Arcadia Studio, Landscape Architecture

26 Jan 10

Rain Barrels Collect A Valuable Resource by Meg West

It rarely rains in Santa Barbara, and when it does, it's an event as remarkable as the first sunny spring day after a long Chicago winter.

During a recent storm, I put on my rain gear and went for a walk. I watched rainwater sheet off my roof, down the driveway, and into the road. I followed the runoff down the street and into a gutter, which bore the sign "Flows straight to ocean". Sadly, i had just witnessed the entire suburban hydrologic cycle.

We have designed a build environment that, for the most part, treats water as a waste product to be disposed of as quickly as possible. The reality is just the opposite however - rain water is a precious resource.

The City of Santa Barbara realizes that water conservation is vital to the future of our community. They have been supplying rain barrels to residents for half price. We picked some up and installed them, and as I write, the new barrels are filling up in my backyard. (Info on City's earlier barrel program and the cost is still posted here. The City may "roll out" a new batch of barrels in the spring.)

Here are some photos of our new rain catchment system. We elevated the barrels to provide pressure at the outflow. They are piped together so they fill up and drain together. As you can see they fit in a small side yard. Rain barrels or a cistern are an economical way to decrease the amount of potable water that you use in the garden.

There are lots of options for rain catchment systems, from highly engineered underground cisterns to small scale residential systems like this one. Arcadia Studio understands the importance of water conservation and explores water catchment systems for our clients whenever possible.