Home gutter system conserves water

March 18, 2009 10:26:13 AM PDT
Have you been looking for a new way to conserve water? With so many parts of the Bay Area facing water rationing in this drought year - an old idea is gaining new popularity - thanks to a modern twist.SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

Gathering and re-using rainwater is not a new concept -- societies around the world have been harvesting it for centuries, especially in countries like India and across Africa, where water can be scarce. Over time, techniques have evolved. A simple, yet modern system is hoping to turn more people onto sustainable rainwater collection.

Boulder Creek resident Bill Monroe's garden is very personal to him.

"My wife has spent a lot of time setting up an organic garden, you know with perma-culture and we would like to save that," said Monroe.

Preserving the garden year-round can take thousands of gallons of water. A resource he worries is getting more limited.

"We're going into a 10-year drought that's a regular cycle, but then now they've been seeing that that's accentuated by the global warming," said Monroe.

Already conscientious about energy conservation, Monroe had a solar panel system installed ten years ago. Now he's building a 5,000-gallon tank system that captures rainwater.

"A lot of the homeowners want to use it for gardening, irrigation. You know for just whatever they need it for, for emergencies, or even their pets," said John Lewis, Rain Harvesting Systems of Fremont.

Lewis says conservation-awareness is growing, especially now that the state could soon face the first widespread water rationing since the early 1990s.

"We're in a major drought, perhaps the worst drought in California's history, and we've all been warned," said Lewis.

So here's a proactive solution -- through a home's existing gutters you can collect the rainwater that already falls on the roof. Debris is kept out through a fine-mesh filter and that water is sent through a system of pipes and spouts. And with the proper filters, the water could even be used for drinking.

Lewis says business is booming. In the past year, he's already set up systems at ten homes in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Residents supplied for example by the San Lorenzo Valley Water District are facing about a 30 percent increase in water rates over a three-year period, so harvesting that free rainwater is become even more appealing.

The Santa Cruz Mountains is definitely a top location in the Bay Area for rain - averaging 48-inches a year in the Ben Lomond area.

While it will take years to recoup the $11,000 Bill Monroe has invested in his system. Right now he's more concerned about conservation and making good use of a precious resource.

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