Have you ever wondered how much water runs off your roof? When you look at the numbers, it's surprising how much water you can collect after a rainstorm. Just a half inch of rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof will yield 300 gallons of water (Gardener’s Supply).
Last week student’s asked, “Can we play the game again where we pretend we are plants and tag the raindrops as they fall down?” This game, with inspiration from Project Water Education for Teachers (Project WET), examines how vegetation affects the movement of water over land surfaces. For example, students acting as raindrops were caught by students acting as plants with their arms wide open to emulate leaves and 'sank' into the vegetation to simulate water percolating into the ground. Students playing plants then became rocks in the next round and discovered the water does not percolate into the bare ground as easily, since the students acting as rocks were bunched up, with their arms close to their bodies. One Cool Earth leads a 3 part lesson series called Slow It, Sink It, Spread it. This series allows students to dip their toes in learning about stormwater runoff, and provides hands on creative design experience for them to redesign runoff problem areas around their school campus using Low Impact Development (LID) concepts. LID can include rain gardens, permeable pavers, native plants, bioswales, mulching and much more.
In Atascadero, One Cool Earth has engineered 55 gallon rain barrels at both Santa Rosa Academic Academy and San Gabriel Elementary, two of our partner schools. Rain barrels reduce the amount of stormwater runoff by collecting roof runoff and storing the rainwater for future use. Rainwater collection from roofs via rain barrels is growing in popularity because of its many environmental and practical benefits. The purpose of the rain barrel installation in school gardens is to use the non-potable water to fill watering cans for plants. The gardens host broccoli, lettuce, celery, perennials and many other plants.
What are the benefits of rain barrels?
You’ll have a water source in times of drought. If you collect rainwater, you’ll be able to water and nourish your garden with reserved rain water. Many people link several rain barrels together, called overflow barrels, so that when one fills up, it goes into the next one.
You’ll help to reduce stormwater runoff. When rain falls, stormwater runoff picks up many different pollutants that are found on paved surfaces such as sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria, oil, grease, trash, pesticides and metals. Your water collecting prevents some of this damaging flow.
You’ll help control moisture levels around the foundations of your home. Collecting rainwater before it hits ground levels will help to prevent flooding, damp, and mold. There may be tax breaks for installing LID designs in your home or office space.
You can reduce your water bill. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Garden and lawn watering accounts for 40 percent of residential water use during the summer. Thanks to a rain barrel, it can save water during the growing season. Some homeowners get pumps which create safe water for taking showers, or doing dishes.
All classrooms at Santa Rosa Academic Academy had 15-minute rain barrel tours to learn what it is, why it is there, and how to use it so that when they are participating in garden activities, they can safely utilize this aspect of their school garden. Rain barrels are one of many LID solutions, and One Cool Earth is so thankful to visually empower youth to save one of Earth’s most precious resources.
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