23 July 2009

Harvesting rain water

We have piped "town" water but in our area it's very expensive and smells of chlorine. I hesitate to use it even on my hair or when I'm washing or dying wool. I may be wrong but I have the impression that the chemicals used to kill the harmful bacteria in the drinking water aren't good for an organic vegetable garden, so I try to capture as much water as we possibly can to use where we need it.

Collection of containers for catching rain waterWhere there's a slope on the land or a roof there's the possibility of collecting rainwater and over the years we've created swales, ponds and drains and amassed quite a collection of barrels and water butts to contain this precious stuff. Buy buying, making or scrounging anything that will hold water we now have a capacity to stock around 12,000 litres in containers. Some of the containers have lasted for years others have failed us miserably. The cheap green ones we bought in a garden centre split after two years even out of the sun but we hope the new ones will last us for some time to come.

Our vegetable garden and the planted areas around our new house have increased dramatically over the past few years. Despite lavish mulching we still need a lot of water for our new fruit trees, shrubs and windbreak plants to keep them healthy and in some cases to keep them alive until they become established. Summers seem to be getting longer and hotter and water is becoming more and more a worry especially when, like us, we really need good crops in the veg plot to be able to feed ourselves all year round. We intend to increase our stockage capacity little by little until we're collecting enough rain water to never to have to use the hose from our taps.

Rain water collection behind a pig shedWe've built the house and almost all of the sheds at the top of our south facing garden and our system is very basic and gravity fed. Our chickens, geese and the goats and sheep are watered from the roof water and we've enough pressure to clean feeders, plant pots and even the pigs appreciate a shower !

Although we have composting toilets outside (and loads of trees!) we've flushing toilets inside the house and we have a terrible job to try to persuade visitors to use the outside loos or at least only flush when it's really necessary. (If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down.) The water in the septic tank isn't wasted - it waters the shrubs and trees on the shady slope behind the goat shed but it seems a shame to use drinking water to do that. So we're planning on directing some of the water from the roofs of the extension for use inside the house so that we can wash clothes inside the house and flush the toilets without spending a penny !

4 comments:

Ancel said...

All of our water here is rainwater. We collect from the roof into a collecting tank just below the roof and that directs water into 5 holding tanks, which hold altogether almost 4,000 litres. We use our collecting tank for all the house water, it's the highest so our sinks, toilet and outdoor shower are gravity fed and the pressure is good. When it gets low we do pump water up from the holding tanks which are below the house.
For the farm we rely on rainwater. We do have one covered growing area of raised beds and we collect water from that roof to water that area, but everything else is rain watered. Not difficult when one lives in wet tropics. When we do have dry spells we have to bucket water from streams. We mulch heavily.

Naomi said...

"If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down" is our motto too - we rely on rainwater and our local creek for water. we've noticed too that our skin and hair is much better than it was when we were on town water - must be much better for the plants! Water storage is something we take pretty seriously, and currently have plans for more tanks and some gutter repairs to increase our capacity.

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Flo said...

I was so interested to read about this - definitely something we'll be trying to do when we've got the time and money! I recently noticed that our animals all prefer rainwater, and will always choose it over tap water if you give them a choice. Makes me wonder just what it is exactly that they put in mains water.

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Very thoughtful, had a great time reading your post

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