Wednesday, 01 March 2017 00:00
Monday, 28 November 2016 00:00

We are building a large structure that will hold kinetic rain sculptures that will turn when the rain falls from our roof catchment system. Here are some photos of us building it. I'll post more photos of the progress and finished masterpiece as it progresses.

Friday, 05 February 2016 00:00

Rain barrels. Most likely, you have either heard of or seen one of these. Primarily used for watering yards and potted plants, rain barrels harvest the water that falls on your roof. This is beneficial in many ways. Harvesting rainwater helps conserve water, diverts rain from flowing from your roof into the gutters (gathering nasty metals and chemicals along the way), and makes your plants healthy and happy.

So, what does a rain barrel consist of?

A rain barrel consists of a storage unit of some sort (usually barrel-shaped), a downspout, an overflow diverter, and a spigot. They can be as simple as putting a barrel under a gutter downspout with mesh over the opening to keep out debris, or they can be a more complex and larger system.

What can I use rainwater for?

The best thing to use harvested rainwater for is watering plants. Plants LOVE rainwater! Use harvested water in a dry spell or on water-intensive plants. Harvested rainwater is great for indoor plants, especially since they aren't already getting that good rainwater!

Rainwater is not potable. You cannot use this water to drink or bathe in. In case of an emergency, you can boil or distill your harvested rainwater. Boiling will kill off bacteria and parasites; distilling will further this process, and will remove metals from the water, as well.

What should you know about rain barrels before purchasing (or making) one?

First, you should consider your location, the size of your roof, and how much water you're planning to use from your barrel. For every inch of rain that falls on a 1,000-square-foot catchment area (square feet of your house plus eve extension), you can harvest 600 gallons of water. A typical rain barrel carries between 55 and 90 gallons. Are you in an area that receives a lot of rain? Or are you in a dry, arid area? If you receive a lot of rain, or if you want to gather a lot of water, you can install multiple barrels and simply connect them with a hose or PVC pipe. If you just want one barrel but receive a lot of rain, then you will want to think about how best to divert overflow. You should always make sure to divert overflow water away from the foundation of your house. You can do this with creating a hole at the top of the barrel and using either a PVC pipe or a hose to direct the overflow water. Overflow diverters can be made at home or purchased online. Lastly, how much do you want to spend on your rain harvesting system? Rain barrels cost between $50 and $200, depending on the size and type (DIY kits vs. pre-built or decorative).

What else is important to keep in mind while purchasing or making a rain barrel?

Standing water is perfect breeding ground for mosquitos, so it is very important that your barrel is completely sealed. Make sure that every opening (overflow hole, spigot hole) has a tight mesh covering. If you use your harvested rain quickly enough, then you shouldn't have too much to worry about. If you're anxious, you can purchase anti-mosquito tablets and place them in your barrel.

Still water is also hospitable to algae. Make sure that your barrel is dark colored—this will let less light in and decrease your risk of algae growth. If possible, put your rain barrel in an area that receives little direct sunlight. If you do get algae, add a tablespoon of vinegar to your water.

The spigot that you will use to access your harvested rain relies on gravity—so prop that rain barrel up! You can use something as simple as concrete blocks, or you can get more creative.

What if I want to harvest a lot of rainwater?

Cisterns are larger and more complex than rain barrels, enabling you to capture much more rainwater. They are also more expensive. Cisterns can be either above-ground or below-ground, depending on the size and use. Below-ground cisterns require professional installation, and will often require plumbing permits. Cisterns can range anywhere from $200 for a 200-gallon system, to $5,000 for a 10,000-gallon system (before installation fees). The water from a cistern can be used for in-home applications such as your washing machine and toilet. They can also be used for drinking water, which requires a filtration system, permits, and inspections. Check in with your city’s Bureau of Development Services before making any concrete plans.

Check the rainwater harvesting regulations in your state

Rainwater harvesting may be subject to permits and regulations depending on where you live, so be sure to check with your state government before embarking on a rainwater catchment project.  If you’re not sure about your state’s requirements, here’s a link that gives state-by-state information.

Thursday, 19 March 2015 00:00

Rain chains are a beautiful and functional alternative to traditional, closed gutter
downspouts, they guide rain water visibly down chains or cups from the roof to the
ground, transforming a plain gutter downspout into a pleasing water feature. Rain
chains ('Kusari doi' in Japanese) offer a highly attractive and unique alternative to
traditional downspouts.They have been used for hundreds of years in Japan, and are a
perfect expression of the Japanese knack for combining aesthetics and practicality.
Rain swirls and flows down, creating a mesmerizing sense of motion and tranquility right
outside your window. And they are beautiful on dry days too, as over time, copper rain
chains develop a rich blue­green patina. Rain chains can be an integral part of any

Rain chains link and cup style chains, breaking the flow of water as it is guided to the
ground so that the impact is mitigated. Downspouts are usually not something that most
people want that visible – so the more it can be hidden from plain sight, the better.
However rain chains are different in this respect.

Rain chains are unquestionably more attractive, and the design possibilities are
endless! For instance, they can lead rainwater into a birdbath or a decorative bowl that
creates a beautiful fountain when it overflows. Rain chains also keep water out of storm
drain systems. Some communities even offer compensation to homeowners who
disconnect their downspouts from the neighborhood's combined sewer, as this can help
prevent overflow. As an earth­friendly alternative to downspouts, rain chains can collect
water in a large rain barrel for later household or garden use.

So, rain chains ultimately not only fulfill the same functions of the conventional
downspout, but they also have the added benefit of accenting the overall look of the
architecture. The clear trend in new construction is toward a greater use of rain chains
in lieu of downspouts.


Thursday, 08 January 2015 00:00

Bioswales are popping up everywhere. Some of the newer ones are looking quite elegant. They are a bit like mini parks, beautiful to look at and furnished with art and benches. The help channel the rain to let in percolate into the ground and thus protect our precious watersheds. Here is a new installation in Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00

Rain chains began as a beautiful Japanese tradition and are now becoming popular as an eco-friendly way to channel the rain from your roof. They are easier to maintain than gutter downspouts and may even use fewer resources to construct. When hanging over a rain barrel, they become a great way to collect rain to water your garden with.