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A Community Approach to Water Resiliency

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A Community Approach to Water Resiliency

By Kellen Watson of Daily Acts

When it comes to rain, an increasing number of experts believe that our recent and future prosperity will depend more on thoughtful water storage than uncontrollable water shortage. Even in drought years, Sonoma County receives enough precipitation to meet our needs; last year we averaged 23” county wide. Unfortunately, much of this winter water is carried rapidly away to the Pacific Ocean as polluted runoff instead of being fully utilized. In some parts of the state, mega storage reservoirs, desalinization, and groundwater use expansion projects are being implemented to increase the water supply, but these projects are exorbitantly costly, slow to implement, and often have major environmental downsides. By taking a small, decentralized, home-scale approach instead, we as a community can design our built environment to hold onto the rain we receive in winter and use it to thrive through dry summers. 

It only takes 1” of rain falling on an average-sized 1,000 ft2 roof to yield over 600 gallons of high quality water. In light of that high catchment potential, many people have or are considering rain tanks and barrels. Rain tank rebate programs are gaining in popularity throughout the Southwest and Southern California, but Sonoma County is surprisingly a bit behind the curve in this regard. When linked together with other systems like rain gardens, curb cuts, low water use landscapes, and swales, rain cisterns are a vital part of local resiliency strategies, providing off-the-grid irrigation water, emergency preparedness, and stormwater pollution prevention. By incorporating rain cisterns homeowners can take substantive action to celebrate and harvest the gift of rain, preventing pollution, flooding and erosion. The key is that enough homes have to implement personal water harvesting systems for the cumulative effect to make an impact at the community scale. 

If you’re ready to embrace the solutions available, Daily Acts will be offering a FREE workshop on rain tanks and barrels sponsored by the Town of Windsor on February 27th from 1:00-4:00pm. In this workshop, participants will get to actually install a catchment system, led by professional installer and educator Sean Jennings of Rootstock Landscapes. Topics will include: calculating your home’s catchment potential; choosing and siting the appropriate cisterns; designing for overflow; and linking multiple rainwater harvesting systems together. Participants will also get hands-on experience assembling the necessary plumbing. This is a great opportunity to discuss design questions with a professional. Sign up at dailyacts.org to step up as a leader in the water resiliency movement.