Rainwater Harvesting, Stormwater Mitigation

Urban runoff is the number one cause of pollution in our lakes, rivers and streams. What’s more, it’s estimated that 50% of a Minnesota home’s water use is for exterior irrigation. We’re buying  municipal water and letting the free water run down the street. Seems like a disconnect.

There are many small things each of us can do to reduce the amount of water leaving our properties and carrying pollutants and excess nutrients through storm drain systems to our beloved lakes. At the Blue Thumb website, www.bluethumb.org, you download a free Guide to Year Round Lawn Care that has many easy-to-implement suggestions for responsible lawn care. Taking it a step further, why not capture the free resource that falls from the sky and use it when we need it? Rainwater harvesting is one technique, and it has the added benefit of capturing and reusing a free natural resource.

There are several ways to capture, store and reuse rainwater. One easy way is by installing a rain barrel. Styles of barrels vary; there’s something for every taste. Important things to look for in rain barrels are: screened lid to keep out debris and prevent mosquito breeding, durable material and overflow pipe to direct water away from your foundation when the rain barrel fills up. Hedberg carries several styles.

Rain Barrel Styles

Different styles of rain barrels.

Rain barrels hold 50-75 gallons of water and your delivery pressure is limited by gravity flow. They are useful for hand watering, bathing the dog, things like that. You can store more water and increase delivery pressure with a RainXchange rainwater harvesting system, plus get a beautiful water feature for your landscape.

RainXchange is an elegant system that allows you to store 500 to 5,000 gallons of water underground and reuse it. The water feature (typically a bubbling rock, fountainscape or pondless waterfall) is the only part visible above ground. It recirculates the water to keep it from getting stale. Using a booster pump, you can tie it into an existing irrigation system and use it for watering your lawn, your garden, washing your car and other higher pressure applications. Some developers filter the captured rainwater and use it for “greywater” applications including toilets and laundry.

RainXchange under patio

The RainXchange system underneath this permeable paver patio stores 3,500 gallons of rainwater. The bubbling rock circulates the water to keep it fresh.

The cost of a RainXchange system installed varies according to the decorative water feature you select to go on top, but for a simple feature the cost is around $5,000 for a 500 gallon system and $8,500 for a 1000 gallon system. In some areas, grants may be available to offest part of the cost of this stormwater BMP. Please check with your local watershed for more information about grants.

Tna Ham Peterson, a participant of last year’s Blue Community Makeover for Diamond Lake in Minneapolis, said, “I like most that I’m going to be able to use rainwater to water my garden and it’s a better way to do things in general. Look at what you can possibly do and think long term verus the short range cost and then think of the benefits you’ll reap over the years.”

Whatever you choose to do, we hope you’ll take advantage of nature’s free resource and reuse it, rather than letting it go down the drain.

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