With San Diego’s water rates soaring to new heights, the phrase ‘excess water’ no longer can be used in referring to the landscape. Why let this precious resource escape into the storm drain? Instead, we want to capture this valuable liquid to be reused when and where needed.
There are two types of water reclamation in residential landscapes. The first is passive reclamation, which is a low cost option achieved by simply grading a site to allow water to flow into strategically placed low areas. Developing the property to mimic natural processes means setting grades for both impermeable and permeable surfaces to drain into areas where water can pool and absorb into the soil. Design features like dry stream beds and rocky swales can be designed to passively collect and direct water to low points like seasonal ponds or bogs. Plants that tolerate periodic flooding can then be chosen to populate areas in and around these created low places. These naturalistic features serve a purpose while enhancing the look of a naturalistic landscape.
Active reclamation utilizes rainwater capture systems by directing rainwater and irrigation runoff into holding tanks where it is stored and saved for future use. Rain barrels are the most common and inexpensive capture devices marketed for homeowners. Most rain barrels have the capacity to hold one hundred gallons or more of water, and can be connected to gutter downspouts or placed underneath ‘rain chains’. Complex rain harvest systems operate with pumps, large storage basins, and control boards that can ultimately deliver runoff to the irrigation system to be reused. These capture systems are more feasible for large properties; possibly to be used in conjunction with gray-water systems.
Where possible, both passive and active water reclamation can be combined with permeable paving to aid in helping trim high water bills. In arid areas like San Diego, rainwater capture systems have become a necessity.