According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, “drought is a protracted period of deficient precipitation resulting in extensive damage to crops, resulting in loss of yield.” 47 percent of the continental U.S. is currently experiencing at least moderate drought conditions. The community in which I live has gone to the strictest water restriction level in an effort to conserve as much water as possible. No outdoor water use is allowed unless the homeowner has a private well. Earlier this fall the city council made the decision as to who would shut off the pumps when the water in the city’s wells got too low. Thankfully that time did not arrive. Even though our home is supplied by rural water and the farm is on a well, we are involved within the community and the desperate water situation has reached all of us no matter the source in which we pull our water. In an effort to conserve this precious resource many residents have been ingeniously implementing water saving techniques. One of the most detailed attempts a local homeowner did was to tap into the shower drain, run the pipe through the outside brick wall and empty into a tank. He then uses it to water outside. I am clearly impressed by his ingenuity, but am wondering about the chemical effects on his plants. Perhaps he uses biodegradable soap. The most popular effort is to collect rain water in rain barrels. The local watershed is selling 55 gallon plastic drums turned rain barrel for $20 apiece. The drums originally contained syrup for making cola. They are simply cleaned and a great way to reuse materials. These rain barrels may not be adequate in holding the load coming from your roof. Consider the following:
- The typical roof area of a house is between 1200-2000 square feet.
- That's 750 - 1250 gallons of water that runs off each time we have 1 inch of rain!
- To calculate the potential harvesting amount of water from a roof, take the area times 0.623. This will give you the amount for 1 inch of rain. Source: K-State Research and Extension
A larger option is a 250 gallon cube found around many farms, the one in which Roundup is contained. After a sufficient cleaning
these can be used safely.
Outdoors, it is important to plant with natives whenever possible due to their ability withstand your region’s conditions. Once planted it is beneficial to mulch which holds in moisture. Now it is time to water with the rain captured in your barrel. A slow and steady stream will allow for filtration and discourage runoff.
A few ways to save water in the bathroom are shutting the water off while brushing teeth and scrubbing hands, or placing a bucket in the show to catch water as it warms. A shower timer can prompt a quicker shower. A small investment in a low flow toilet or showerhead will cut water use and your water bill. As for the kitchen, run the full high efficiency dishwasher instead of hand washing the dishes.
Many of these water saving tips are not new. Past generations incorporated such practices in their daily lives out of necessity. That time has come around again. So often as resources are plentiful we become indulgent. Guilty as charged. I am working to implement many of these practices into my life as I look to my children’s future. What better way to start than at home on the farm. Our love for the land and lineage of stewardship can be an example to our communities.