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Saturday, July 18, 2009


Austin is in the middle of a severe drought. Reservoir levels are at new lows, farmers are applying for disaster relief, and water restrictions are tight. Ah, reminds me of the good old days in Talent, Oregon. My whole youth was a quest for water on that dry old hill. We had to haul it in order to irrigate the garden, and sometimes, to provide something for the livestock to drink. Is it any wonder that I have a keen interest in keeping every drop?

I'm in the right city. Austin has a Rainwater Harvesting rebate program for installations of 300 gallons or more. I knew about this before I moved here because This Old House on PBS did one of their projects here a few years ago. The homeowners had a system installed to supplement their irrigation. I looked up the old episode and contacted the company that did their system.

Chris and Blake at Innovative Water Solutions are a complete hoot. I bonded with them immediately. They are former Peace Corp volunteers still out saving the world, even if it is one drop of water at a time. They both have been very enthusiastic about my yard project and have been great to bounce ideas off of. I am so glad I met them and the rest of their crew. I'm very excited about our collection system.

The principle is fairly simple. Channel the rainwater off the roof into the gutters that are tied into a large holding tank.
From Yard makeover

The cistern is a 2,500 poly tank that sits along the side of the house. A small pump has been installed to power the water through my drip system.

I'm hoping that I can water the majority of the time out of my tank and not have to resort to city water. My non-traditional landscape shouldn't need a lot of water so I can concentrate what I have on the vegetables and fruit. Some additional mulching will help as well. The other benefit of using rainwater is that it will be more acidic than the limestone sluiced stuff coming out of the tap. This will help me keep the pH levels in the zone that my food-producing plants should thrive on.

Now if it would only rain!

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