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Changing Water Habits

Assuming Abundance

When we turn on the faucet we assume that there will always be clean drinking water coming out. When we turn on the lawn sprinkler and go back in the house and watch TV for several hours, we don't realize how many purified gallons of drinking water are dispelled on the grown and how many gallons run off to the street. When we take a shower, and let the water run for five minutes to let it get hot, that let thousands of gallons of water over a year's time run straight down the drain. The impact of five billion people doing this around the planet is rapidly depleting our fresh water reserves and damaging wild life ecosystems. There are many steps you can take to reduce your impact on our limited fresh water supply.

Water Facts

The amount of water in and surrounding the earth never changes. It's a closed system. The sun evaporates water from the earth's oceans, lakes and other surface water. Tree and shrubs pull water out of the ground to be transpired into the atmosphere. The water condenses in clouds and falls back to the earth as rain, snow, sleet, and hail.

Before large scale agriculture began, there used to be vast bodies of water under ground called aquifers. Most of these are just about dry now because the water was injected into the plants and then transported thousands of miles away. Watersheds are a cool concept, which describes how water flows from higher elevations and collects in streams, which flow into rivers, which flow into larger rivers until the water reaches a lake or ocean.

Most of the watersheds around the world have been exploited for human economic gain. There are some 80,000 dams in the United States alone. Las Vegas, a metropolitan area of more than 2 million people could not exist without the Hoover dam and Lake Mead. The water that fills Lake Mead comes from thousands of miles away in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The lake is running dry because of a persistent drought that has lasted more than a decade. The hydrological cycle has been broken by human activity.

Monitoring Your Water Use

Most of the purified water made available to your residence is used in the landscape. There are many things you can do to reduce water consumption. Inside the home the highest water wasters are waiting for the water to get warm, letting the water run while you brush your teeth, taking long showers, using the water only once. We're in the habit of assuming endless water is available because for many years it was so cheap. It's a psychological exercise to change the way you view water usage and begin noticing how much you are using. To motivate you to take notice of water usage, pretend your water is coming from limited source such as a rain barrel. If you don't budget your water usage, you will run out. You will begin to take notice of how long the faucet is on whether it be inside or outside of the home.

Water Use Inside

In addition to turning the water off while brushing your teeth, consider installing a water recirculating pump, where building codes allow re-plumb your gray water to be used as black water or garden water, and consider limiting the number of showers per week.

Water Use Outside

There are many ways to have a lush garden and conserve water. However, the methods typically fall into two categories: choose the correct plant pallet and install water limiting methods. You'll want to choose plants that are well suited for your climate. This not only saves water, it reduces the amount of labor needed to keep exotic un-adapted plants alive, and it saves you from having to constantly replace dead plants. You can control water use by installing timers and drip irrigation systems that trickle water directly to the roots. The simplest water saving technique is to use abatteryoperated timer on your water hose.

garden hose timer

Rain Water Harvesting

These can be exciting family projects to pursue. Treat rain water like gold and you won't want to waste a drop. There are two ways you can capture rain water: in barrels or in the ground on your property.

Use barrels if you want to use water later during the dry season to water your vegetables. Ground rain water capture involves re-contouring your landscape by creating dams filled with organic material that will allow a portion of the rain water to infiltrate your land rather than running off to the sewer system. The benefits are that trees and shrubs on your property will use the water, you may reduce storm water run off flooding, and you'll create a more natural habitat for attracting native fauna.

Brad Lancaster, author of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond teaches these principals and has produced an excellent video illustrating the principals of water infiltration.

Be sure to view our experience and instructions on how to build a rain water harvesting catchment system in your own back yard.

Generally, many countries have already used this system, and in Australia, Supatank, not only provides the people with appropriate water tanks for use, but they also involved themselves in advocating water conservation for sustainability, you can also view what other countries do to harvest rain. The Republic of South Africa is also involved in rain saving efforts.

Grey Water, Black Water

Grey and Black water are the exhausts of your home's water use. Grey water comes from sinks, washers and showers. Black water comes from the toilet. Grey water can be separated from black water and used in at least two different ways. It can be filtered and then used to water your garden.

It can be sent to your toilet to be used as black water. Black water can also be used by using a mechanism to separate the solids from the liquids, then using the liquids to water another garden area. The solids can then be sun dried and mixed with other organic materials such as peat moss and turned into beneficial mulch for the garden. Or, if this is too extreme or can not be approved by local building codes, the black water solids can be cleaned out of your septic system as they normally would. However, the amount of material pumped out will be much less because the water has been used elsewhere.

Landscape Irrigation

The land around your home is your art canvas. You get to decide how you want to use it. Some features you may want to include in the landscape are having colourful plants, lower maintenance, play area for the kids, and/or food producing garden. Having a water-wise landscape involves planing and design, preparing the soil, creating turf areas, using water-efficient plants, using mulch, having an efficient irrigation system, and proper maintenance. You can create zones containing plants with different water requirements. Using a drip irrigation system and multi-zone timer you can control the amount of water going to each zone. This allows the maximum flexibility in plant selection and well as the most efficient watering method. You'll also want to consider water harvesting in your landscape plan. For example, place high water use plants near a rain gutter outlet. Plants that may suffer from too much water should be placed furthest away from heavy water sources.

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