When it rains, it pours

How do I take advantage of all this rainwater in a sustainable, reusable way?

Excuse me? What rainwater? Sure, there used to be rainwater in Sacramento. The winters would get dark and gloomy and cold. But writing this next to a sun-drenched window in January really drives home—pardon me, bikes home—the point that global warming is, well, warming things. So your question is more important than you might think.

You should set up a harvest system in your yard to recycle that occasional, fleeting day of rain back into your garden. A simple rain barrel (check out www.bayteccontainers.com) is all you really need. These plastic tubs collect rainwater from your roof’s downspout and store it for later use, such as when you need to water your garden during dry summer months. You can even link multiple barrels with a pipe to multiply your rainwater supply.

Keep in mind that the roof, from which rainwater trickles into your barrel, is a hotbed of mold, bacteria, algae and protozoa. You can use rainwater for outdoor-plant watering, but you must set up proper filtration and disinfection practices if you want to use the water indoors.

There are three good reasons why rainwater is the new domestic fresh water. First, rainbarrels don’t require costly, polluting energy to collect or recycle that water back out into your garden, the way a centralized water system might. Second, rain is soft, eliminating the cost of an expensive water softener. And rainwater is low in sodium. With just 2.5 percent of the Earth’s water supply being fresh (as opposed to 97.5 percent salt water), and 70 percent of that fresh water tied up in the icecaps, we are wise to reduce our reliance on the Earth’s fresh water supply and reuse rainwater wherever possible.