Home & Garden

How to capture rainwater this winter

Rain barrels can be effectively hidden by growing plants.
Rain barrels can be effectively hidden by growing plants.

Q: A lot of rainwater goes into storm drains and is wasted. Is there a way to save and use it?

Tom, Morro Bay

A: An average roof collects 600 gallons of water for every inch of rainfall. That’s a lot of water to waste. An easy-to-build collection system will allow you to capture a substantial portion of that water for use on your property.

The simplest scheme requires only downspouts to collect the water that runs off your roof. Water from the downspout should be directed onto a lawn or ornamental landscaped area, rain barrel, rain garden, or gravel areas that can accept the water.

If downspouts are not sending the water to a desired area, simply redirect it using downspout elbows and extensions. If your house doesn’t have gutters, hang rain chains from the eaves to guide rain water to areas where you want it to collect.

If you want to store water for future use, use a rain barrel. The barrel or other large container can be new or used. If it’s used, make sure it was not used to store toxic substances.

Fit gutters with mesh to prevent leaves and other debris from blocking drainage. Install insect proof screens or flap valves at the end of all pipes entering the tank and overflow outlets to exclude mosquitos and other pests.

Place the rain barrel on a level surface; build a platform if necessary. If the tank is not resting on pavement, spread pea gravel around it to prevent water from draining toward homes or other structures. Install a tap near the bottom of the barrel and you are ready to irrigate.

Reducing the amount of rainwater that enters storm drains helps prevent pollution of creeks and streambeds. By capturing water that may otherwise flow across polluted surfaces and pick up dirt, oil, and other contaminants before moving to our creeks, streams, and ocean, you will be protecting our diverse ecosystems.

Nancy Hartwick is a UCCE Master Gardener.

Got a gardening question?

In San Luis Obispo call 781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 473-7190 and Templeton, 434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/

sites/mgslo/ or email us at anrmgslo@ucanr.edu. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 781-5939.