It is great to hang out with activists.  My friend Judy Adler has almost single handedly created a new California initiative, Proposition 72 on the November ballet, that will help gardeners with water conservation.

Workers installing cisterns in water conserving California garden; design Urban Water Group

The Rain Water Capture Bill will promote rainwater harvesting and cisterns for gardeners who want to become more self-reliant on water for their gardens. Voter approval is needed on the ballot initiative since it can be seen to affect property values.

Specifically, Proposition 72 is a California constitutional amendment to authorize the Legislature to exclude rain water capture systems completed on or after January 1, 2019 from being classified as new construction that would result in a reassessment of the property.

Judy Adler has long advocated for cisterns and has her own above ground 11000 gallon system for water storage.  As an environmental activist, outdoor education teacher, and sustainable gardener she knows gardeners often feel guilty using municipal water, and have seen their garden suffer during recent droughts.  “It is about being self-reliant, reducing demand on drinking water and helping the environment.”

The way she sees it, water capture systems should be common in our summer dry climate, and with a bit of encouragement help she sees a cottage industry creating jobs for roofers, plumbers, and garden maintenance companies.

Stone garden installing cisterns in water conserving Southern California garden; design Urban Water Group

Cisterns became quite popular in Australia following the “millennium drought” in the 2000s after the government offered tax rebates, and perhaps we will get to that point here, but as Judy say: “This is something that isn’t just about saving money. It’s about doing the right thing”.

Small cisterns and rain barrels do not collect enough water to put much of a dent in water needs, and larger systems might require building permits and thus trigger a property value reassessment, creating higher taxes for the homeowner who is only trying to help save water.

Judy approached her local congressman, Steve Glazer, D–Orinda, who sponsored the bill to get the initiative 2018 November ballot. “People shouldn’t pay a tax penalty for conserving water”, says Glazer “and it worked for solar.”

And if Prop 72 passes homeowners will not be penalized for harvesting their own rain of their own roofs.

More photos of water harvesting, rain gardens, and percolation systems in this PhotoBotanic Gallery.

Rainwater cisterns connected to gutter in small space backyard garden




    • It’s really a very small start Kathy, and only applies to retrofit, butI do believe the day will come when homes should incorporate water capture.

  1. Doesn’t water capture simply deplete the water table and make the drinking water problem worse? Wouldn’t it be better to build gardens that don’t need water?

    • Marsha – water Capture on a homeowner scale generally prevents water from running off roofs into gutters and into the storm drains. Indeed, many municipal storm water and sewer Districts eagerly embracing this idea as a management tool for when storms arrive. Little of this water actually percolates into ground water, though we should certainly incorporate rain gardens as part of the water capture ethos, to keep water on the site for the native ecosystem.

      It is very very hard to create gardens that do not need water in our summer dry climate. It is certainly possible but such gardens usually look very tired later in the summer and the reality is most gardeners, even the most responsible ones, want to have plants that are low water use, not know what you’re use


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