While we think of runoff coming mostly from our streets and parking lots, there's another impermeable surface out there that collectively accounts for hundreds of thousands of gallons of runoff water each year: rooftops. Every time it rains water runs off our roofs, down the gutters, into the street, and down our stormdrains collecting oil, bacteria, and other contaminants along the way.
There is an easy and attractive solution that not only reduces runoff pollution but stores that water for later use in the garden when things dry out again.
While an online search for rain barrels usually comes up with an array of industrial plastic barrels (usually blue), there are many materials that can be bought and/or customized to collect and save the water for future use. Recycled oak whiskey and wine barrels,
glazed ceramic pottery, and hand painted recycled metal oil barrels are just a few ideas that are not only useful but make great focal points in the garden. Drill a few holes, add a spigot and a leaf screen and you can turn any of these containers into a working rain barrel.
For an even less industrial look, rather than hooking your rain barrel d
irectly to a downspout, copper rain chains can be fixed to the roofline gutters to direct water into the barrel and give an even more decorative look to your water collection system.
For those wanting to get really serious about rainwater storage, you might consider installing a cistern (the underground type are least visually invasive) which uses a pump to distribute water and can save hundreds of gallons of rainwater at a time.
Check out http://www.harvesth2o.com/
for more resources and great information about rainwater harvesting and graywater around the country.