Monday, July 2, 2012

The Heat Drags On...

And the Water Goes Down...
Our most used rain water tank was at this level in the middle of last week. About 950 gallons left from the nearly 1,500 gallons full.

A disguised rainwater tank.
After watering stuff nearly every day since, and watering some of the trees today, it is down to about 625 gallons. The other tank, which still had 1,275 gallons yesterday now has less than 800. A small tank is sitting in the back of our pickup with more than 200 gallons in it so we can water trees and berries at the bottom of the hill. It will get filled a couple more times before all of the fruit trees are watered. Then our rain water supply will be desperately low.
Yes, we have rural water, but we have tried to avoid paying for water for the garden.
In and out.

No rain is in sight for at least another week, with highs continuing to hit 100. So it is time to triage.
It's also time to use any drips and drops we can salvage. We already catch dishwater and handwashing water in the kitchen sink in tubs that are emptied into buckets or dumped immediately onto thirsty plants. Yesterday I put buckets in the shower to catch what we can. If only our drain pipes were not in concrete floors, we could rig up something to capture our gray water (all waste water that does not come from a toilet).
Ah well.
I promised to post photos of our rain water catchment system, and so here they are. We purchased two heavy plastic 1,500-gallon tanks and set them on 2-foot tall platforms (frames made with 2x6 boards, filled with gravel). Wood fencing hides the tanks (makes 'em purdy) as well as protects them somewhat from the sun.

At some point we plan to cover the tops of the tanks with heavy canvas tarps to further block the sun and prevent UV deterioration of the plastic, as well as keep down the algae in the water.
A closer look at the overflow.
My husband cut a hole in the side of each tank near the top and screwed in some 6-inch plastic pipe as an overflow. Flexible plastic pipe takes it into an underground one that carries the water away from the house. He also cut a hole in the lid of each tank and attached more flexible pipe that comes from the roof gutter. The top opening, when the lid is off, is just large enough for me to fit through, so once a year I get into the empty tanks to clean them.
The tanks already had an opening in the bottom from which liquids inside can be drained. Plumbing materials were used to reduce that opening down to fit the end of a garden hose. Two valves provide different shut-off points. One of the "pickets" is on hinges so we can reach inside to turn the inner shut-off and to check the water level.

Inner shutoff.

The tanks catch water from the west side of our roof, which is a long, straight metal roof. Just half an inch of rain will put about 300 gallons or more in each tank. This has been an invaluable set up this year. The first year after it was installed, it rained enough that I don't think I ever used it and we wondered if we'd wasted our money. But last year and this year they have saved the garden and prevented big water bills.

Exterior shutoff and hose connection.
The only issue with this system is water pressure. Even in the south garden, which is at a level well below that of the house, the gravity pressure is not enough to make a soaker hose work. The north garden starts lower than the house, but slopes upward. By the time the hose end is at the far northeast edge, water comes out slowly, even when the tank is full. Right now, I cannot get the water to even trickle out at that point and must bring my hose and bucket a few feet to the west, at a spot that is still low enough to get water. So I have to carry water a bit further. As the water level goes down further, I may have to carry water from the garden edge closest to the tank, at the lowest elevation, to get the water to run.

I hope we get rain before then.


Meggie said...

Oh Sandra...I know how you feel. This year I installed 6 rain barrels to catch water. As it turns out, we have been blessed with some rain. But when the temps are 103 for several days, it takes all the moisture out of the ground. Maybe you will get some relief soon.

Sandra M. Siebert said...

The forecast a week out looks promising, but promises is all we get sometimes, so I am not getting excited yet.