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Title: Preparing for drought conditions with a catchment system


1
Preparing for drought conditions with a catchment
system
  • Joe Brown, PhD
  • University of Alabama
  • New College
  • joebrown_at_bama.ua.edu
  • Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
  • January 16-19 2008 Louisville, KY

2
Handouts and presentation
  • Available at website
  • bama.ua.edu/brown/water.html

3
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4
Rainfall there aint any
  • Increasing climatic variability
  • More frequent and severe droughts in SE region
  • My two states in particular
  • Whats going on?
  • Hard to say, but for now the outlook isnt great
  • Lets take a brief look

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Lucky Kentucky
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El Niño 2006-2007 (hot, dry summer in SE) La
Niña current conditions (mild, dry winter)
A double whammy
13
?
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15
Okay, so now what?
  • We must start thinking of water as a scarce
    resource mindset shift
  • Lets look for ways to cut back on water by
  • Using catchment systems
  • Start thinking more about water storage
  • Managing your pond creating a pond if you dont
    have one
  • Implementing a water conservation plan on the
    farm
  • Considering water in all decisions
  • Wells do go dry, water costs will go up
  • Good news in the SE, we still get plenty of rain
    even in our driest years!
  • And occasionally, we get lots in spite of it all
    (2003 comes to mind)

16
Rainwater catchment
  • But, I thought we were talking about not having
    any rain?
  • Well, we still have rain, but it comes in less
    frequent bursts more variability
  • Still plenty more than out West
  • Capturing it is the key
  • Basic rainwater catchment roof improvements,
    conveyance and quality control, storage, and
    treatment

17
Rainwaters been around for a long time
18
In MANY forms
Proutworld.org
19
Including this one
  • BASIC ELEMENTS
  • Collection from a roof
  • Conveyance
  • Storage
  • And now, a bit about each

20
Roof materials
  • When choosing a roofing material - the smoother
    the better. The quantity of rainwater that can be
    collected is also a function of roof texture
  • Can also impact quality
  • Water quality from different roof catchments is a
    function of the type of roof material, climate
    conditions, and surrounding environment
  • More on this in a moment
  • NOTE! Collection surfaces can be non-roofs
    packed earth and concrete are common in some
    countries

21
Roofs should be free of nastiness more on that
when we get to quality
May need to trim overhanging trees as debris can
get out of hand
SLOPE IS IMPORTANT TOO
22
Capture efficiencies depends on roof material
  • For a tile/metal/concrete/asphalt roof assume a
    95 runoff efficiency
  • Gravel 70
  • Bare soil 70
  • Grass 17
  • Source harvesth2o

23
A word about rainwater quality and roof materials
  • Copper roofs and heavy metals
  • Asphalt shingles, especially new ones, and
    especially on hot days leeching of organic
    nasties into water
  • Some shingles have imbedded chemicals / moss
    inhibitors that can be nasty
  • No roofing material has been approved or
    certified for potable use
  • By the NSF or EPA or any other government or
    regulatory organization
  • As for as metal, galvanized metal, painted or
    unpainted with a nontoxic paint, are common.
    Other roofing type materials include terra cotta,
    tile, slate, and fiberglass
  • Roofing materials should have as little toxic
    material on it as possible, to reduce leaching
  • Water collected from cedar roofs may be too
    acidic
  • Beware lead flashing

24
Gutters and downspouts
25
Gutters
  • Aluminum gutters
  • Galvanized steel gutters
  • PVC is used widely
  • Bamboo can be a good choice for you DIYers if a
    bit difficult to work with for the uninitiated
  • Rain chains
  • Ensure constant slope
  • Think of a gutter as a river - not a swamp
  • Gutter guards
  • Clean and inert the name of the game

26
Clean out your gutters! This stuff will end up
in your rainwater tank Debris makes your system
inefficient
27
Downspouts
  • Anything from chains to traditional aluminum
    downspouts can be used to get the water down from
    the gutters
  • Sealed PVC piping is often used close to the
    ground, and where the water needs to be
    transported horizontally
  • This piping must be sized for good flows, storm
    events, and easy cleaning
  • 3-4 diameter, with screens to keep out leaves
    and animals appropriate for 1000SF catchment
    area

