Post # 268 Another Bucket of Water

June 30, 2014 at 2:33 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 268 Another Bucket of Water

Water is the staff of life.  I’ve said this before, in various words, a whole bunch of times.  About a decade ago, I was a member of Toastmasters through the company I worked for.  For those who don’t know, Toastmasters is an organization that teaches its members how to speak in public via small group settings and larger speaking competitions.  One of the speeches I gave was about water and I spoke for nearly ten minutes about it.  Growing up in the desert made me very aware of water and the individual’s responsibility towards wasting it.  Lessons I took with me in all my wanderings.

water drop

Several days ago, I heard on the news that my city is one of the top cities in the nations for water conservation, and one of the lowest for per capita consumption.  Here in Tucson, per person, we use only 90 gallons of water a day.  That figure includes the baths and showers, the dishwashers, the clothes washers, the bathroom flushes, the water in the kitchen for coffee pots, tea pots, cooking, rinsing dishes, as well as outside use, water plants, filling ponds and pools, keeping water features from drying out, washing cars, and all the other fun things we have to do.  90 gallons per day per person is amazing.  I felt a certain amount of pride that I’m part of that effort.

I was talking to a friend recently as were driving somewhere in the city and I noticed a new fast food restaurant being built.  I saw the lot grading and how there seemed to be a moat around it.  He told me that there was a city ordinance that all new business development had to keep the water from doing into the street.  He said it does no one any good running through the streets to the drains.  However, it will lower maintenance costs for businesses if water is harvested and used for that business’s landscaping.  They don’t have to use as much city water in the long run.

Water harvesting in the desert is a constant topic of debate.  Some people feel very responsible for it and others don’t.  To be truly successful, it has to be everybody’s effort or the effort is wasted.  I lived in this city a long time ago when I went to college.  This was in the years before the major water crisis facing all the desert southwest states.  When it rained, I could count the number of  minutes before the sirens started sounding on the emergency vehicles.  The roadways would get slippery from the oil the rain brought to the surface but didn’t have a chance to wash away.  Underpasses and dips would fill with water, stranding motorists and sometimes walkers.  Dry washes would suddenly fill with water and mud causing all kinds of damage to property and roadways.  Now, slightly over thirty years later, the city has adopted a long range plan not only to harvest that water into catchment basins, but to minimize the “traps” for drivers and pedestrians.  Even the roadway surfaces have changed and are changing so the materials sluice the water away more quickly, and the materials themselves provide traction rather than become slippery.

The city is also harvesting water through their street design.  They’ve changed many of the residential intersections to traffic circles that are mini parks designed to break water flow and divert the flow either to the yards for harvesting or to catch basins for harvesting.  The city also provides rebates for home owners who proactively design their yards for water harvesting, and install water collection systems.  We have both of those (one is called passive, the other is called active) through our landscaping and plant choice, and our gutter system that drains into HUGE collection barrels.  We use the water collected from the roof and gutter system to water the grapefruit tree.  In the front yard, we have two very large berms to keep all the water away from the street and in the yard.  The gutters in the front point directly into the yard.  The gutters in the back empty into the barrels.  The backyard is sloped to keep the water out of the alley, and to keep the alley water out of the yard (it can be really nasty stuff.)

So with all this water harvesting going on, where is the water that’s being harvested?

water dry wash

There it is!  That’s a picture of a “river” in the desert.  It’s actually called an arroyo, or dry wash.  What happens is when those clouds release their moisture, those mountains in the distance help collect and direct the water into these arroyos.  The water quickly (very quickly) washes through these dry washes on their way to wherever the lowest point is, a lake, a river, or sometimes even the ocean.  It’s those clouds that the water all comes from.  We’re entering the monsoon season now here.  It brings higher humidity, rain fall in the mountains, and sometimes, if the storm is strong enough, torrential downpours here in the city.  When the rain is just right, we’ll fill our two 800 gallon barrels in about thirty minutes.

One of the ways that I’ve chose to conserve water is to switch to container gardening.  All my plants are in pots, or baskets, or raised beds.  Last year, I planted my garden directly in the ground and wasted a ton of water making certain the ground was saturated.  Now, I make sure the limited area inside the pots and baskets and beds are saturated and I can control the amount of water the plants are getting better.  My plants are all happy, too.  Blossoms all year long.  Another thing we did to conserve, we switched over to drought tolerant plants, and got rid of plants that are water dogs.  This year, I had one tomato plant, and I used that one simply to grab a ripe warm tomato while doing the yard work.  I also planted so the sun tolerant plants got the sun they wanted and the shade tolerant plants got the shade they wanted.  I also moved pots and baskets around so that the water that ran off baskets fell onto the pots below so water wasn’t wasted.  Again, blossoms all year round.

I don’t mind managing water.  It makes me feel a little like Luke Skywalker managing his ‘vaporators on Tatooine.  However, the landscape of my dreams always involves a lake or river of some kind.

water log cabin

Enjoy!

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