There are a number of exciting design trends that are quickly becoming mainstream in architecture and development around California. Mostly due to the continuing drought and concerns over water availability, these trends are simply implemented and have an enormous impact on a broad scale. One of the latest trends to receive publicity is the re-emergence of rainwater harvesting systems. Though the idea of capturing and storing rainwater is ancient, the concept of harvesting rainwater from downspouts has been designed and implemented in many projects for several decades.
At this point homeowners and commercial property owners are taking the steps to have rainwater harvesting systems designed and installed at their residences and project sites ranging in sizes from 1,000 to 30,000 gallons and more. These systems, which for the most part are used for irrigation, simply divert the roof water through simple filters into storage tanks and then direct it to landscapes when needed. When designed properly, these systems can provide adequate water for landscaping irrigation and other outdoor needs, as well as a myriad of valuable on-site and off-site benefits. Benefits include increased soil health, reduced stormwater runoff, conservation of potable water and associated energy for pumping and treatment. These benefits are more difficult to quantify but nonetheless provide a much needed advantage especially in the realm of strategic planning.
When designing rainwater harvesting systems, it is important to calibrate and size the capacity for the application it supplies. In other words, a determination of how much water is being used needs to be made to give an idea of how much water needs to be captured. This water balancing calculation is often difficult to evaluate and typically requires the skills of an experienced professional involved in the latest irrigation, planting, and water conservation design techniques. During the early planning stages, the design of a landscape can be crafted to minimize water use while providing the desired aesthetics, along with the installation of a rainwater harvesting system to handle the irrigation needs. However, existing landscapes can also be modified to utilize much less water and integrate a rainwater harvesting system to provide a large quantity of irrigation demand.
Rainwater harvesting systems, which are commonplace in Australia and other drought plagued countries, have also spurred an increased awareness of the importance of water conservation. Studies conducted show that just the presence of a rainwater harvesting system can stimulate a water savings of 60 percent. At a time when the whole nation is striving to do more with less, it is wise and satisfying to go back to the basics, regard our natural resources with the utmost importance, and do our part to contribute to the quality of our rivers and bays, landscapes, and security for generations to come.
Bobby Markowitz, founder of Earthcraft Landscape Design, has been designing rainwater harvesting systems and educating professionals for nearly a decade. A licensed Landscape Architect, Accredited Professional by the American Rainwater Catchment System Association, Certified Permaculturist (taught by Founder Bill Mollison), Mr. Markowitz has advanced the viability of water conservation systems into the forefront of landscape architecture. A graduate of Rutgers University, Mr. Markowitz’s work is influenced by his study abroad in Japan and advanced water harvesting workshops in Australia. A frequent guest lecturer and keynote speaker for numerous Landscape Architecture and Rainwater Catchment System Associations, Mr. Markowitz has provided valuable insight into the design of sustainable sites and water conservation systems. In addition to his practice, Bobby Markowitz also teaches “Rainwater Harvesting System: Principles and Design” at Cabrillo College.