Our western waterways

The Arroyo Seco in South Pasadena
The Arroyo Seco in South Pasadena in early April 2019

As you move further west in the country, water becomes all the more scarce, and thus its sources become all the more precious. Yet the relationship between water’s preciousness and how it has been treated through our infrastructure is really an inverse one – especially in California. While water is gold here, its sources, and the rivers and streams that carry it, have been treated like nothing more than garbage – the above photo a case in point, which we snapped while taking a hike through Nature Park in South Pasadena. While there are indeed many efforts to improve our stormwater retention, daylight channelized rivers, and expand rainwater harvesting efforts, we cannot stop there. It behooves us as a state to treat water as the precious giver of life that it ultimately is, on all levels and in all ways.

John Kamp

Rain barrels need not be an aesthetic afterthought


Photo from the LA Times of less-than-aesthetically-appealing rain barrel

One of the simplest ways to reduce irrigation costs and conserve water is to install a rain barrel (or two or three) on site. The barrels can then capture a portion of the rainwater that runs through your downspouts. While we think the trend is fantastic and impeccably simple (namely because it is old technology revived after 80 years of thinking freshwater supplies were infinite), we do not buy into the belief that because one is doing good by installing a rain barrel that you should just accept that the barrels are ugly. This is the lazy line of reasoning that leads to scrubby native-plant-only gardens (re: you should overlook the fact that the garden is a botanical hot-mess-up because it is ALL NATIVE. Repeat: ALL NATIVE), and that leads to bad vegan desserts (re: you should overlook the rubbery texture of this brownie becase it is VEGAN. Repeat: VEGAN).


Rain barrel by CFC Rain Barrels of Minneapolis; observe: paint matches house

Doing good should not require taking a hit in the aesthetic or taste department. Thus, if the client wishes to capture some of their rainwater on site, then it is our job to integrate that wish into a cohesive design solution for the site and not cop out and respond that you will have to settle for an obtrusive black plastic barrel on the side of your house. And fortunately, there are places like CFC Rain Barrels of Minneapolis that have devised seemless designs that house each barrel in a mini wooden shed, whose paint color and style match those of the house or building it is adjacent to. A few of these on one’s property and you reduce your need for irrigation, reduce your water bills, and no one notices the barrels one bit.

On capturing rainwater in an arid climate such as LA’s: click here.