Okay, San Diego, we live in a desert and it’s about to rain buckets – so, get out your buckets

by on December 13, 2008 · 9 comments

in Energy, Environment, Ocean Beach, San Diego

SAN DIEGO, CA.  The weather reports for the next few days and week are ominous: wind, rain, hail, and even snow in the local mountains. In other words, a harsh winter storm. There are predictions of from 1 to 3 inches of rain at the coast over the next half week or so, as the rain is supposed to get torrential next Monday through Wednesday.

So what does that mean for us in San Diego?  Remember, we still live in a desert.

Actually, it doesn’t mean much for most of us, living here as we do in paradise. No one, not our local governmental leaders, not our mayor, our city councilmember, not our civic, religious, or community leaders, have prepared us for what to do.  But that is going to change.

It’s about to rain buckets, so, I say, get out the buckets, the barrels, get out anything you can to capture rain water in. Why?

Except for what falls directly over our few reservoirs, San Diego and the rest of Southern California – also in the desert – does not capture any rainwater when it pours.  99.9% of the Great Victoria Waterfall that is about to burst over our collective noggins in the next few days will end up in the ocean. Some, yes, will be absorbed by the land. But, by far, most of the H2O, will simply become run-off and spill into the few streams and rivers that end up in our bays and the Pacific.

We refuse to capture our rainwater and we live in a desert. Amazing.

Beginning this storm, let’s do it differently, and get out the buckets, the barrels, and storage containers. We can then use the captured water for our plants, gardening, landscaping, golf courses, parks, wash down our vehicles.  From now on, we must capture the rainwater.

Not being a rocket scientist, I came upon this idea after the last big storm, a couple of weeks ago.  It rained buckets then, too.  I have a rain gauge affixed to my backyard fence. After that wet 48 hours, it measured 2 and 1/4 inches. That’s a lot.

Then I discovered, that inadvertently, an empty plastic storage container – you know, the kind they sell at the big stores right after Christmas so you can store all the stuff you just got – which had a cut through the lid, had filled up with rainwater. Wow. An entire container with, relatively fresh, clean water.  I then used it to water my garden beds, flowers, and cacti in the backyard.  The lid had kept out all the insects and dirt.

It then occurred to me, that we should all be doing this during rainstorms -capturing the rainwater and using it on our plants and our gardens, at the very least.

I was speaking to a good friend who just returned from a visit to the Virgin Islands. If you’ve never been there, you may not know that, essentially, they’re desert islands, with very little water.  You know what they do?  Every house has rain gutters. When it rains there, it pours, but it only rains heavily during just 3 months of the year. So, they collect and capture their rainwater. The rain gutters run through filters and then into cisterns that safely house the water. Most of the cisterns are below the ground.  But they capture their rainwater. You know why? Because they live on desert islands.

We live in a desert. Capture the rainwater.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Curt Verbose December 14, 2008 at 7:38 pm

A couple of years ago a man came to visit San Diego and speak on the subject of rain. His name is Brad Lancaster, and he wrote a book called Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands. You can probably still purchase the book from the HarvestingRainwater.com web site. Homeowners who live in San Diego need to invest in rain gutters, cisterns, and other methods to conserve water. There’s a myriad of ideas in this book, volume one, for conserving water and converting semi desert into a more lush environment without the use of great volumes of potable water. Look around at the homes in San Diego, and you will find houses w/ out gutters & down spouts, and if the houses are outfitted, the rainwater is directed to the street and away from property. Simply speaking, there are too many people here and not enough rain drops.


Molly December 15, 2008 at 8:46 am

Good points.


Frank Gormlie December 15, 2008 at 1:14 pm

At 1:00 pm, our rain gauge measured .5 inches.
By 2, it had gained another .18 inches – so, over the last hour, it really poured at the coast, at a rate of 4 and a third inches in 24 hours.


Frank Gormlie December 15, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Please see the new post by Doug Porter from today, 12/15


Genie December 16, 2008 at 8:45 pm

This was good, hope many people read it, and got inspired! Sometimes one knows things, but a reminder is so good., thanks


Frank Gormlie December 17, 2008 at 8:33 am

At 8:00 this morning, I checked the rain gauge, mounted on a backyard fence away from rooftops or trees,5 blocks from the Pacific Ocean. It measured 1.70 inches. This is the total for the entire series of storms that began late Sunday night.
10:00 am – 2.06 inches – over 1/4 inch in the last 2 hours.
By 12:30, there’s 2.55 inches. Wow.
By the end of this current series of storms, the gauge registered 2.77 inches early Thursday, 12/18.
It went up to 2.82 inches.


Frank Gormlie December 18, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Don’t forget to cover your buckets, barrels, and containers after you have the rainwater, to prevent mosquitoes from thriving. Once the ground drys out, use the water for your plants or …?


Eugene December 30, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Practiced for centuries by smart desert dwellers, rainwater harvesting is an obvious yet seldom used strategy in the modern southwest. However, with water prices on the rise in the arid west, capturing rainwater to water landscape plants is receiving some overdue attention.


Desert Greens Golf Course January 14, 2009 at 2:23 am

San Diego, we live in a desert and it’s about to rain buckets – so, get out your buckets? Seriously? I was searching Google for desert greens golf course and found this… will have to think about it.


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