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Several months ago, I heard about the LA Rain Gardens program, which offers “a beautiful rain garden at absolutely no cost” to homeowners who live in a specific area of the Los Angeles basin.

The idea intrigued me, as I feel very strongly about using all available resources wisely—whether those resources involve free services from our government or free water from above.

In this desert area, with its infrastructure hastily built to accommodate the post-WWII housing boom, it is disheartening to see our streets turn into rivers during the rainy season. Untold millions of gallons of fresh rainwater flow down the paved streets (along with a lot of pollutants and trash), eventually emptying out into the ocean and it’s gone. This is precious freshwater that could be saved and used, or at least held in catch basins to percolate down into the soil where it would restore our water table and replenish dwindling aquifers.

Although one person alone may not be able to build giant catch basins to reclaim all that wasted water, each of us has a responsibility to do what we can on an individual level, “dressing and keeping” our little patch of the planet.

One of my long-term goals is to better fulfill that responsibility, but time and money are limiting factors. So if someone is willing assist in that goal “at absolutely no cost,” well then, sign me up!

Fortunately, I happen to live in the right area, and the property met the site requirements, which include:

  • Located within the Northeast San Fernando Valley.
  • Serviced by the DWP
  • Property owner must give his/her authorization for the rain garden
  • Roof must have a well-functioning gutter system (free from holes or obstructions)
  • A minimum of 500 square feet of roof area draining to a downspout which can be redirected to the rain garden (400-500 square feet will be considered on a case-by-case basis)
  • An available area of at least 25 square feet for a rain garden
  • A low to moderately sloped work area (less than 10% grade) sloped away from any structures

The rain garden must:

  • be set back at least 5 feet from structures without a basement (10 feet with basement) and 3 feet from sidewalk
  • receive full or partial sunlight exposure
  • not be located over a septic system
  • be placed to avoid large tree roots

We were compliant. Well, except for the gutters and downspouts, but we could fix that with a few hours’ work. So I applied, gave a few possible times for the site assessment, and waited. And waited. Then I pretty much forgot about it until I got a phone call and an email in late January asking if they could come out and see the property. Of course, they went over the site requirements and I had to admit that we didn’t have all the gutters and downspouts in yet.

Now I am happy to put gutters up—the main reason we don’t have them is that I have been hoping for the perfect copper gutter system to appear at my favorite salvage yard, but they have not yet materialized. But gutters would be helpful, even if they were off-the-shelf gutters. And I am happy to put in downspouts if that’s what they need, but I don’t want to waste time and money putting in downspouts unless they are required. Why? Because what I really want are rain chains.

I love rain chains. I grew up in a city known for its constant downpours, and whenever I’d see a rain chain instead of a downspout, it made me smile. The rain chain is like jewelry for the gutters, taking something totally utilitarian and turning it into something beautiful to see and to hear—instead of hiding the flowing water, a rain chain celebrates it.

But if we must have downspouts to have a free rain garden, fine. I understand why—as part of the installation, all the water will be rerouted into the rain garden via a downspout. So I assured them that we would have gutters and downspouts installed before the site visit. And we did.

A quick trip to the local home improvement store and a morning’s worth of work, and they were in and functional.

And just in case the front yard was not the best spot for the rain garden, I had another spot in mind. So I also added a downspout to the existing gutter on the barn and anticipated the upcoming visit from the LA Rain Gardens assessment team.

Until next time~