It’s Raining, It’s Pouring…

February 10th, 2009 10:35am PST

Posted By Elizabeth Cutright 1 Comment WE Mag

It’s been a rainy couple of days here in Santa Barbara, just enough to fill up a few puddles and trigger a few freeway fender benders.  Spring, or perhaps “pre-spring,” showers in southern California always serve to highlight a few normally dormant concerns: mudslides in last season’s burn areas, flooding as a result of clogged storm drains, and beach contamination due to runoff.  But as I watched the rain splash along the street and heard it tripping down the gutter, I once again lamented the fact that rainwater catchment is still not as popular as it should be.

Last fall, I attended the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association’s (ARCSA) annual conference in Santa Monica, CA. The theme of the conference was “Water—The New California Gold Rush,” and a variety of professional voices presented ideas great and small regarding the justification for and the installation of rainwater catchment systems not only in California, but also throughout the country.

While I mentioned this conference in a previous blog, some of the interesting facts I learned bear repeating:

– Trees are rainwater harvesting machines!  An oak tree can collect and treat 57,000 gallons of stormwater.

– If all of Los Angeles’s rainwater was collected, it could supply half of all the state’s water needs.  (So far, six projects in Los Angeles capture 1.25 million gallons of water every time the city gets an inch or more of rain.)

– The single largest use of electricity in the state of California?  Pumping water to the Los Angeles basin.

– Although the typical human needs around 50 gallons of water per day, the US consumes approximately 150 gallons per person per day.

It seems as if rainwater harvesting is a no brainer, so why isn’t it more widespread?  Do you think communities should do more to promote rainwater catchment as part of a comprehensive water conservation program?  Or is rainwater catchment just a drop in the bucket?

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