28
Debris traps
  • A series of debris traps and filters can protect
    water quality

29
Rain chains
For those of you with style Popular choice Can
also use ropes of various kinds Not very
efficient
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A few more words about quality protection on the
collection side
  • In addition to worrying about the roof material
    and debris traps, consider
  • First flush systems
  • Barrels in series
  • You want to prevent things from washing off roof
    and ending up in your nice, clean rainwater
  • That you might even think about drinking

32
First flush (AKA foul flush)
  • A diverter of the first water that comes in a
    given rain event
  • Usually sized to divert the first 1 or so by
    volume of a 1 rain event
  • Sizing depends on roof size, material, etc there
    are formulas and rules of thumb, but all are
    fairly arbitrary
  • About 10 gallons per 1000 SF is what Ive used
  • Designed to fill with contaminated water from a
    rain event and empty itself over a 24 hour period
    so that it is ready for the next time it rains
  • This system is used in most parts of the world to
    improve water quality for potable rainwater
    systems
  • Removes 80 or more of the pollutants that
    collect on the roof or in the gutters and become
    dissolved or suspended in the water

33
More on first flush
from gutter
  • Commercially available units ()
  • Small tank with diversion
  • Many designs are used

To storage
Floating ball
20 Gal
Large diameter PVC pipe with small hole drilled
in bottom
34
The barrels-in-series treatment system
  • Series of tanks that allow for settling out of
    contaminants

H2O
35
And now, a bit about storage options
36
Water storage
  • The key to making rainwater available when and
    where you need it
  • Storage tanks/cisterns take many forms and vary
    greatly by cost, volume, and materials
  • The most common storage tanks in the US are the
    above ground molded polyethylene tanks (300 -
    5,000 gallons)
  • 1,000 3,000 gallons is the correct range for
    our region that will allow for ample domestic or
    some garden use
  • Ferrocement tanks are widely used elsewhere as
    well as historically in the US

37
Tank options
  • Fiberglass
  • Polyethylene
  • In-ground polyethylene
  • Metal
  • Concrete/block
  • Ferrocement
  • Stone/masonry
  • Earthship-style rammed earth tires/plaster
  • Wood tanks, swimming pools, other materials, etc
  • Harvesth2o.com

38
Fiberglass tanks
  • Light-weight, reasonably priced, and long lasting
  • Small barrels to 15,000 gallon tanks, several
    shapes
  • Smaller fiberglass tanks (i.e. under 1,000
    gallons) are expensive for their size, so
    polyethylene might be preferred
  • Tanks for potable use need to have a
    USDA-approved food-grade resin lining and the
    tank should be opaque to inhibit algae growth
  • Generally recommended for any tanks used for
    potable water
  • Durable and easy to maintain

39
Fiberglass
40
Polyethylene
  • Most readily available, cheapest of all the
    commercial options
  • Many shapes, sizes, versatility
  • Most common in the USA
  • Have been known to be leaky
  • Opaque plastic colors may need to be shaded or
    buried
  • Dont retain paint well
  • May need reinforcement if buried
  • Barrels to 10,000 gallons

41
Polyethylene
42
Clemson University system
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Metal tanks
  • Relatively expensive option
  • Most tanks are corrugated galvanized steel dipped
    in hot zinc to improve corrosion resistance
  • For above-ground use (risk of corrosion and LUST)
  • Old or recycled tanks may contain nasties (e.g.,
    lead and perhaps should be avoided
  • Unless you have the resources to test water
  • Low pH of rainwater can leach out metals that are
    more soluble at low pHs
  • Brass and bronze fittings should not be connected
    directly to the tank as they will cause corrosion

45
Metal
46
Metal with algae cover
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Concrete
  • Versatile, poured in place or prefabricated
  • Concrete blocks, cinder blocks, other blocks
  • Constructed above or below ground
  • Owner or contractor-built
  • Concrete will over time decrease the
    corrosiveness of rainwater by leaching into the
    water
  • Also taste advantages (Ca, Mg)
  • May require high quality coating inside for
    potable use
  • Underground concrete tanks are prone to cracking
    and leaking, especially when in clayey soil
  • Leaks can be easily repaired, although the tank
    may need to be drained to make the repair.
  • May need expertise of a structural engineer to
    determine the size and spacing of reinforcing
    steel
  • Xypex(TM) can be used to seal leaks in potable
    tanks

