It seems every summer I hear of more and more localities imposing water restrictions. There have been several articles written about the coming water crisis. So whats the concerned landscaper/gardner to do?
Check out rainwater harvesting. I remember as a kid, I had family that farmed for their food. And they always harvested their rainwater. So you can say they did it before it was cool. Rainwater harvesting is a easy and practical approach to reducing your city water bill or well water use for landscaping. Water can be stored to supplement irrigation with city or well water. I plan on adding a few to my house this winter to supplement my irrigation.
Rainwater harvesting systems can range from the very simple to overly complicated. A simple system consists of a barrel, many times an old whiskey barrel made to fit existing gutters. They typically have have a crude screen filter to screen out large sediment. I would also recommend an overflow valve that drains back into the gutter system in the case you get an extremely large rainfall. If you're really ambitious you can link 2 or 3 barrels together to store more water. In order to utilize the water- you would want a hose bib fitted to the bottom of the barrels. It also helps if the barrels are elevated somewhat to aid in the gravity flow without having to use pumps.
More complex sytems exists that utilize huge cisterns with pumps and filtrations systems that are designed to supplement the entire household water supply or systems that use rainwater for toilet flushing. These systems add considerable cost but also help to make the building less dependent on city water grid...saving water...and money.
But quite honestly- adding a rain barrel or two can go a long way to decrease your dependency on city water supplies. This is a very sustainable option that helps us live off of what we already have without using more resources. I never thought I could learn something from my family of farmers- but I guess they understood sustainability long before I realized its importance.
If any of you have any experience with rain barrels or any other rainwater harvesting system- I'd love to hear your experiences.