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Harvest some rain and save on your bill
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Thankfully, Lake Lanier is in good shape and the drought of 2008 and 2009 appears to be over.

Still, it can’t hurt to keep conserving.

During the last few years, the Extension office has received many calls, questions and suggestions regarding water conservation in the landscape and garden. Some have been good, others perhaps a bit extreme.

One conservation practice in particular can greatly increase the chances that your beloved plants will survive should conditions turn off dry again — rainwater harvesting. Whether in a rain barrel or in a more elaborate collection system, harvesting rainwater can help you save money and your landscape.

The drought called attention to Georgia’s water crisis, and many local residents are now trying to do their part to live "greener" or more sustainable. Rainwater harvesting can be part of the solution.

Just look outside your window the next time it rains and imagine all the water that’s running down your driveway being put to beneficial use in your landscape and garden! Believe it or not, a 1 inch rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof equates to about 600 gallons of water. Just imagine how much water you could capture if you were prepared for it.

More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, but only 2.5 percent of this supply is considered fresh water. The rest is found in the form of salt water in the oceans. Of the fresh water that exists, most is locked up in glaciers and ice caps. Water also can be found in the form of clouds and humidity in the soil. That leaves us less than 1 percent found in the form of lakes, rivers and streams.

Besides helping the environment, an obvious reason for harvesting rainwater is to save money. Depending on the size of your house and the amount of rainfall in your area, you can collect a substantial amount of rainwater with a simple system. This extra water can have a significant effect on your water bill.

Rainwater stored in rain barrels has many uses. For most of us, the primary use is landscape irrigation. You do not need any type of filtration system for landscape uses. You can use it directly from your rain barrel on your garden.

If you’re harvesting rainwater with rain barrels to use for watering your landscaping, the rainwater can help improve the health of your gardens, lawns and trees. Rain is a naturally soft water and devoid of many minerals. Plants simply respond well to rainwater. After all, it’s what plants naturally thrive on!

If you would like to learn more about rainwater harvesting, Hall County Cooperative Extension and Gainesville Public Utilities have invited Sheryl Wells, UGA Landscape Water Management and Engineering Specialist, to present a Rain Water Harvesting Lunch & Learn Workshop on May 20 here in Gainesville. Wells will provide useful information on rain water harvesting for homeowners and gardeners.

For more information, visit www.hallcounty.org/extension.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.

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