49
Concrete
50
Concrete
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Cast concrete or pottery
53
Ferrocement
  • Steel and mortar composite material
  • These tanks can be above or below ground and can
    be done by contractors or homeowners
  • Developed in third-world countries to be
    relatively low-cost and durable
  • Typically chicken wire-wrapped around a light
    framework of rebar, embedded in the concrete.
    Walls can be as thin as 1" and still be strong
  • It can cost less to build than a concrete-only
    tank
  • Will need maintenance and repair as cracks
    appear
  • Paint it white to reflect the sun's rays, reduce
    evaporation, and keep the water cool

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Strength is in the rebar/wire mesh
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9000 gallons 400 kids for one year 3 months, no
rain!
62
Plastered tire/rammed earth/Earthship tanks
  • A circle of buried tires with a wire mesh inside
    covered with plaster
  • Will need periodic maintenance to repair cracks
    on the inside
  • Labor intensive
  • Meant to be buried and can be very economical for
    large tank sizes (i.e., 10,000 gallons/37,900
    liters), especially if owner-built
  • Use great care in the plaster work
  • Can last forever

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My new crazy idea
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR TRADE DEFICIT WITH CHINA
65
Another crazy idea
  • Store water in existing wells
  • Some researchers in India are testing it out.
  • (link on the website)

66
 --  Low/No                     High/Yes
67
Some things all tanks need
  • A solid secure cover
  • A coarse inlet filter
  • An overflow pipe
  • A manhole, sump, and drain to facilitate cleaning
  • An extraction system that does not contaminate
    the water e.g., a tap or pump
  • A system to prevent spilled water from forming
    puddles near the tank
  • Additional features might include
  • System for reusing water from foul-flush

68
Other considerations with tanks
  • Water temperature can be elevated if using a
    dark-colored tank
  • Tanks are often dark in color to discourage algae
    growth
  • Try watering your tomatoes with 120F water and
    report back to us next year
  • All of them will need to be cleaned out
    periodically, so plan for that
  • All need to have a sloped bottom away from the
    outlet so that settled solids dont gunk up the
    outlet

69
Sloped bottom to the tank away from outlet
70
Protecting quality in rainwater systems
  • First flush / foul flush systems
  • Debris traps
  • Roof maintenance
  • Roof materials
  • Tank materials
  • Post-storage treatment

71
More on rainwater quality (post-storage)
  • Not very much data on this
  • In most of the world, rainwater is usually of
    much greater quality than other sources, and its
    free! (with the cost of the roof improvements,
    gutters, and tanks)
  • Atmospheric pollutants do find their way into
    rainwater, usually at very low concentrations
  • Acid rain, VOCs, particulates
  • There have been documented exceptions
  • Urban areas can have issues with this
  • Be aware of the considerations, but usually
    quality is not a huge concern (BUT DEPENDS ON
    USE)
  • Especially for non-potable uses

72
There may be municipal restrictions on rainwater
use and quality controls
Check out tying into your domestic system,
reusing water
GREY WATER!
73
Potable use
  • Treatment for potable use (usually not
    recommended, occasionally not legal)
  • Chlorine
  • Requires proper dosing to 3-5mg/l difficult in
    practice to get this right
  • Ultraviolet requires electricity and may not be
    practical
  • http//www.harvesth2o.com/uv.shtml
  • Filters
  • RO/micro/ultra/nano filtration (POE devices)
  • Sand or other granular media filters (less
    effective)
  • Safe storage combined with no treatment (most
    common in developing countries)
  • One drop, silver-based technologies, silane
    coatings
  • Brita wont cut it
  • Human pathogens dont generally grow in rainwater
  • Can persist, however, if foul-flush system is
    inadequate

