Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rain Collection: Making Every Drop Count

     Texas is in what is labelled an "exceptional" drought.  To call it for what it is, it's really bad.  Like "driest 10 month period since 1895" bad.  It feels like there's no end in sight, and I've almost forgotten what rain is like.  Here in Houston we've just been put on water restrictions.  Each household is to only water outdoors twice a week.  It's hard times for turf grass in Texas.  And trees aren't fairing much better.  Memorial park is expected to have some severe damage to its trees, and will look very different in several years.  Maintaining a garden is near impossible right now, but I've been doing very well with the aquaponic systems I have at home.  There has been no shortage of peppers or mint this summer.  One of the most significant advantages of aquaponics is the extremely efficient water usage (95% less water than traditional field farming).  And when that rare rain shower occurs we collect as much of the water as possible to use in the backyard systems.  But, isn't a rain collection system going to put a dent in your pocket?  No, it really won't.

Simple rain collecting.
     In my backyard I've set up a 75 gallon container in a spot that gets a pretty heavy flow of water during rainstorms.  I take off the lid and water just pours into the container.  It fills up within a few minutes if it's a decent shower (and if it lasts long enough).  At that point I run a hose connected to a water pump in the container to a smaller 50 gallon drum (the blue drum on the left in the picture).  Turn the pump on and you're making room for more water.
     This is by no means a large collection system.  And it was thrown together with items I already had around the house, so the investment may as well have been nothing.  But the 125 gallons I can collect during a good shower can last me up to 12 weeks, depending on how hot it's been and how much water my systems have lost.  Typically, I fill up a system with a 4' x 8' grow space once a week with roughly 10 gallons.  Compared to a traditional soil garden I'm practically not using water.  I'm not paying for the water either, which is a big help.  And rainwater is one of the best sources of water you can use in aquaponics, so it's a winning situation all around.
     If you have a backyard aquaponic system, a small garden, or even just potted plants I would recommend setting up some sort of rain collection.  It's as easy as trimming back some gutter on the side of your house and running the gutter into a container that is sturdy enough to hold the water.  And you're really only limited by your imagination.  One container not enough for you?  Then why not set several containers next to each other with plumbing connecting them?  Then all the containers fill up during a rainstorm.  But even if you do just want to collect 50 gallons of water, I'd say it's worth the time to set it up.  Take advantage of what nature is giving you, when she decides to give it.

Owner/operator of Trinity Aquaponics
Brendon Tripp 

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