Category: At Home (Page 1 of 6)

Planting Rain

Rain garden in use. Credit:

It has been a wet winter. Over 40″ of rain has fallen at my home since October 1, 2016. On my quarter acre lot, that accounts for approximately 268,000 gallons of water, or enough to sustain my needs for 3-6 years (daily use averaging between 118 and 213 gallons per day). Note: one inch of water on a square foot of land is 0.623 gallons.

By installing a swale and a rainwater infiltration trench in my front yard, I am planting rain.

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Catch Every Drop to end CA Drought

“Groundwater, the supply of water in underground aquifers that serves as a savings account of sorts during dry years, is still low and getting lower due to overpumping.” – Peter Gleick, chief scientist and president emeritus of the Pacific Institute

Poster from WWD’13 – India

Take it from the experts, despite epic rainfalls with feet of water falling from “Atmospheric Rivers” the west coasts’ equivalent to a hurricane, parts of California will still have to conserve water.

What? How?

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Installing AquaBlox into an Infiltration Trench

AquaBlox installed in trench.

The installation part of my infiltration trench took about an hour. Compared to the testing, designing, researching, site preparation and digging phase of the project, installing the AquaBlox was the easiest and quickest part of the entire project.

This is the second to last article in this “infiltration trench” series but it is the most important. Read on to see how to install two large AquaBlox and get the most out of the rainwater that falls on your roof.

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Digging an infiltration trench

As a followup from our site preparation post, lets focus on following our design for an infiltration trench and actually dig one in. We left off with having dug up a birch tree stump which should leave us with enough room to put the dirt from the trench.

Start trench at least 10 feet from house foundation.

Start trench at least 10 feet from house foundation.

The infiltration trench is designed to allow rainwater from the roofs’ gutters to flow into an underground chamber and then overflow to the street. This will provide the rainwater from the roof a chance to percolate into the ground first before contributing to storm water runoff. This example has been taken from “Capturing Urban Runoff At Home – Part 1“.

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Site preparation for an infiltration trench

Root rot is the vertical section to the right of the photo.

Birch tree root rot.

Before digging the actual infiltration trench, I need to do some site preparation. I had a birch tree which suffered from root rot and it had to be removed both for the safety of nearby structures and the tree was dying. My goal with this project was to:

  • dig out old tree roots and stumps
  • remove black plastic weed barrier under top soil
  • repair old irrigation lines
  • remove enough debris to make room for trench dirt.

In this photo article, I’ll show you how I managed to complete this part of the project. All work was done by hand, except for a little chainsaw work. Click photos for full size.

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Aquablox – a viable alternative to drainage gravel

AquaBlox with a 95% void.

AquaBlox with a 95% void.

When filling a trench or building an underground cistern, there are a few options: drainage gravel sporting a 33% void or a plastic modular system with a 95% void.

While seeking maximum storage potential, drainage gravel just won’t cut it.

Luckily, Atlantis manufactures a plastic modular system called D-Raintank and sold through a partner vendor named AquaScape Inc who calls them AquaBlox. There are two sizes – small and large and are available from the local Ewing Irrigation store or available in bulk if a project needs it.

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Designing an infiltration trench

Eventual design from a Rainwater Harvesting book.

Eventual design from a Rainwater Harvesting book.

If you have been following along recently, you will have learned that Rainwater is the fountain of life, that you have the ability to Reduce Urban Runoff. The City of Santa Monica has a program designed specifically to Capture Urban Runoff with a guide and a worksheet to build the best rainwater capturing system for your site. You will heave learned that drainage gravel takes up considerable space in the ground, perhaps there are better options available?

“Whether you have a gardening green thumb or solar panels on your roof, capturing rainwater at home is the next logical step towards our natural resource independence.”

Our latest article in this series discussed placing a rainwater infiltration basin in an area away from underground utilities, on or near current drainage piping and away from high trafficked areas. With every project it is a good idea to draw up some design plans which we can utilize to properly build our system.

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How to: Where to Build a Rainwater Infiltration Basin

In our article titled “Why do we talk about rainwater harvesting?”,  8 principles of rainwater harvesting are discussed, as noted from the book titled “Rainwater Harvesting For Drylands and Beyond” written by Brad Lancaster.

These principles are:

  • Begin with Long and Thoughtful Observation
  • Start at the Top – or Highpoint – of Your Watershed and Work Your Way Down
  • Start Small and Simple
  • Spread and Infiltrate the Flow of Water
  • Always Plan for an Overflow Route, and Manage That Overflow Water as Resource
  • Maximize Living and Organic Groundcover
  • Maximize Beneficial Relationships and Efficiency by ‘Stacking Functions’
  • Continually Reassess Your System: The ‘Feedback Loop’

These principles were put to use to find the best place on my property to build an infiltration basin.

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Capturing Urban Runoff at Home – Part 2

ur_worksheetFirst part of this series covers different design ideas for handling urban runoff on single family, multi-family and commercial developments. This is part 2.

Continuing from the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Management Program, this section covers their worksheet for a variety of construction activity or for voluntary participation.

Check with your local city to determine their stormwater treatment requirements on new or redeveloped construction. In some cases, changing 2,500 sq ft of pervious ground to 2,500 sq ft of impervious ground can trigger the need for stormwater treatment construction at the job site. The Federal Clean Water Act, enforced by the State Regional Water Boards mandates this requirement. In many cases, a regional “Municipal Regional Permit” will hold the design requirements for following through.

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Capturing Urban Runoff at Home – Part 1

City of Santa Monica Urban Runoff Management Program

City of Santa Monica URMP

In the southern California city known for its nice beaches and celebrity homes, Santa Monica has an Urban Runoff Management Program aimed to reducing runoff from polluting Santa Monica Bay.  In a city Ordinance Chapter 7.10 that was designed to reduce 0.75″ of rainfall leaving all “impermeable surfaces of all newly developed parcels within the City. … also specifies guidelines for existing properties to reduce the level of contaminants that are carried by urban runoff into the Bay.”

In their Urban Runoff Management Program brochure, they expand upon Best Management Practices for reducing urban runoff pollution. Information includes “increasing the percentage of permeable surfaces and landscaped areas by”:

  1. porous materials that will increase the amount of runoff that seeps into the ground, rather than being carried into storm drains
  2. natural drainage
  3. filtration pits
  4. swales, berms, green strip filters, gravel beds and french drains.

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