As I’ve shifted toward more sustainable gardening, I’ve become more aware of stormwater runoff. To keep rain from running down the driveway into the street, two years ago I hooked up a rain barrel to the downspout at the corner of the house and got two strips of porous paving dug into the driveway.
The barrel feeds a soaker hose that waters a clump of shrubs near the street. When heavy rain fills the barrel, the porous paving lets the overflow soak down into the soil. During rainstorms it’s quite an amazing and satisfying sight to see sheets of water disappear into the ground as they hit the porous paving, instead of puddling in the gutter. It’s good to be doing my part to prevent stormwater from running into the storm drains, but I’ve started to wish I could capture that water for use in the garden.
Ken Dews, an expert in rainwater harvesting systems, told me that he got started in the field when he set up a rain barrel at his house and saw it fill up and overflow after one heavy rain. His reaction to the overflow was, “That’s my water!”
I feel the same. The rain barrel has me thinking differently about rain. Suddenly it seems silly to be using tap water for irrigation. If I can water one small bed with rainwater, why not the whole garden? I could be solving two problems at once—irrigation and runoff—if I captured the rain falling on our roof, stored it, and used it in the garden. Massachusetts hasn’t yet made it easy to get permits to set up a greywater system, using water from the shower, dishwasher and clothes washer for irrigation. But I could arrange to drain water from house gutters into an underground cistern in the backyard and run the garden sprinkler system off that water supply.
Today it rained heavily. As I watched water pour out of the overflow of the rain barrel, I thought it was high time to make the investment in that rainwater harvesting system.