74
Two examples of small rainwater systems
75
Design for a chicken houseexample project for
Carrboro
  • 6 x 8 corrugated metal
  • Attached to one side of roof thats 5 on a 512
    pitch
  • Catchment area is 6 x 12 on 512 pitch
  • Works out to 66 square feet (footprint)
  • Always calculate catchment area as on-ground
    projection of a sloped roof
  • Gutters connected to 1 55 gallon drum
  • Connected by hose to watering can

76
Catchment area a x b(birds eye view of roof
outline)
77
My chicken house
78
12
55g
79
Looking up rainfall data
CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATE 3 per month or 36 per
year Spreadsheet available at http//bama.ua.edu/
brown
80
ASSUME 12 hens drink 1 gallon of water per day
(drinking and panting to cool off) Assume you get
half of normal rainfall, and 20 is wasted USE 1
55-gallon drum. Conversion factor 1 CuFt 7.48
gallons
81
The finer points of design
  • Cleaning off the roof, trimming back oerhanging
    trees
  • Using scrap metal from my own personal dump left
    behind by the barbarian rednecks who were on our
    place before
  • Working with the random fittings and hoses I
    already have lying around
  • Considering buying a new drum
  • Total materials cost approximately 0

82
Design for a household system in McCalla, Alabama
  • House footprint 1250 SF
  • Daily use of 100 gallons for all domestic uses
    and our attached small greenhouse
  • Probably an overestimate since were
    conservation-minded
  • Supplemental treatment via POU/POE filtration
  • First flush system

83
Demand take a close look
  • How much water do you anticipate using?
  • 50 gal per day? 200?
  • 95 is average for Americans!
  • The WHO says we can live on less than 2 per day
    for essential drinking and cooking

84
Find your citys data in .xls format
http//bama.ua.edu/brown/water.html SOURCE
http//www.harvesth2o.com/US_rainfall.shtml
85
Use 30 year data with 10 loss factor
at end of the month
86
Meeting supply and demand
87
Other points
  • Using 2000 gallon water tank
  • Metal but in good condition, also salvaged
  • Existing gutters
  • Aged asphalt shingle roof
  • Oerhanging trees
  • First flush system of PVC floating ball type
  • Post-storage sand filter and UV disinfection (or
    ceramic filters) for potable use
  • Parallel line for greywater
  • Id better start becoming adept at plumbing.
  • Every project an opportunity to learn things
  • Not to mention purchase fun tools

88
Designing YOUR system
  • Identify needs and goals
  • Figure out what catchment area youre working
    with
  • Get your rainfall data the more local, the
    better
  • Why not get a weather station? Just remember to
    empty the rain gauge!
  • Calculate supply using a simple spreadsheet
  • Full example in a moment
  • Assess demand
  • Account for all the conserving youre going to
    start doing ?
  • Try to live within your hydrologic (and ecologic)
    means!
  • Ponder tank sizes tradeoffs between storage and
    cost
  • Include ample assumptions for losses, especially
    at first
  • Can always put in overflow barrels that are
    extra
  • Include allowances for drought, increased
    proportion of rainfall occurring in less frequent
    but more intense bursts
  • Leads to more losses due to splashing,
    overwashing gutters
  • Like with any new thing, best to start small
    (in size and )

89
Sizing the storage tank
  • Where supply meets demand
  • Major determinant of cost
  • For domestic/small garden uses 1000 3000
    gallons
  • More storage provides for greater drought
    protection
  • Tradeoff!

90
Rainwater for irrigation
  • Capture is critical usually theres the least
    rain when temperatures are highest and irrigation
    is most important
  • Need to boost storage for irrigation use
  • You will be able to find uses for your stored
    rainwater, so investment in tanks is always good
  • Not very practical for large scale row crop
    operation, but
  • Water where you need it without pipes if you have
    a greenhouse, barn, chicken house, etc far away
    from current water sources
  • And can be gravity fed no pumps or less pumping
  • Can supplement other sources
  • Widely used for this purpose in some places of
    the developing world

