San Jose summers are hot and dry. Even without the drought, rainfall plunges by April and remains mostly dry through September. When we’re not in a drought, we average 15 inches (38 cm) of rain a year, half of the US average.
13.5 inches (34 cm) of that rain falls between November and April. The following six months averages a *total* of an inch and a half or about four centimeters.
When you hear me squeal with delight at the end of this short video, you’ll understand why. We’re back to doing what our ancestors did: saving rain water.
A local company called Rainsavers installed a rain catchment system along the side of our house. The tanks are just around the corner from my vegetable garden.
Lot sizes are small in Silicon Valley, so big tanks aren’t feasible. We looked into gray water systems, but they have limitations. Further, they are largely promoted for watering a lawn which we no longer have, or other non-edible plants. A friend showed me her patio cisterns, and described how they worked. The pair of cisterns keep her vegetable garden watered all summer. In the end we opted for Bushman Slimline tanks. They have a small footprint so worked well in our narrow side-yard. They connected three tanks, allowing us to collect and store 390 gallons (1,476 liters) of rainwater.
Nearly two years after my water audit, and several stops and starts later, Rainsavers installed our new system. Within two weeks, we had a series of storms. One good soaking filled all three tanks to capacity.
The other cool thing about these tanks is the overflow. Most rainwater becomes run-off, further jeopardizing our diminishing ground water. Any overflow from these tanks helps replenish the county aquifers instead.
Here’s the timeline for reducing our outdoor water usage:
June, 2013: Removed lawn in sidewalk strip, replaced with gravel and raised planting bed
May, 2014: San Jose Water Company Audit
December, 2014: Sheet mulch half of the lawn in the back garden
May, 2015: The Fairy Garden Goes Native
Summer, 2015: We stop watering the lawn
November, 2015: The last of the lawn is history. California natives move in.
February, 2016: Rain water catchment system installed.