Pitter patter, pitter patter. The sweet sound of rain, an especially lovely sound in Southern California. I stand in my open doorway, inhaling the scent of rain and wet earth. I am fascinated by the alternating rhythms of the weather, from the gentle drops to a sudden downpour. Suddenly there is the rumble of the thunder and the flashing of lightening. ‘Goodness!’ I think. ‘It’s a storm! How thrilling!’
And in moments, my street is transformed into a rushing river, as the rain dumps on my roof, the sidewalk, the road. Cars maneuver the slick street, windshield wipers clacking furiously. All too soon it is over: the rumbling stops, the rain slows, the torrent is once again a stream. Eventually, all that can be heard is the last of the rain dripping down from trees, rooftops, telephone wires; a car zips down the road, leaving small splashes in its wake.
And while I was relishing the sight, the sound, the smell of that magnificent rain storm, millions of gallons of precious fresh water were being washed to the sea. And swept up along with that water making its way to the ocean, was our great and colorful variety of trash and pollutants: cigarette butts, paper bags, condom wrappers, styrofoam, oil, and the list goes on. The remnants of that rainstorm will be seen on our shores for days to come. The creatures of the sea will feel its effects for much longer.
So, what to do? It is yet one more of the many challenges our environment is facing.
The answer in this case is really rather simple: look at what Nature does. Nature does it perfectly. The rain falls; tumbling onto trees that slow the downpour, and roots that absorb the moisture. It falls onto plants, and onto soil that is rich and permeable. It travels down through the earth replenishing our aquifers. Along the way it is cleaned by the myriad of biological life forms that thrive there. Those aquifers then feed our springs and waterways. On the last leg of the journey, the water evaporates and transpires back up into the atmosphere, where it forms clouds and begins the cycle once more.
So the answer to our challenge is to mimic Nature. So simple. Wherever we live, there is the opportunity to imitate nature’s process, to participate in the act of harvesting our rainwater: easy solutions such as planting trees, getting rid of impermeable surfaces, creating healthier, more absorbent soils, capturing the rain off our roofs into rain-barrels, or diverting it out into the garden where it can soak into the ground.
Imagine what could happen if every site became a mini-watershed? Each lot would capture what rain fell on it, saving it, cleaning it, directing it into our aquifers, participating in the cycle rather than flushing it out to sea? What a difference that could make in our world.
This month, I have the tremendous good fortune to be working with G3 – Green Gardens Group as we join the team working on the LA Rainwater Harvesting Project. This project is a great example of what we need to be doing all across the land: working with communities and homeowners to educate and model what it could look like if each citizen used their property as a healthy functioning watershed that gathers rainwater as a resource rather than wasting it.
Pitter patter, pitter patter. That is the sound of the rain, falling into my garden.