Old 07-26-2011, 04:02 PM
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Water Harvesting myths debunked


4 Myths About Water Harvesting in Dry Lands

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 03:32 AM PDT

Unless youíre a passionate water conservationist (or a hippie farmer), water harvesting may sound like some futuristic nonsense to you, especially if youíre wondering what water is available for harvesting in the desert or other dry climate.

Water harvesting does not just mean rainwater; graywater is any water generated in the home except water from toilets and the kitchen sink. 70% of our water usage goes to our landscapes but 50-80% of our graywater is reusable, so why pour perfectly good, potable water on your trees when theyíll appreciate used shower water just as much?

Iíve always been smitten with the idea of water harvesting so when I had a chance to take a class from Greg Peterson of The Urban Farm, I was thrilled. Greg cleared up a lot of my misconceptions and, judging by the questions and note-taking from my fellow classmates, a lot of other peoplesí too.

Myth #1: Water harvesting will save you money on water.

Fact: Water harvesting will probably not make a significant financial difference. Since everything is measured by Starbucks these days, a typical residential harvesting system will save you enough for one to four more lattes per month. But more importantly than having extra coffee money, water harvesting saves freshwater for the future, reduces the strain on septic and treatment facilities, reduces energy and chemical use and adds to groundwater, among other worthwhile reasons. Itís not about cost savings, itís about water savings.

Myth #2: A water harvesting system is expensive and difficult to install.

Fact: Only if you want it gold-plated! Ok, actually a water harvesting system can be costly and painful (this one looks like a good example) but there are also simple, inexpensive methods that you can create yourself. Greg has several examples of both graywater and rainwater systems at his farm and his step-by-step directions were astoundingly simple. He also has a rainwater collection system that he claims is not worth the expense and trouble, so take the easy way out on this one.

Myth #3: A water harvesting system will be high-maintenance.

Fact: The best type of system is passive, which means you install it and never have to touch it again. An active system with pumps and filters will require cleaning and upkeep, but why mess with all that when gravity and some mulch will do the same job? (This was the most fascinating part, to me. A small mulch bed holds a natural ecosystem that will purify your used soapy water so itís perfectly harmless to your landscape, much like the bio-swales Kelly mentioned. How cool is that?) You may not be saving much money by harvesting but you wonít be spending any on maintenance, either. So letís call it even, ok?

Myth #4: Rainwater harvesting is pointless in a dry climate.

Fact: Sure we donít get much rain, but you may be surprised how much you can collect and how useful it is. For every 1,000 square feet of collection area you can collect 600 gallons of rainwater per inch of rain. And donít forget storm water runoff! And because freshwater is loaded with minerals by the time it reaches our faucets and hoses, irrigating with rainwater (which doesnít have those minerals) balances the salinity of the soil. See? Itís not pointless after all!

If youíre already on board and want the specifics, I recommend getting very familiar with HarvestingRainwater.com. Donít be fooled by the name, it covers harvesting graywater too. The site has everything from research, incentives, ordinances, materials and suppliers to instructional videos, demonstration sites and a harvesting calculator.

And if ďbecome a hippie farmerĒ was one of your New Yearsí resolutions for 2011 (I know it was mine!), then get to know Greg Peterson and his Urban Farm in Phoenix. The best inspiration for starting your own water harvesting system is seeing it in action and hearing first-hand how simple it can be. Gregís #1 rule for living green is ďno suffering allowedĒ; what could be better than saving water for the future and not having to suffer to do it?
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Old 07-26-2011, 08:30 PM
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irritation irritation is offline
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Location: Indianapolis, IN
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A Male Fairy Tale:

Once upon a time, a Prince asked a beautiful Princess, “Will you marry me?” The Princess said, “No!!!”

And the Prince lived happily ever after and rode motorcycles and banged skinny long-legged big-titted broads and hunted and fished and raced cars and went to naked bars and dated women half his age and drank whiskey and beer and never heard bitching and never paid child support or alimony and banged cheerleaders and kept his house and guns and ate steak and brats and potato chips and beans and blew enormous farts and never got cheated on while he was at work and all his friends and family thought he was frikin cool as hell and he had tons of money in the bank and left the toilet seat up.

The end.
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Old 07-26-2011, 10:04 PM
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Mark B Mark B is offline
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Location: Burlington/Buxton N.C
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Off topic a tiny bit. But the super sweet job I have, we have a new building that is the highest LEED standar point system. They are taking all the condensate water from the HVAC systems, and part of the roof water to flush all the toilets with. Now we are talking about a building that has around 600 folks in it. All the waste for that has a flow sensor on it, so we get a waste water bill.

There are 2 10,000 gallon tanks that collect the water, then it is transferred into the building. If there is any run off it goes into a pond for the irrigation water. As far as I know none of the irrigation systems run off of city water. And I am talking about a VERY large campus.
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Old 07-26-2011, 10:11 PM
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Sprinkus Sprinkus is offline
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Location: San Antonio, TX
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We've got one customer that has a 50,000 gallon rain water tank and no other water supply for his house and irrigation.
The irrigation is minimal and all plant material is drought tolerant.
I haven't heard yet whether or not he's had to truck in water or drill a well.

I've also worked on enough grey water jobs that I never want to deal with one ever again.
Between the hair in the pump screen, the lint in the wye filters, the stench of the water, and the condoms I had to remove from one system, I am done with them.
I'd rather use the water from the effluent tank of an aerobic treatment system for irrigation than grey water.
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