Thursday, May 27, 2010

What Do We Do With The Rain?

Mars and I got a rain barrel last weekend. It was a free gift for enlisting in our town's "Energy Challenge".

How much water does it collect?

I asked that very question of the woman who was dispensing them at our town's transfer station. She turned out to be the "Rhode Island Water Lady" and Southern New England Marketing Representative for The Great American Rain Barrel Company.

Querying her about collecting precipitation is like asking the author Alex Haley about his family's history. Her data came at me faster and in more detail than I could handle -- wanted PowerPoint, got Excel.

Plus, because her numbers were so much larger than what I expected (I was thinking something along the lines of 1" = 1") my brain went into automatic propaganda protection mode. IF I wasn't going to believe her anyway, why did I need to understand what she was saying? Besides, I figured if I really cared then I could get the actual numbers somewhere on the World Wide Web -- such as, of course, the water education section of the website.

"For every inch of rainfall that falls on a catchment area of 1,000 sq. ft. you can expect to collect approximately 600 gallons of rain water. Your roof catchment area is equal to the total square feet of your house (one story) plus the extension of your eaves. To calculate the square footage of your home's catchment area, measure the outside walls of your home, including the overhang of any eaves. Multiply the width times the length of your home to get the total roof catchment area. Let's say your home has a roof catchment area of 2,000 sq. feet. Since one inch of rainfall provides approximately 600 gallons of water for a 1,000 sq. ft catchment area, you could collect 1200 gallons during a 1" rain."

Actually, I think, that is pretty much what the RIWL told me -- only she did it much faster and with considerably more passion.

The barrel holds sixty gallons. Last week we had a one-day rainfall totaling three-quarters of an inch according to our rain gauge. I unscrewed the rain barrel top and looked inside. It was seventy-five percent full.

Wethersfield, Connecticut (our town) averages forty-four inches of rain per annum -- slightly more than three and one half inches of precipitation, AND an equal number of barrels-full of water, per month.

99.9% of the vegetation upon which I would shower my newly saved precipitation will receive that same three-point-five directly from nature.

Most of this greenery happens to be perennials that are native to our neck of the woods, and therefore already geared to survive on this local precipitation pattern (accidental Xeriscaping). I have probably watered those plants no more than five times in as many years.

The nine or ten arrangements of annuals that Mars pots up each year will, combined, take one watering can full every other day -- unless it rains. And the six tomato plants perhaps another one. Quick math and intuition tells me that we are going to be collecting way, way more H2O than we can possibly use.

I haven't checked but I don't think you are allowed sell water back to the grid.

As another goodie from the "Energy Challenge" we received a home energy audit that included replacing our old incandescent bulbs with the new, low energy/really slow-to-ignite compact fluorescent lighting. Mars and I now arrive at the top of the stairs several minutes before the luminescence to light our way kicks in enough to actually light our way. Sometimes, for fun, I flip the switch on, and race up the steps to see if I can scale all of them while it is still dark.

Unfortunately that uses up a lot of my energy. And it makes me all sweaty and thirsty -- conditions that, according to the instructions that came with the barrel, I am advised not to tend to with collected rainwater.

Kermit the Frog is right, "It's not easy being green."

No comments: