Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saving Water


greywater system, complete with monorail cat
(we can't afford mag-lev, just yet)

The source of our water here in the Bay Area is the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

It can rain all it likes here, but if it doesn't snow in Lake Tahoe we're all in trouble. This past week's snowfall up there was likely the last of the season and brings the total depth of snow to 55 feet (!) This is about twice the average.

Water conservation has been a pretty big deal around here for a while now. In fact, we in the East Bay did such a good job of using less water, that the local water district needs to raise our rates because we failed to reach expected demand.

So, now with the rates rising, we are ironically thinking about water conservation even in the face of an almost unprecedented surplus.

When we moved in, we had ideas about greywater systems to divert waste water from the sinks and shower for use on the lawn and garden. These systems can be expensive and are difficult to engineer. We opted instead for an easy first step.

This simple system allows us to water our garden using water from our washing machine. We use a laundry soap formulated for this purpose.

We got this used oak wine barrel from somebody advertising on Craigslist. I built a base for it using ancient redwood found in the backyard. There's a submersible pump in there which gives us enough pressure to shoot water about 20 feet. If you wanted a machine for terrorizing cats, this would be a good start.

There are just a couple of problems with this set up. One is: our high efficiency washing machine is just too efficient. One load of wash is barely enough to water a couple of trees. The other issue is that the water, when it's coming out of the hose, smells an awful lot like French wine and dirty laundry. C'est la vie.


fleegle said...

I'm glad we have a well here!

And yes, he did say "blue sucker." :)

Anonymous said...

There is a guy who has a field along 83 on the way to BAltimore who is called "the barrel guy" and for $5 you can get a sturdy blue plastic barrel. I perfer teh wooden oak casks like you have, however, but around here they run around $100. We have our rain ballel hooked up to one of the barn's drainpipes and have it water the raspberries. right now we have oceanfront property since all the fields here are under water from 2 months of straight rain-


Stefaneener said...

Rainwater from even a tiny section of our roof fills the biggies really fast. I'm finding that it's storage, not potential, that's my limiting factor. We still need to get the wash hooked to the fruit trees, but baby steps. I'm enjoying using the kids' bath water still.

ellen said...

My new place has irrigation hooked up to a well, but since the Cape all draws from a single aquifer I am thinking rain barrel.

Christine said...

Let the cat torturing begin!

terri said...

just popping by to see what was new under the sun . . . miss you guys :)

i got called a midwesterner yesterday and i'm still upset . . .

but maybe i have to resurrect my nature blog and do a field study for you . . !

hugs to you both!

camissonia said...

Good effort! French wine & dirty laundry seem oddly simpatico. The next fragrance line from Calvin Klein?

Jeff said...

I found your blog thru a site about wells in Oakland. I saw that you were thinking of digging one. I wonder how that ever went? I just bought a house in North Oakland and would love to talk with you a bit!
Thanks! Great blog, great pictures and love the garden.


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