23 October, 2008

A waster of water is a waster of better

Dune. Arrakis. Desert Planet.

Not quite—that's a view from the Northern Territory of Oz—but it can often feel that way in my neck of the woods.

In Australia, there is a crude-but-accurate saying that the weather is "drier than a nun's nasty." Okay, so that's really gross, but it sums up just how little rainfall we really get. And I live outside the driest of the dry, when it comes to civilized regions. Sure, the Simpson Desert is definitely hotter and absolutely devoid of all moisture, but that's not terribly suburban.

To make matters worse, we've been in a catastrophic drought for five, going on six, years, and have adopted strict water-use restrictions as simply a part of life.

Average Annual Precipitation
Charlottesville, Virginia: 68.5"/1740mm
Columbus, Georgia: 48.6"/1234mm
Dallas, Texas: 37.0"/940mm
Manchester, UK: 31.8"/807mm
Onkaparinga, South Australia: approx 19.7"/500mm
Phoenix, Arizona: 8.3"/210mm

The heat and lack of snow runoff don't help, with summer temperatures getting up to/past 44C/111F and so-called winter bottoming out this year at 2C/35.6F.

The gist of this is, it's damn hard to grow what you enjoy! However, it does "force" you to be Green. Earth-friendly irrigation is not a hippie concept, here. It's normal. It's what the yuppie woman down the street does, and the hillbilly grandpa across the road, not to mention the schools, businesses, and well, just about everyone.

Here are some SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) for life in Droughtville, and which of those we actually manage.

Rainwater tanks used for gardening
Rainwater tanks piped into house
Grey water used for gardening
Dual-flush toilets
Drip irrigation used max 3 hrs weekly
/1-day-per-week watering w/ trigger hose
/Native plant gardening

Our rainwater tank died last year, but it's first on our list for Xmas gifts, though we can't afford to pipe it into the house. We're planning three tank systems. One catching house runoff for the mid-back garden, one catching shed runoff for the back-back garden, and one catching the eventual chicken house runoff for their own drinking water.

We're not perfect about only watering on our assigned Sunday evenings. But we rarely water more than once per week. And we were using the drip irrigation a lot, but that's before I found out the regulations. Ugh.

As for native gardening.. we're working on it, but most of what we do is relocation of existing plants from around the yard as new plants are pricey.

These are required measures in most parts of Australia. But can the rest of the world afford not to follow suit? My own step-dad is considering rainwater collection and they're in relatively wet Central Virginia! What do you do to combat the effects of global warming on your garden?


Maggie ~:) said...

I would love to have a rainwater tank somewhere at my apt. My grandparents had a great wooden barrel converted for just that when I was a kid. If I can figure out how to shoehorn some sort of receptacle in behind some shrubs where it's not seen, I may try one. However, then there's the question of how to control those dreaded West Nile carriers. Stupid mosquitos!

citymouse said...

Mosquitos can be a pretty big concern. They deal with it here by having a completely closed system. The downpipe from the gutter is sealed intot he rainwater tank, then there's a tap at the bottom for using the water. Not sure how you'd avoid the biters with an open system!