Does Rainwater Harvesting Make “Cents” in Dry California?

February 25th, 2011  |  Published in Landscape Sustainability, Water Conservation

Each winter, California’s weather patterns shift.  Stagnant, high pressure systems that bring heat and dry are dislodged by powerful low pressure fronts.  This change brings cool weather and welcomed precipitation.

The window in which the precipitation falls is generally very short:  beginning in November and extending through March.  During this time, our native and ornamental landscapes soak up and use as much water is available to them.  The rest is rapidly evacuated through our urban and rural storm water management system, picking up impurities on its way to the nearby creek, river, lake, or ocean.

The rest of the year when natural rainfall isn’t enough to rain harvesting 001 Does Rainwater Harvesting Make Cents in Dry California?sustain our landscapes, we import water from points beyond while expending enormous amounts of resources doing so.  The cost of that water running out of our hoses and faucets is heavily subsidized by local and state agencies.  Seemingly unattached to the cost per gallon of water are all the direct and indirect costs that no one has yet been able to quantify.  How can one really put a price on environmental costs such as habitat degradation and salinization?

From a hypothetical viewpoint, harvesting and storing rainwater makes perfect sense.  Save what you get for free (rain) and use it when you need it (warm months).  But a common first question one asks about rainwater harvesting is “What is my return on investment?”  However, what they should really ask is “What are all of the benefits of harvesting rainwater?”.   Read the rest of this entry »