I got my rain barrels yesterday, and I'm so excited about it I can hardly contain myself. This week my master gardener class was blessed to be educated by Billy Kniffen, a retired Agrilife Extension agent who specializes in rainwater usage. His entire house is run solely on rainwater, in Texas no less, and he was such a fun speaker! He gave us loads of ideas and simple activities to do in our yards and with kids, including a great idea for making a garden dripper that drips one drop per second, using less than a gallon of rainwater per day. The sound of dripping water draws birds to your garden and a 55 gallon drum of rainwater will power it for almost 2 months. Now I just need to get them hooked up. I'm looking forward to lowering my water bill!
Another subject we discussed about rainwater was building a rain garden. We all have areas in our yards that have standing water, and the solution our irrigation company used was to put in French drains and channel the water into the creek. Not necessarily the most beneficial way to handle it, although I didn't realize this at the time. It simply moves the water into stormwater catchment, but doesn't help replenish the groundwater. For that, we need it to percolate down through the soil.
A rain garden is a low area that collects water after a rain and contains plants that help the water percolate and drain. It may have an area with river rock, and then plants that can handle a feast or famine watering schedule. The soil should be loamy and have good drainage, so you can't just take an area with clay soil and expect it to drain. There's some work involved. But - which would you rather have in your yard - this:
Side benefit - no mowing! This is now on my to-do list for this year. I'm going to get rid of some of these drains.
The more I explore this the more I realize it's a change in how we look at things. Instead of the water being an inconvenience that we need to address, it's an opportunity to add something enjoyable to our yard.
So while I haven't started washing my clothes in a galvanized tub in the back yard, and I don't have solar panels or a windmill to help generate a portion of my electricity, I think I've lightened my footprint.