chemicals needed to treat stormwater and the energy expended transporting water from far away
- Reducing the volume and peak flows of stormwater entering the sewer, thereby reducing flooding and combined sewer overflows
- Reducing the need to use drinking water for landscape irrigation and toilet flushing
Resources For Californians
Many local water agencies have resources – and even rebates – available for Californians interested in installing rain barrels in their yards. Visit the Association of California Water Agencies to find your water agency.California-based RainSaucers offers a standalone rainwater harvesting system.
City of Sacramento: Sacramento offers a rain barrel rebate as part of its River-Friendly Landscape Rebate program.
City Of Los Angeles: The City of Los Angeles has teamed up with The Metropolitan Water District and is offering rebates on rain barrels and cisterns.
City of Fresno: Fresno will pay customers up to $50 for a new qualified rain barrel purchased and properly installed.
City Of San Francisco: Residential Rain Barrel program available through January 2016.
City Of San Diego: Rainwater Harvesting Guide for homeowners.
American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association has a large collection of information.
Alliance for Water Efficiency provides an overview on the history and effectiveness of rain barrels and other useful resources, including:
- Harvesting, storing and treating rainwater for domestic indoor use (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, 2007)
- A review of applicable policies and permitting requirements for non-potable use of cisterns (University of Florida IFAS Extension, 2007)