Napa County will soon seek home and business owners willing to set up gardens and barrels to harvest rainwater, and the project could become a model for other California cities.
The county’s Flood Control and Water Conservation District is preparing a $250,000 grant program to reimburse residents who create landscaping and rain basins. Results of the program will be sent to the state Department of Water Resources to help determine water harvesting’s potential in fighting pollution, according to Deborah Elliott, a specialist for the Napa County Water Resources Division.
Officials will provide grants for three years — as much as $1,500 to homeowners and $5,000 to businesses while monitoring how effective the water harvesting is in cutting water pollution in the county’s rivers and streams.
Rebates are expected to become available as early as mid-January, Elliott said. Residents and businesses must be located within the Napa River watershed to be eligible for the grants.
Napa County’s grant package stems from Proposition 84, the 2006 ballot measure that authorized $5.38 billion in state bonds to counties and cities for water quality, flood control and other improvements. Board members of the Napa County agency approved the rainwater harvesting program last week.
Those taking part in the pilot can use grant money to pay for rain gardens, landscaped areas near buildings that capture runoff from roofs and pavement. Water flows toward a ground depression filled with flood-tolerant plants, which absorb pollutants that otherwise would wash into nearby streams or storm drains.
Though finding space for a rain garden can be more difficult in urban areas, Elliott, a water resources specialist, remained hopeful the program would find takers even inside cities.
“Rain gardens can be quite small, we’ll have a minimum size of 25 square feet, but they certainly don’t have to take up a lot of landscape,” she said. “It’s just about directing water from downspouts into a small area where it can sink into the soil. It can be scaled to the size of the land people have available.”
Participants also can use the rebates to set up barrels or cisterns to collect water from downspouts and other rain channels. Mosquito screens will be required for collection basins to prevent the insects from breeding. Sponsors also recommend emptying the containers within 72 hours after a rainstorm ends.
The Napa County conservation district also has applied for more state funds for a similar rain harvesting campaign in the Putah Creek watershed, according to Elliott.