In an ideal world or on a bigger lot, I’d have a huge rain barrel system to collect rainwater from a variety of sources. Since that’s not possible on my tiny lot, we’ve done what we could by diverting the water from the downspouts to various places in the yard.
We’ve done this by utilizing perforated pipe hooked to the existing downspout. The concept is simple, a chunk of non-perforated flexible pipe is hooked to the downspout (so that water isn’t seeping close to the foundation of the house) then the perforated pipe is hooked to that and snaked farther into the yard, away from the house.
In the backyard there are three downspouts. Two of them edge the back patio with about 20′ of perforated pipe which end at the Japanese Maple tree which is very happy for the extra water. Another, on the far side of the back yard, edges the path and spreads water for about 10 feet of perforated pipe.
In the front yard we did something different. We piped from the downspouts, under the courtyard patio and feed both downspouts to the dry creekbed which, in the rainy season, isn’t so dry. In this way much of the water that flows off the roof actually stays on site and benefits the garden.
One additional thing we have done is to replace the solid cement driveway with pavers. The pavers are not sealed so rainwater is allowed to soak down in-between the pavers and stay on site rather than having it all run down to the street gutters.
From a design standpoint, I wanted a dry creek bed in the front yard. From a conservation standpoint, I wanted it to do double-duty so we decided to set it up in such a way as to not only collect rain in the creek bed but to also feed the water runoff from the downspouts. (Read more about how we collect roof runoff.)
Before digging I used garden hoses to lay out an approximate design. My fearless husband dug for several days to give us a creek bed approximately 15 feet long and with a depth that ranges from six inches to about 2 and 1/2 feet. All the dirt removed was used to make berms throughout the rest of the front yard.
Both downspouts from the front of the house feed into the top of the creek bed from 4inch flexible pipe with a grate on the end. Before the rainy season we make sure the grate is free of leaves. I confess the first year we had it we ran outside once it had been raining for a while to watch the creek fill up with water. Now that it has been in for a few years the water doesn’t often come up above the rocks but when it does, it soaks back down fairly quickly.
As you look through the photos you’ll notice (perhaps) that the first version of the creek bed didn’t look very realistic. I just didn’t quite grasp the concept and as a result, we filled it up with rocks of all one size and it just looked like a big flat ribbon of rock or maybe a drainage ditch but nothing like the creek bed in my head. We took out a bunch of the rocks, added boulders and, as you can see, the final result is much more realistic. At the very top of the creek bed is a pondless water feature, otherwise known as an in-the-ground swimming pool for the birds. As always, click on any photo to see it larger.