Water Creativity and Conservation

By Kathleen Anderson on Aug 05, 2015 at 01:37 PM in For Labs and Modalities
Water Creativity and Conservation-2

In order to be successful in water conservation, we need to change our habits and be aware of water use, but more importantly, we must learn to become creative with our water use. For gardeners, implementing passive water distribution can make a huge difference in beauty and productivity in harvest.

Here's my Sustainability column from 2011 on water conservation:

Throughout history, water has been associated with abundance, healing, and as a symbol of life itself.
Ancient myths and legends are full of extraordinary attributes of water — miracles and the fountain of youth.
The human body is 60 percent H20. In recent decades, people across the globe have become migratory due to drought conditions. Water today still means health, stability and it is a resource emblem of wealth in the world.

Presently, Montecito has a rather large water imprint.

Kathleen Anderson Ross
According to an April 2010 issue of National Geographic Magazine devoted to the subject of water, “Americans use about 100 gallons of water at home each day.” In Montecito, the amount could be three times that figure. However, it is soothing to know that reducing your water imprint can be so easy that other than a reduced water bill, you won’t notice a difference.
Sustainable water practices can be divided into two complementary approaches: Water Harvesting and Water Conservation. Although we have had our first rainstorm, the traditional rainy months are February and March. Now is the perfect time to plan ahead.

Permaculture, a design method developed in the 1970’s, takes into consideration the natural tendency of the land so that a property — home and landscape — will be mutually beneficial and self-sustaining. Landscapers who practice permaculture look for ways to help a property maintain its naturally productive and beautiful state. These practitioners believe in harvesting the water that is provided by nature.

The theory behind water harvesting is that by collecting rainfall in barrels that are integrated into the property’s design, landscape irrigation can occur using the collected water.

There are four ways to harvest rain: Passive, in the soil; active, tanks or cisterns; wastewater, also known as gray water; and community water. “It’s all in finding the solutions that fit your needs,” says Nate Downey, author of “Harvest the Rain.” “Water harvesting is an elegant addition to every landscape, helping the gardener to achieve more productivity with a variety of vegetation.” He suggests starting with a 50-gallon barrel, to begin to understand the difference it can make. Tanks are available in an array of sizes and shapes that blend into the landscape. Huge tanks can even be installed underground to increase storage.

Michael Clark, water conservation coordinator for the Montecito Water District, believes that conservation is key in our community. Since 95% of water use is for landscape care, and only 5% for interior use, he suggests beginning with a free home landscape audit to check for leaks. A leak can be subtle and without the audit, it could go undetected. During the audit, which takes 15-30 minutes, he checks thoroughly for leaks, adjusts your irrigation timer if necessary, and teaches you how to do water budgeting with the water index. He can give you referrals if you are interested in adding water barrels for harvesting.

Drought tolerant plants help in water conservation and edible plantings are especially sustainable choices. The water district maintains a small demonstration garden with a strawberry guava hedge and other fruit trees. A selection of drought resistant aloes are on display from Cold Spring Aloes Nursery, owned by sustainable agriculturist Thomas Cole, who is currently food security advisor to Save The Children US.

Mike suggests people reconsider their lawns. “And it isn’t necessary to go through the costly work of ripping out your lawn. Instead, plant fruit trees, watering only the trees, and let nature take care of the rest.” For those of us who are unable to part with our lawns, he suggests mowing infrequently, letting the lawn grow 4-7 inches long. Alternatives like buffalo grass and festuca use 1/3 to 1/4 less water than traditional grass.

As Mike says, “Every little bit helps.”

To learn more:
“Harvest the Rain” by Nate Downey (2010 Sunstone Press).


To schedule a landscape audit with Montecito Water Department, call 969-2271. Budget your water use by following the water index: www.sbwater.org

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