Part I – Outdoors Conservation
Our planet is facing a looming crisis: a shortage of fresh water. The World Bank reports that more than 80 countries currently have shortages of fresh water. Worldwide, 1 out of every 5 people does not have access to fresh water. Studies show that 36 states in the U.S. will face water shortages by 2013! We can survive without most resources. We cannot survive without fresh, potable water. We need to start treating fresh water as the precious resource it is, think of it as liquid gold, not just the stuff that falls from the sky or flows from the tap. Populations, and therefore demand for water, are increasing. At the same time, we are polluting our waterways and depleting groundwater. As demand increases and supplies decrease, water will become more and more expensive as it becomes scarcer. Many parts of the country have experienced water shortages and droughts over the past few years. This year has seen some of the worst, especially in Texas. This is a growing problem that we can no longer ignore.
There are many things that can be done to resolve this crisis: restoring rivers, lakes and wetlands, removing dams, managing resources better, etc., and many countries and organizations are beginning to understand this. Even some in China now admit that the Three Gorges Dam is an environmental disaster! But, while governments and institutions begin doing the big things, we need to do the small things that can and will make a difference. We can consume less water, manage water better, and save money to boot!
Homeowners with large or water-intensive landscaping will have
a big bite taken out of their wallets as prices for water rise. In the
average home, 40% of the water consumed is used outdoors, primarily watering lawns and plants. The average U.S. Household with a 10,000 square foot lot uses 5,000 gallons weekly for landscape irrigation. We can reduce that consumption by reducing the amount of turf on our properties and planting only native, drought-tolerant plants. But we can also easily and cost-effectively capture rainwater and safely use it for irrigation.
This is the most common use of this non-potable water.
There are three methods for capturing rainwater: underground tanks, above-ground tanks and rain barrels.
When considering under-or-above ground tanks, you need to calculate the amount of water you can collect. This depends on the amount of rainfall and the size of the collection area (roof). There is an excellent website – www.rainwater.sustainablesources.com – that has tables for calculating the capacity of harvesting systems and provides a great deal of detailed information on rainwater harvesting. If your property requires a lot of water, 1000 gallons and up, a rainwater harvesting system is the best option. Such a system includes the following components:
• Gutters to convey storm water from the roof to the tank
• Cistern, or storage tank
• Overflow from cistern to storm drainage system
• Pumping system to hose bibs and irrigation heads
Underground cisterns are, obviously, out of sight and don’t need to be drained in the winter. A few websites you can look at are www.cultec.com and www.graf-water.com. These systems have capacities from around
1700-2200 gallons for a cost of about $3000-$3300. Graf also manufactures above-ground systems and rain barrels.
Above-ground cisterns may be the only option if it’s difficult to dig. They will need to be drained when cold weather arrives. Options include the Rainwater Pillow (www.rainwaterpillow.com) which can hold from 1000 gallons and up. A 2000-gallon unit is about $3500. It can be installed in small areas, like a crawlspace or under a deck. A $300 system which holds 50 gallons is the Rainwater HOG. It’s great for really small spaces and can sit flat, on its side or upright.
Rainwater harvesting makes sense: it conserves a precious resource and lowers our water bills!
At a minimum, place a rain barrel under all downspouts at your house. Barrel capacities range from 50 to over 300 gallons and they can be connected in series. They come in various shapes, sizes, colors and finishes. Barrels should have the following features:
• tight fitting lid
• spigot at or near the bottom of the barrel
• overflow outlet or downspout diverter to direct overflow away from the house
Rain barrels are economical and easy to put into place. A few websites
to check out are www.fiskars.com and www.greatamericanrainbarrel.com. Or, just do an internet search on “rain barrels”. You’ll be amazed at the choices you have!
Rainwater captured from your roof is a valuable, free resource. It makes no sense to waste it. My husband and I installed an underground system with a 3300-gallon capacity. I didn’t imagine I would experience such satisfaction washing a car, hosing a sidewalk or watering our plants knowing I’m using rainwater! Rainwater harvesting is becoming more mainstream as people experience drought and water shortages. In our area, we often experience periods in the summer without adequate rainfall. Rainwater harvesting makes sense: it conserves a precious resource and lowers our water bills!
In the next issue of The House and Home Magazine, we will move indoors. We waste a lot of water in our homes. For an average family of four, the use of standard shower heads, inefficient toilets, and running water while we wait for it to get hot, wastes about 29,000 gallons of water per year! Fortunately, there are simple and affordable measures we can take to eliminate that waste.