People don’t normally think of Seattle as a dry place. Instead of the four seasons that decorate our calendars, here in Seattle, we really just have two: wet and dry. Our mild gloomy, drizzling wet season typically last 9 months and then we’ve got sunny, dry summers. This year, summer started early in May, when we barely missed the record for the driest Spring with no notable rain for thirty days and it went well on into September. Most of this time our rain barrel sat empty.
Rain barrels it seems have become an essential badge, if you will, of eco-conscious liberals everywhere in Seattle. But they do take a lot of work. When we bought this house, one of the first things we did was buy a rain barrel. With our strange roof lines on our old Victorian, it captures approximately a quarter of what falls on our roof. It’s amazing how fast it fills up and is an education in understanding how storm runoff from the built environment of parking lots and roofs is a problem: one good rain and it is overflowing.
We need to empty it by hand, which can take over an hour of intensive watering. I don’t mind too much as it’s relaxing and contemplative, but I’d not want to do the entire yard with this method. We don’t have an overflow system, which means I need to guess when it’s going to rain a lot and I just leave it open to flow into the driveway.I was chatting with my mother the other day, when she asked me, “Why did we stop having cisterns?” It wasn’t that long ago when collecting rainwater was a necessary task for nearly everyone who didn’t live on a creek. It seems we’re having to relearn things that a hundred years ago were common place and for my own part, doing a poor job of it.
Recently, a friend of mine went through a lot of regulatory hassle to build a rain water collection system in a seven-unit infill town home development called The Bridge. Perhaps the greenest building currently in Seattle, among other things, rainwater is collected on the roof and fed into a cistern, which in turns uses the water for the toilets and native landscaping. It’s something, I’d like to be doing on our home, but retro-fitting the Victorian would be almost impossible.
It’s only been within the last year that the State and City have been relaxing the rules on collecting storm-water runoff and it seems like a great time to dig a giant hole in the backyard and install a cistern and pump.
If you’re interested in learning more about The Bridge, word is units are both for rent and possibly still for sale.
Contact: Footprint Development at 206-547-1192. It’s got stunning views of Lake Union from the roof top decks and is an short walk into the center of Fremont.