Rainwater Harvesting

rainwater_harvesting_swimming_pool_conversionThe reasons why Rainwater Harvesting is gaining attention are many. As the economy tanked, pond manufacturers wondered what would become of the pond world. All of us worked so hard to get ponds into mainstream America. I say “Pond World” because we seem to have developed our own universe stemming from manufacturers, distributors, sales forces, the publishing world, contractors and of course, our customers. Nothing happens unless goods are paid for from the bottom line consumer. As the economy dropped two years ago, so did the number of phone calls received for new pond construction. Many “Pond Only” companies have not survived. Those who did survive attribute it to DIVERISIFICATION! Many pond builders are landscapers by trade and what seems to be keeping companies afloat are tree trimming job, maintenance and what little bit of landscape renovation exists.

I had the opportunity to attend a Tony Robbins type seminar and was told that in this economy, consumers are willing to INVEST money, but not spend it. In other words, things that bring money back to a client’s future pocket book are the things they will spend money on. Things that save them money in the future. Examples of this are things like solar power.

How does this apply to the pond world? Water rates have quadrupled in the past year in Los Angeles alone and no end is in sight for prices to stop climbing the foreseeable future. Water from pond evaporates, thus costing our customers money. But, then so does having a dog (food, vet bills, etc). We must all have our indulgences in life. For some, it’s food, vacations, a hobby or animals. Life is about living and enjoying. Yet, can we see a silver lining in all the challenges life has to offer? We can IF we look for it. Some pond contractors thought life was over when they saw what happened to the economy two years ago and coupled with the drought, this confirmed it was time to retire or find another line of work.

Mary Angle, Frayne McAtee, and Mike Garcia
Mary Angle, Frayne McAtee, and Mike Garcia

Let’s step back and think for a minute what all this means. What tools do pond contractors have? We literally have shovels, rakes, excavators etc. More importantly, we have the knowledge of pumps and liners and pondless waterfall tanks. If we come from a landscape background, we also know plants and drip irrigation. If we think the good ride is over respecting ponds and water gardens, we are probably right (for now). 

There is an emerging world being born as you read this. This is the world of saving water. A majority of the United States is undergoing severe drought. Water bills are escalating. We can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Smart business people will chose to be a part of the solution. Rather than costing our clients money (by using lots of water), we can save them money, by helping them save water. How so? By collecting rainwater for future landscape irrigation reuse. 

At the beginning of the year, I had a swimming pool in my back yard. I live a mile from the beach. Each month, it cost me $$ to heat the pool, run the filtration equipment and keep it clean with chemicals. Let’s not forget the evaporation of water lost each day. The average pool (uncovered) evaporates about 2,400 gallons per year. The cost of having a pool did not make sense to me, considering I live so close to the beach. I decided to take a revolutionary step and fill in my pool with what we in the pond world know as “pondless” waterfall boxes. I installed an autofill to the lower end of the pool and tied my roof drains into the system (to fill it up) and a small pump pushes the water into the drip irrigation I have for my native plants. I predict that instead of needing 12 months of expensive tap water per year, I will only need 1 to 2 months of tap water per year. I am building a new patio on top of the system; thus, my patio will keep my plants alive.

I used to think that this type of work was futuristic, however, I believe that now is the time to learn and begin doing rainwater-harvesting systems on a grand scale. What we are talking about is sustainability. Rather than rainwater going to the ocean and bring with it tons of pollution, we now have the ability to keep runoff out of our oceans and reuse water for irrigation.

Frayne McAtee, a specialist with ProEco Products (who make the pressurized water pump used in the system) said that Rainwater harvesting doesn’t have to use a pool. A collection tank can be smaller and placed anywhere, even under a driveway. Mary Angle, a consultant with EcoRain estimated that I would recoup the $20,000 cost of installing this system in less than six years through water savings. 

I decided to host an event in conjunction with my building the rainwater harvesting system. I invited the local press, politicians, contractors, the water district, municipalities, vendors the CLCA, and potential clients. The local paper ran a big two-page article on the event. Google Mike Garcia/Easy Reader newspaper and you can read the favorable press this event got and the mayor of my town endorsing me as the local source to call when you need this kind of work done, as well as branding me as the go to guy for Rainwater Harvesting in Los Angeles!

Many onlookers came to the event I had in conjunction with building my Rainwater Harvesting system. I did the heavy labor before the event, so the event itself was more of an educational event.

My background is landscaping, so knowing the low water usage plants and drip irrigation is second nature. If you are a pond builder and are not familiar with these two elements, ask yourself this “Why do I leave so much money on the table?” Enrolling in a horticulture class at your local college will pay huge dividends. Rainwater Harvesting is here to stay. Don’t get left behind. Even if you are not interested in putting in an entirely new landscape, perhaps you can save you client money by offering to retrofit their existing sprinklers to drip irrigation, fed by a rainwater harvesting system?

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