Los Angeles will begin distributing repurposed soda syrup barrels this weekend that capture rainwater for home irrigation of plants and gardens during drought-stricken California's dry spell.
One thousand 45- and 55-gallon barrels will be distributed to preserve rainwater as California municipalities look for ways to reduce drought-related problems in a state entering its fourth-consecutive dry year. The repurposed syrup barrels, donated to Keep Los Angeles Beautiful by the Coca-Cola company, will collect water that can be used to irrigate lawns and gardens.
The free barrels are available only to Los Angeles residents who registered for rain harvesting seminars -- all of which sold out. The barrels will be distributed over five sessions in different parts of the city, beginning Saturday at Los Angeles Valley College. Other sessions are scheduled for Nov. 22 and Dec. 6, and dates for two remaining sessions have yet to be announced.
Barrel recipients will learn how to install a rain barrel and other "water harvesting" methods. Homeowners will then collect rainwater that falls on roofs and flows through gutters to the rain barrels' delivery spouts. The barrels have a tap near the base that can be opened to release the harvested water.
Residents who did not receive a free barrel as part of the pilot program can check out a do-it-yourself guide, courtesy of NBC4 radio partner KPCC.
How much rain will be collected as part of the program depends on this season's rainfall -- a rarity last winter as the state endured its driest year since California began measuring rainfall in 1849. A home with an approximately 1,000-square foot roof could provide about 9,600 gallons of runoff per year if Los Angeles receives the annual average for downtown LA of 15 inches of rain, according to Keep Los Angeles Beautiful.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement that the program is an "innovative" approach that will conserve drinking water.
But any benefit from water collected in the barrels would represent a small drop in California's drought relief bucket. Significant drought relief depends largely on the Sierra snowpack, a vital source of water for California's Central Valley agriculture operations. In January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency as low reservoir levels and decreased Sierra snowpack led to farmers fallowing fields in the Central Valley region and mandatory water restrictions.
Forecasters are expecting a warm winter in California after a summer of record heat. California historically sees most of its rain for the year from November through February and early spring months, but even above-normal precipitation throughout the state is not likely to improve conditions because of widespread extreme deficits and what could be a warm winter.
Forecasters also are assessing the probability for El Nino, the Tropical Pacific weather phenomenon that affects weather patterns. Strong El Nino patterns draw moisture into California, but a weak El Nino would probably not generate enough rainfall to affect drought levels.
The latest estimated place the chance of El Nino at 58 percent.