Saving for a Rain-Free Day

Rainbarrels, Cisterns & Ponds

October 15, 2014. By Cassy Aoyagi:  The rare days when L.A. skies are gray present an opportunity to set aside a precious resource for a rain-free day. A penny saved may be a penny earned, but a raindrop saved in LA can earn us our freedom.

Each raindrop saved:

  • Saves L.A. tax dollars (as well as home and business water budgets) associated with the importation of water from far afield,
  • Protects homes and communities from flooding caused by overtaxed gutters, dams and public waterways, and
  • Protects surfers and other ocean wildlife from the fertilizers, pesticides and animal waste washed off our hardscapes and into the ocean with each rain.

As new, statewide Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinances (WELOs) require or encourage new landscapes greater than 2500 square feet to keep and filter rainwater onsite, why not put it to the best possible use? Water harvesting, the collection of rainwater from roofs, gutters and hardscapes for use at a later time, is a hassle-free and highly effective way to quench a garden’s thirst.


It can produce a profound impact– collecting the first quarter inch of rain from a 1000 square foot roof can produce as much as 150 gallons. In real terms, this is enough water to support a garden of low water use plants, like that at the Sanchez home in Santa Monica, through a typical summer.

Most water harvesting can be accomplished via gravity flow then be pumped out to the landscape when needed. A bumper water crop can be collected, cleaned and saved through a variety of mechanisms. Options include above ground rain barrels or cisterns, below ground cisterns, or collection through infiltration, where water is guided by grading to collect in a reservoir or pond.

Each option may be artfully accomplished and may, in fact, actually add to the aesthetic of the landscape design. While below ground cisterns and infiltration systems require expertise to design and install, home and business owners curious about harvesting can start with buying a rain barrel, for which many localities are offering rebates.

Curious about how water harvesting differs from infiltration and graywater strategies? Stay tuned! This is part of a three-part series covering these water conservation strategies.

More Information