Every drop counts

I've given lots of lip service to collecting rainwater, but, until now, I'd never actually tried it. So far, I've been really surprised by the results. Just yesterday, my husband and I stretched an enormous tarp over half of the garage roof, so that we might divert some rainwater into a new, 32-gallon garbage can, which, we supposed, would surely take a little while to fill. My garden rain gauge shows a quarter of an inch fell overnight, but our 32-gallon container was already overflowing when we peeked outside this morning. Last night's rain hadn't been a deluge. The water coming from the downspout had been just a thin -- albeit steady - trickle, but, apparently, even a small trickle can add up pretty quickly.

Ironically, while we'd been working on the rain collection setup, a neighbor had come around to ask if one of us would help her remove a hose from the high-powered pressure washer she'd been using on the exterior of her house. We obliged, and, when she saw what we were up to, she looked perplexed. I explained that I planned to use the rainwater on my perennial flower beds and in the water garden, but she still looked bewildered. We're on city water, after all, and we've been paying our bills on time, so why bother? I told her I wanted to save on our monthly water bill, and she seemed to buy that, but, truth is, it probably won't save us much. Water is still pretty cheap in our area -- 1,000 gallons costs just $2.14. Still, it likely won't stay that way.

But there are lots of other good reasons to collect rainwater. Of course, there are also caveats about its use. Rainwater collected from some asphalt-shingled or fungicide-treated roofs, for instance, can contain heavy metals or harmful chemicals, but that's where our protective tarp should come in. Even so, I won't be drinking our rainwater, nor will I water my herbs and veggies with it. Nevertheless, my interest is piqued, and soon, I think, we'll have to replace that teensy trash can with a proper cistern.

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