Fight the Drought with Rain Barrels

Why should you install rain barrels? Attendees at the Citizen Environmental Council’s program on July 6 said they lower water bills, allow those who have grass to keep it green longer and help conserve water for future generations.

Guest speaker Chris Corvetti quoted some interesting statistics, noting that one inch of rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof yields more than 600 gallons of rainwater, and average yearly rainfall in San Mateo County is 25 inches, which yields 15,500 gallons of rainwater. She said any roof material works.

Another big incentive are the rebates currently being offered to residents served by the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, including Burlingame residents.  They can receive rebates of up to $200 per rain barrel or cistern.

Chris, a rainwater harvesting specialist, was both entertaining and informative. She has a background in water conservation, starting with her experience at Americorps’ Watershed Stewards Program.

She explained that if the rain is not collected in barrels, half goes to the bay and half goes to the ocean, collecting trash and polluting materials on the way, such as animal feces, pesticides, fertilizers, rubber from tires and oil. We want more going into the ground and replenishing groundwater.

Rain barrels and cisterns capture runoff from the roof, diverted from the downspouts and stored for later distribution, which can be by hose, watering pails or drip systems.

Chris emphasized that there is a requirement for screening to prevent insects and other critters, as well as leaves, from getting into the water. It is also important to strap the rain barrels to something very solid in case of earthquakes and to have the rain barrels on flat ground.

She said permits are not required in San Mateo County if the system is fully exterior in a single-family home and under 360 gallons, or if under 5,000 gallons with a drip irrigation system and not connected to electrical or make-up water supply. Permits are required if it doesn’t meet those criteria or if it is a below-ground system or connected to an interior system.

Chris offered these useful links:

Information on Purple Pipe:

BAWSCA Rebates:

Local Installers:

By Carol Vollen