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LA Kicks Off Program to Retrofit Houses to Catch Thousands of Gallons of Rainwater

If this winter comes along with a heaping side of El Niño, Los Angeles is going to have a wet one. If we could just save up some of that water, we might be able to cut back on the amount of water we use from other sources, like reservoirs, which would certainly be helpful in the middle of California's long drought. A new project launching today will do just that, outfitting houses (just one at first) with "high- and low-tech" additions like a rain-capturing roof, a giant cistern, and a "rain garden" designed to help store water as well as gradually replenish groundwater, says a release for the pilot.

The pilot of the LA StormCatcher Project—a collaboration of the LA Department of Water and Power, the Bureau of Sanitation, the LA County Flood Control District, and the nonprofit TreePeople—begins today with a single-family house in North Hollywood. As part of the pilot, the house has had 900 square feet of its roof redone in a way that will capture an estimated 7,000 gallons of rainwater "in an average year"; added a 1,320-gallon "smart cistern" that will anticipate rain, improve water quality, and adjust its collection settings to avoid overflowing while also getting the most irrigation possible; and put down a garden that will be watered by the cistern, returning water to underground aquifers in the process.

The pilot will extend to up to 10 houses, but, notes a rep for TreePeople, "If one out of every four homeowners in LA County became stewards in this way, our region could capture billions more gallons annually." Los Angeles has a whole host of large- and small-scale ideas for sucking up more rainwater before it flows through the streets and into the ocean, including big recapture projects in the Valley and the transformation of streets into water-catching green streets.