R308: Rainy Day in Droughtland California

Early this morning I stood in the rain waving signs and grinning with the city council candidate I have been campaigning for this season. This was the morning commute crowd we hoped to inspire. We were absolutely soaked to the skin. But, it made for exhilarating conversation. I loved having this opportunity to talk with this candidate about the election, her goals and opinions and my own sustainability visions. There is nothing like adversarial conditions to bond people.

She and her husband had missed the picture of Obama standing in the rain in Chester, PA. I emailed it to them when I returned home.

Just now I walked my absentee ballot over to the elementary school (polling place) after having breakfast at my kid’s place. His friend joined us. The place was dead at lunchtime, but they said it had been busy before work. This morning I heard that at least 1/3 of area voters use absentee ballots. I was happy to see it was all paper ballots. My son got scolded because he shoved the ballot sleeve into the ballot box along with his ballot. We gave him a rough time. The mood was so happy at the polling place. This election has been a real killer and the emotional price is high. I know I’m not alone with this.

But like rain in this drought, I am longing for the welcome relief of sating my thirst for justice, hope, healing and respect to return to my community and my country. The global realities are desperate and the mendacious men in power must be ousted. It is a waiting game . . .

Meanwhile I turn to this post I spotted two months ago about calculating how much rainwater I might collect off my roof. I will use the rounded figures of 10” per year rainfall and my roof size approximately 250 square feet.

Just multiply the square footage of roof space you have available X 0.6 gallons per square foot per inch of rain, and you can see how much water you can collect from each inch of rain that falls.

The formula: roof sf x .06 gallons per square inch of rain = total rain collected

250 sf x .6 = 150 gallons

Today if my small roof could be used as hypothetical example, it could collect one tenth of that because only one tenth of an inch fell. That would be 15 gallons. *sigh* But, that is 15 gallons of water to be used in the garden or to wash my driveway. That’s 15 fewer gallons to pay or use from the dwindling town water supply.

My area only averages 10 inches a year, but that means every drop is more precious. Yet, it isn’t like I have wasted much water by failing to get my rain barrel and eaves up by now.

On average, Americans use about 69 gallons of water per person per day for bathing, cooking, cleaning and flushing toilets - and is just for indoor water use and does not account for any watering/car washing going on outside. That amounts to about 2,100 gallons a month for each person.

I took a look at my water usage. If one cubic foot equals 7.48 gallons, then 1 cubic foot x 100 (the measurement used on my billing) equals 748 gallons. I use about 1 cubic foot x 100 each month or 748 gallons. Dividing that by 30 days equals 25 gallons of water per day.

The numbers are intriguing. I use very little in comparison to the national average it seems. The water I could capture at the roof either in a rain barrel or in green roof plantings would be a wise use of a precious resource. Conserving is still my best bet and I strive to save water by taking ‘navy’ showers, flushing only when necessary, using dishwater at the garden or trees (infrequently) and turning the water off when brushing my teeth. Oh yes, and cleaning far less frequently than I used to do. To use my mother’s expression, I give things a lick and a promise rather than frequent deep cleaning. It doesn’t feel as good, but I am making adjustments over time.

Rain has become such a different thing for me. It holds the promise of life, growing and refreshment, while remaining a powerful threat around the world. In just this country this year the Midwest floods, Hurricane Gustav are just two of the many water related disasters. And drought is the other end of the spectrum. I stare at the huge lake outside my door (damn city won’t fix the problem) and muse about water, wasting water and wishing for water. This is our new oil – water.

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