Learn the best methods of collecting, storing and using rainwater.
Cisterns can be attractive sign of a commitment to water conservation. The Lady Bird Johnson National Wildflower Research Center in Austin collects rainwater in a series of cisterns. Rainwater from the central rooftop of nearly 17,000 square feet feeds two 20,000-gallon cisterns and the 5,000-gallon tower cistern. Several other cisterns ass to the total capacity of 65,000 gallons. With an average rainfall of 30 inches annually, these systems can collect more than 300,000 gallons of rainwater every year.
In Colorado and Utah, which have some of the worst water laws in the nation, rainwater harvesting with a storage tank may be illegal except under specific conditions. Check before installing tanks or cisterns in those states.
10,000 gallons of storage collecting an average of 1,200 gallons per month would provide adequate water for a garden of 1/3 to 1/2 acre using super-efficient irrigation.
Photo by David A. Bainbridge
“Gardening with Less Water,” by David A. Bainbridge, illustrates step-by-step instructions to install buried clay pots and pipes, wicking systems, and other porous containers that deliver water directly to a plant’s roots with little to no evaporation. These systems are available at hardware stores and garden centers; are easy to set up and use; and work for garden beds, container gardens, and trees.