How we captured 80k gallons in recent storms!

If you’ve visited our headquarters in Coldwater Canyon Park, you may have noticed a circular grasscrete in front of our Platinum LEED-certified Conference Center. Well, it’s not just decorative. It’s actually the top of a 216,000 gallon cistern that captures rainwater! (In fact, the visible grate marks only a portion of the entire 70’ x 8’ tank!)

What is a cistern?

When it rains, water that hits our Conference Center’s roof is diverted from gutters, as well as runoff from the surrounding parking lot and walkways. Our cistern allows us to capture that stormwater to save for later use. In fact, we use it to irrigate our hilltop’s trees and plants to minimize our dependence on what would otherwise be precious drinking water. Our captured water could even been shared with the local fire departments during emergencies while in the grips of our current drought!

While the captured water isn’t for drinking, it is clean! A series of screens and carbon filters mimic the natural processes of trees and soil, keeping the stored water free of pollutants, and out of our local watersheds and the ocean. 

But it never rains in LA, right?

Wrong! Even in the worst year of drought, LA still received 7 inches of rain. Typically, those valuable drops run down our dirty streets and sidewalks straight to the ocean, becoming more and more polluted on the way! Instead of throwing that water away, we can capture and recycle it.

The best part? In just ONE inch of average rainfall, we capture about 13,500 gallons of water in our cistern, and even more so in heavy rain!

But how do you get cistern water out to the park?


Have you ever noticed what looks to be a brightly-colored road barrier around the trails of our park? We call them irricades–a solution we’ve piloted from our partners in Australia. These repurposed road barriers distribute cistern water through a drip irrigation system, allowing water to slowly seep into the ground and saturate tree roots. We’ve also installed some in Griffith Park to help care for drought-stressed trees, and hope to see more expand to other parks in the future!

Isn’t this illegal?


No! In Los Angeles, it’s actually encouraged. In fact, rebates are available for Southern California residents who are interested in installing rain barrels and larger rain tanks at home. 

If each of us took started capturing water at home, we could make a big impact together. Rainwater harvest lessens our dependence on imported water, which is one of California’s largest uses of energy. Plus, keeping rainwater out of our waterways helps keep us and our local wildlife safe and healthy.

Do your part to fight drought. Attend a FREE rainwater harvesting workshop to learn more about how you can take action at home! 

By Erika Abdelatif

Erika Abdelatif is TreePeople’s Social Media and Digital Content Manager. When she isn't creating a climate-resilient LA via the Facebook, she's probably writing in a coffee shop, infesting the internet with memes, or watching an open mic.