Saving Water in The Garden Is Becoming Essential As Climate Change Affects Our Weather & We Need to Grow Sustainable Crops. However, Low-Cost Systems Are Easy to Install As I Demonstrate In This Post
Having moved to a new house and garden last year, and having experienced a long hot dry period last spring and early summer, I wanted to be Saving Water in The Garden. I wanted to build a “reservoir” against future dry spells.
Lacking the space to build a grand lake I had to resort to something far less ambitious. But, with minimal outlay, some recycled equipment and not a lot of effort, we now have 2500 litres of water stored ready for next year. Better still the whole system has no moving parts, doesn’t need electricity or manual pumps and relies on gravity to move water around the garden.
It’s a far cry from when I had a 120 ft borehole, filtration plant and lots of pumps to move water on my nursery and market garden.
Saving Water in The Garden Using Gravity
We are lucky enough to have a gently sloping garden where we can collect water from the roof of our bungalow and use gravity to move it to a number of strategically placed tanks in the garden. The first tank is actually uphill from the house but it’s not a problem as the rainwater starts its journey at roof level and we can utilise this height advantage. So we allow the rain to run from the roof to the downpipes and intercept it at the top of the downpipe where we can utilise gravity via a rainwater diverter. This is placed just below roof level and is, therefore, higher than the “high” part of the garden by a few feet. It’s not exactly making water run uphill but it does the trick.
From the rainwater diverter we pipe it to the first 1000 litre tanks From here we can then let it overflow to another 1000 litre tank, on the other side of the garden, behind the greenhouse. This, with a few tanks dotted around the house and greenhouse, filled via more rainwater diverters from adjacent rooves, completes the system.
In time I intend to add a 200-litre tank, in which I can bulk mix tomato feed, next to the greenhouse. The plan is to add trickle irrigation so that I can use gravity to feed my tomatoes, cues etc.
Sourcing Recycled Materials
I see so many hosepipes, water butts etc in garden centres as ridiculously high prices. How can a plastic hosepipe cost nearly £100 when it consists of £2-3 of materials at most?
So I was determined to build my system of good quality materials and show you how it can be done.
My water pipe is from my plumber. It was brand new and he was throwing it in the skip. It’s from an underfloor heating system. They buy it in bulk rolls of 100 or 200 metres, use what is needed and throw the rest away. Apparently, in sealed underfloor systems, the leftover pipe cannot be joined, so the surplus is thrown away.
We had enough pipe to run the full length and width of our garden and some to spare for a few other jobs I have in mind. I’ve buried the pipe a few inches below ground level and am not worried about it freezing as the sections above ground will freeze first and we don’t get really severe frosts most year anyway.
To be absolutely sure the pipes don’t freeze they need to be a couple of feet deep .. and lagged above ground. But if it’s that cold the rain/snow has frozen anyway!
The 1000 litre water tanks are ex-food quality tanks, are very sturdy but single use. Loads of food additives and dyes are transferred around the world in these tanks and they are then sold to gardeners and other people needing low-cost storage tanks. I bought two for £50 including delivery. In my case they had a slightly different heritage, they had been used to transport and store teat dip on a dairy farm.
If you want these 1000 litre tanks Google “IBC tanks”. They are also often found on the recycling sites such as Facebook Marketplace. Prices normally start at around £40-50 and as high as £100. But look long enough and you could find them as cheap as mine were.
Most IBC tanks come with a 2-inch tap and need a reducer to take a hose pipe. The reducers cost around £7-8.
Water Diverters cost from between £4.50 to £10 depending on where you buy them. They tend to be cheaper in trade type outlets such as Screwfix rather than the DIY centres.
Saving Water in The Garden: The Costs
My total system has cost me around £65. It should last at least 20 years and possibly much longer. So the cost per year is minimal. Well worth the outlay I believe.
Grey Water Harvesting For Gardens
As a postscript to this post I should cover the topic of grey water harvesting and use. Hosepipe bans are being implemented in parts of the UK as of August 2022 and it focuses the mind on water wastage.
What is Grey Water?
Grey water is waste water from our homes that can be saved and recycled and used again. In some countries grey water from sinks, washing machines etc is saved, filtered and used to flush toilets. It saves millions of litres of water each year. I’ve saw it in action in Cape Town when they experienced their massive drought and had to ration water. Correctly fitted, it works well.
So grey water is just recycled water from sinks, showers, baths and domestic machines. It’s fine for flushing loos but not so great for gardens if it contains toxic chemicals. Plants will not appreciate high concentrations of detergents etc.
However, a touch of diluted washing up liquid, isn’t going to hurt them compared with not getting any water. And its quite possible to save grey water just from sinks and not from dishwashers etc.
My Grey Water Harvesting Scheme
I’ve taken two actions to harvest my grey water so far. they are quite simple, indeed technically primative. But they work.
Firstly I save all my cooking water, from cooking pasta, potatoes and veg, in a bowl and use it to water plants once its called down. If it has a few bits of potatoes or pasta in it that doesn’t matter, its a bit like using the water from nettle teas etc. It’ll do no harm.
Secondly, outside my bathroom I’ve cut the waste pipe from the sink, have added an elbow and am diverting the water into a bucket. I then use it to water plants. My acres are getting water that I could not have provided previously. The few bits of toothpaste in the waste water will do no harm to the trees.
If this drought continues I’ll go out and buy extra plumbing pipe and divert more waste water to a filter and tank. It needn’t cost much and will recycle a lot of water.
A final word of warning. Grey water can soon see bacterial numbers grow rapidly, so take care in using it. I’d avoid putting untreated grey water on salads etc where I subsequently eat the leaves. The watering of non food plants is however fine.
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