a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Our co-housing community received a shipment of rain barrels a couple weeks ago. I bought 2 for now and will probably add a couple more. They are made from recycled barrels by a local manufacturer, Mark Ray (919-636-1690). They are screened to keep out insects and have a hose hook up and overflow spout. Rain Barrels make a lot of sense and they are easy to install under a gutter spout. Even a brief rain shower can send gallons of water off of a roof and into your barrel in just a few minutes. They each hold 55 gallons of water (larger barrels are readily available).

That sounds like a lot these days considering our daily usage during this unprecedented, 6-month drought that has left trees dead and water reservoirs at or below 50% capacity. We’ve learned to live boat-wise and I have to say, it’s not all that bad, once you get used to it. We each get one flush a day (ask me how!), take super-short Navy-style showers with the faucet turned to half force and wash dishes camping style. I might even say it’s been fun in a challenging way. We’ll get some rain today and hopefully pull out of the extreme dryness sooner than later. Still, my family will always stick to our water-saving ways since climate change and growing populations will continue to stress fresh water supplies. In other words, Evolve or Die.

Harvesting rain water is not a new idea. There are many low and high-tech systems now available for homeowners, farmers and commercial businesses. And once you’ve filled your tank, the experts can show you how to reuse and recycle your water for indoor or outdoor use and even as an alternative to conventional septic systems. For more information, visit Integrated Water Strategies at

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