Home NEWS Local Scene Pleasant Hill Urban Farm Folk Gather, Install Rain Catchment System

Pleasant Hill Urban Farm Folk Gather, Install Rain Catchment System

Hanging on to some of this rain we're getting. Photo: Pamela Dunn

The ground is a mite soggy but that didn’t deter organizers and fans of Rodgers Ranch Urban Farm from grabbing a shovel and doing a little digging in Pleasant Hill on Sunday.

Off-gridders and out-of-the-box thinkers always looking for a new and better way have been learning on the job this past week as friends of the farm gathered to install a demonstration rain catchment system in the hope that homeowners can see how easy it is to capture all that precious rainwater sluicing off our roofs.

Supporters (and, yes, we’ve done this ourselves and it works) have spent their Sundays digging collector swales and trenching and hooking up gutters and downspouts to a daisy-chained array of 55-gallon drum cisterns.

And those who have been without water for their rapidly browning landscaping know it’s nice to have a backup supply around when you need it. It’s not just great for gardeners (seeds and seedlings germinate faster and healthier plus compost and vermicompost responds faster and with higher concentrations of good bacteria and fungi) but its also an invaluable source of emergency water in case of earthquake or extended power outages.

Being “Plan B”-types ourselves, we understand the approach.


  1. Put ours in about 4 years ago when we first started talking about this. You have to work to make it more than PVC and blue barrels but it can be done and it can blend into your landscape. Always nice to have something in reserve.

  2. I like the idea, but I don’t understand how it can be practical. I assume these “cisterns” are above-ground barrels. Even so, how do you distribute the water to your landscape or garden as a practical matter, if much of the landscape is at equal or higher elevation? It sounds like a lot of bucket work and a lot of unattractive barrels. We have 6 months of rain when we don’t often need the capacity and 6 months of no rain when the capacity is pitifully small.

    I am considering trying 1 barrel, but I can only imagine it being useful in late fall or late spring when I might need to supplement scant rainfall with bucket watering. Not enough capacity for anything more.

  3. David, you’re absolutely correct that 220 gallons won’t water a 3000 square foot garden for long, even with a gravity feed system and swales. What is does for us in spades, however, is give us enough rainwater to start seeds, uppot seedlings, and keep our compost and vermicompost operations at peak performance for most of the year. And that little ditty about having an emergency water supply (of course, with water filtration hand pump) helps justify it too. And to make the barrels more attractive, we’ll have schoolkids paint them. Some of the barrel artwork we’ve seen is quite attractive.

  4. These are great to have around. Put ours on a hillside so they could gravity water our lower yard and garden beds. HUGE savings on the water bill. there are above ground and below ground containers. You have to come up with a design that fits your yard.

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