Water


Last winter I took a series of gardening classes and one in particular intrigued me. The instructor, another Master Gardener in my county (in fact, she was the one that told me about the training program) taught one class on how to make self-irrigating planters. I love the acronym–SIPs–although I have to say these planters don’t really SIP. They use at least as much water as a regular planter, but more of that water is going into production because losses from soil evaporation are virtually nil.

In any case, a friend and I built a couple planters each one day. As I readied to plant them I realized (more…)

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What would urban agriculture look like if it were industrialized? Everything on this site approaches urban agriculture from an ecological perspective. As urban agriculture becomes more popular, we find entrepreneurs looking at opportunities in the field. Some of those entrepreneurs will follow the current trends towards local, sustainable agriculture. But, others will see the opportunities and approach urban agriculture from the industrial approach. What will their agriculture look like?

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I began saving water late in January 2009 to see how much water I could save by doing simple things like saving laundry rinse water and collecting my morning shower water while it warmed up. I also started saving rainwater in my five-gallon buckets. The results are in.

Some observations about my experiment:

  1. My biggest water savings came in two ways: a few large savings and many small savings. My largest source (44%) was from daily collection of about 1 gallon of shower water while the water warmed up. My second largest source (33%) was from laundry rinse water, collected five gallons at a time with a bucket in my laundry tub. So, it’s important to note that small savings do add up, and that it doesn’t require large “chunks” of water to save. (more…)

A year and a half ago, I wrote about using greywater. In that post, I said that one of the problems facing homeowners was building codes that were outdated and did not allow for greywater systems. I’ll point out problems when I see them, but I’ll also give credit when it is due. I’m happy to report that the California Legislature has seen the light and modified state law to allow greywater systems. I offer a big thank you to the City of Santa Barbara for pushing this issue in Sacramento. Now California is catching up with a few other western state like Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Personally, I’m happy that the greywater system I’m thinking of putting in can now be put in legally. I’ll be able to save and use more greywater and it will be much easier, also. No more five-gallon buckets from the laundry room!

For more information on the legislation in California, visit this site. There are very helpful descriptions of what is allowed under the law and what is not. This is important, because there are a few safety precautions to take when designing and using greywater systems. For an introduction on greywater,  go to the Wikipedia article. An excellent resource for greywater is the Greywater Guerillas. Their website has loads of information and photographs on greywater systems and also includes information on other cutting edge water conservation technologies such as rainwater catchment and composting toilets. For more information on greywater systems, go here. (You’ll notice this last site is in Australia. As is often the case, other countries, particularly Australia and many Europeans countries, are far ahead  of the United States on environmental issues.)

In the U.S., Art Ludwig is the Godfather of Greywater and author of The New Create an Oasis with Greywater and Builder’s Greywater Guide. Art’s environmental design company, Oasis Design, includes plans for a Laundry to Landscape greywater system. For a laundry detergent developed by Art to be suitable for greywater use in irrigation, go to Bio Pac. If you’re in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area, the Ecology Center in Berkeley sells it by the gallon.

A friend saw my last post on gray water and had some interesting suggestions of her own that are worth sharing, as well as a plumbing issue they’ve been dealing with. In addition, she provided a link to one of the best (and short) summaries I’ve seen on gray water. Thanks, M2! Read on….

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Last year I experimented with using grey water for irrigation (see 10 gallons of grey water). The drought is continuing, so I’m starting much sooner and also planning to track my water savings and sources during 2009. You can follow along at Saving water, 2009.

It’s important to note that using grey water for irrigation is not new. Government agencies have been using it for years to water landscaping, especially along highways, and golf courses have also been using it for some time. This latter may not be the highest and best use of grey water, but it’s better than using clean water.

It’s also important to note that this practice may need to become a way of life. One of the global warming predictions a few years back for northern California was that we would have wetter but warmer winters. The upshot of this is that less snowpack is expected. Because we have learned to use snowpack as a reservoir, this will pose problems because less water will be stored and available later in the season. Last week I heard someone comment on this year’s snowpack, saying that while the snowpack was low, precipitation was actually up for the year. This provides some evidence that those predictions of a few years ago may be correct. The end result is that we probably will have to use our water resources more efficiently, including grey water, in coming years.

I just returned from a five-day canoe trip. I had some camp clothes, and others waiting in the hamper, that needed laundered, so I ran a couple loads of wash. Due to last winter’s low rainfall, we are now under drought restrictions for water usage and the water district wants to cut back usage 20%. Although I’ve experimented with this before, because of the new drought guidelines I stuck a five-gallon bucket in the laundry tub and ran the washer outlet into the bucket. While this isn’t efficient, it did give me the last five gallons of rinse water from each load. I used this grey water to irrigate the sad looking plants in my front yard. (Although I planted drought tolerant plants two years ago when I re-landscaped my front yard, the low winter rainfall is clearly having an effect. These guys will need some water to keep them going, and it’s not even July yet.) (more…)

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