On the surface, the news that Sierra snowpack measurements show water content at 81 percent of normal appears to be good news. But the Department of Water Resources (DWA) reports that the economic impacts of the California drought -- now in its third year -- will be devastating.

California’s 3-year drought prompts rain harvesting industry to grow

On the surface, the news that Sierra snowpack measurements show water content at 81 percent of normal appears to be good news. But the Department of Water Resources (DWA) reports that the economic impacts of the California drought — now in its third year — will be devastating.

“Central Valley farm revenue loss is estimated to range between $325 million and $477 million,” according to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California Drought Report. “Total income losses to those directly involved in crop production and to those in business related to crop production is estimated to range between $440 and $644 million.”

The result of the sustained drought, according to the report, will be an estimated loss of 16,200 to 23,700 full-time equivalent jobs.

“The overall water supply situation has not improved enough to make up for the two previous dry years and low reservoir conditions,” says DWR Director Lester Snow. “Water storage is about five million acre feet below average.”

Earlier this year, the governor gave a proclamation that called for Californians to reduce their water usage as a method for immediate water conservation. The growing population in California isn’t helping either.

Since 1990, nine million new residents have inhabited the state,

dramatically increasing the demand for water.                        

To fulfill this need, numerous methods for water conservation are springing up. But the one that is gaining significant attention from business and home owners is one that has been around since the beginning of mankind: rainwater collection.

Tim Pope, president of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA), sees a growing demand for information about harvesting rainwater.

“Rain harvesting is growing tremendously in the United States, especially in California,” said Pope. “California seems to wait for a catastrophe

(drought) before it goes after a cause like collecting rainwater.”

Pope recently led a two-day rainwater harvesting workshop in San Francisco, where demand for education is particularly high. The workshop prepares individuals and business owners for the ARCSA accredited professional test for rain harvesting.

Robert Lenney and John Lewis, owners of Rain Harvesting Systems (RHS), were amazed at the overwhelming response to the workshop.

“The class maxed out weeks ahead of time, “said Lenney. ” I just couldn’t believe that there were so many people interested in rain collection.”

The administrative office of ARCSA also notes an increase in interest in California for rainwater collection. “Our membership base in California grew to become our second largest state, behind Texas, in 2008,” reports ARCSA’s Sharon Mineo.

Lenney and Lewis install rain harvesting systems throughout Northern California for homeowners interested in collecting the raindrops that land on their roofs. They specialize in above ground rain collection systems and use the roof of a building structure as the primary catchment source.

“I think collecting rain is a unique method for conserving water,” says Lewis. “Our customers don’t just collect rain for the financial benefit, they also do it because it makes them feel better about reducing the demand on local water agencies.”

George Vega, a customer of Rain Harvesting Systems says he really enjoys using rainwater for outdoor use.

“When I use the harvested rainwater for my plants and garden, I feel good that I am not using city and county water, especially during this drought year. Also, as a Battalion Chief Firefighter for 32 years, I know the importance of storing water to prepare for disasters and emergency times.”

Janet Thew, the Loomis California Planning Commissioner, who had RHS install a rain collection system in 2008, is also impressed.

“You’d be surprised at just how much rainwater is running off your roof every year, and how easy it is to harvest some of that water for your needs.

Saving rainwater is a priority of ours, and we believe it will become a bigger and bigger priority for everyone as the population increases and droughts continue.”

Lenney says that collecting rain is becoming more popular as the California drought continues.

“Since rainwater is free, why not capture it and use it for whatever needs you have?” said Lenney, who also expects that water agencies in the state may soon start offering rebates for installing rain harvesting systems.

Currently Lenney and Lewis are installing a 20,000 gallon rain harvesting system in the quaint town of Monte Sereno in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“The city’s building department said we were the first to approach them with permit questions about rain collection systems,” said Lenney. “The customer wants this system to reduce the burden on our planet and in the event of an earthquake he’ll have emergency water. 20,000 gallons saves energy because the water agency doesn’t have to pump it to his house, and it also reduces the carbon footprint because the electrical company doesn’t have to burn as much coal to produce the electricity to pump that water.”

RHS is installing four 5,000-gallon rainwater tanks to achieve the 20,000 gallon capacity. The Northern California company that makes the tanks also reports a growing interest in rainwater collection.

“Over the past six months, we have seen a considerable increase in the inquiries for rainwater collection systems, water tanks and system components,” said Guy Giordanengo, vice president of the Water Tank Company in Windsor, California. “Especially in counties such as Marin that levy heavy fines against municipal water customers who violate their allocation of water during periods of mandatory water rationing.”

Bill Monroe, a Boulder Creek resident, who recently had a 5,000-gallon rain collection system installed, said the drought was his primary motivation.

“I plan to be as prepared for the worst of the drought as possible by using a drip system and managing my water wisely. My rainwater storage will hopefully get me through any future rough spots.”

One of the main components in all of Rain Harvesting Systems is the use of a first stage filter called Gutterglove Gutterguard, which allows only clean, filtered rainwater to be captured. The fine stainless steel mesh of Gutterglove keeps out all of the leaves, pine needles, seed pods and even sand out of the gutter and rain tank.

Lenney and Lewis are also the inventors of the US Patented Gutterglove gutter protection system and are even considering offering their company for acquisition to spend more time in the rain harvesting industry and other ventures.