One of my favorite subjects in college was geology. I know, I know, I’m a huge hit at parties. The ecology of geology was a major point of study for me, and one of the most fascinating. It’s amazing to really get into studying how every part of our world, even the rocks below our feet, affect everything about the ecology of an area. This is especially true in hydrology, the study of how water moves.
I bring this up because, while writing our recent infographic about saving water, I thought a lot about hydrology. Specifically, thinking about how many people rail against trying to save water because the water used is recycled into the environment. This argument completely ignores, though, that how water is recycled into the environment makes a huge difference to people and nature alike. One of the main ways in which humans affect the water cycle is in runoff. When we cover our surroundings with rain-resistant surfaces like roads, sidewalks, and roofs, it prevents rain from absorbing at a natural rate into the ground and refreshing the aquifers around us. It means that every time it rains, a huge flood of water comes off of all of those surfaces and into the water removal systems, then into our waterways, speeding erosion well beyond what is natural in the area and destroying the flora and fauna that depend on reliable stream flows. This feast-or-famine water flow in our environment also may mean that keeping a garden requires more irrigation than it otherwise might.
There is, however, a fantastic way to limit a home or other building’s runoff effects while saving irrigation water (and therefore money on the water bill). Simply capture the water that runs out of your gutter system in a reservoir, then use it in drier times to water your garden or top off your pond (as a bonus, rainwater is often nutrient-rich, which your plants will love). This can be as simple as putting a big barrel under your downspout and dipping out of it with a bucket, but there are inexpensive solutions that can really improve the experience. A filter on the downspout can prevent organic materials like leaves from settling in your reservoir and decomposing, which any pond owner knows can do a ton to improve the quality of the water. A reservoir with a tap at the bottom makes it much easier to fill your watering bucket or drain it into a pond, especially with a lidded reservoir (a must to prevent evaporation and more leaves). A small pump can make an even bigger difference.
It is definitely worth any homeowner’s while to check out our rain harvesting section. We have everything you need to turn your roof into a rain-collection system, from the smaller, easy-to-install 60- or 75-gallon barrels to rain harvesting kits that will let you build a self-filtering and self-pumping reservoir that can hold thousands of gallons of rainwater, great for owners of large homes with large ponds to keep full or even commercial buildings looking to make their real estate greener, save on utilities, and possibly even earn tax credits available in many areas.