91
Stored rainwater versus paying for tap water
  • 250 gallons 1
  • Often more in smaller, private systems
  • In our region, a 1000 system will pay for itself
    in 3 10 years if only the bottom line is
    considered
  • 3000 gallon capacity tank(s) and few extras for
    the roof and gutters
  • Depends on use, rainfall, cost of tap water, how
    efficient the system is, etc
  • Could make a lot of sense from a great many
    perspectives, not just economic
  • Increasing your self sufficiency in times of
    drought

92
Rainwater versus wells
  • Wells can and do run dry, so good to have a
    backup plan
  • North Carolina groundwater map
  • Not always available
  • For example, some areas of Alabama
  • buyameter.org

93
By the way marketing opportunities
  • Touting drought resistant or low-water crops
  • Highlighting sustainable water use on the farm
  • Rainwater harvesting as a selling point
  • Focus on farm impacts on water
  • Well-managed agricultural land provides for
    infiltration
  • Erosion controls and BMPs for reduction of runoff
    and therefore waterborne pollution
  • Grass swales, ponds, rain gardens
  • Watershed, riparian zone, or wetland protection
  • Make sure your customers know you are doing
    something good, maybe theyll buy another tomato

94
Your own Walden Ponda water savings account
95
First of all resources!
  • Key ones are available on the website
  • http//bama.ua.edu/brown/water.html
  • Building a pond requires expert site-specific
    help
  • Its both a science and an art
  • Just a few general points here

96
Selecting a pond site
  • Put it over yunder has not been a successful
    philosophical viewpoint or modus operandi
  • Several factors to consider, including
  • Safety
  • Soils
  • Geology
  • Topography
  • Irrigation access proximity to crops

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A few different pond types
  • Embankment (less expensive)
  • Excavated (more expensive)
  • Levee
  • Watershed-levee
  • Have a look at resources on the website

99
Maintain your pond
  • If you have an old pond site on your property,
    its well worth taking the trouble to clean it up,
    rather than negotiating permits and incurring the
    expense for a new one
  • This is a resource to be maintained
  • Can be expensive to dredge and repair ponds
  • Vegetation decays, sediment accumulates and the
    basin erodes. Eventually, without help, the pond
    disappears
  • Shallow water contributes to excessive aquatic
    weed problems and potentially to fish kills from
    low dissolved oxygen when average depth is less
    than 3 feet maintain adequate depth

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More on maintenance
  • Beware of runoff or be prepared to recover your
    topsoil with a backhoe in 20 years and pay for
    the privilege
  • Keep your pond surrounded by large grassy areas
    to prevent soil from washing into the pond from
    nearby fields
  • Dont leave exposed soil in your catchment basin
    if you can help it
  • Keep contours in mind, of course, anytime you
    disturb the soil
  • Also keep in mind that the ponds own water can
    cause soil erosion
  • Like capitalism, every pond contains the seeds of
    its own destruction
  • Wind-whipped waves can eat away at a ponds banks,
    dam and spillway
  • Common solutions include breaking up waves with
    an obstacle such as a floating log boom
  • Aquatic plants?
  • Keep livestock out of your pond as much as
    possible, both to prevent erosion and to maintain
    water quality

102
Is my pond leaking or evaporating?
103
Leaky ponds
  • Excessive seepage is a common pond problem in
    many areas
  • Most severe seepage problems can be traced back
    to two fundamental causes a poor site and/or
    improper pond construction practices.
  • A poor site may be one in which either the soils
    are too permeable to hold water and/or the
    underlying geology is not conducive to holding
    water.
  • Risky geological structure includes underlying
    cavernous limestone prone to develop sinkholes or
    exposed rock areas in the pond bottom around
    which water might channel beneath the pond.
  • Seepage rates can vary considerably for ponds,
    depending on the dominant soil type.
  • Properly constructed ponds on good sites will
    have low seepage rates.

104
Leaky ponds, continued
  • Improper pond construction techniques are often
    the cause of excessive seepage
  • Avail yourself of resources no doubt available
    from your cooperative extension AND expert advice
    from folks whove built ponds that are still
    around
  • Most embankment ponds require a cutoff and core
    trench compacted with a good-quality clayey
    material along the centerline of the dam and
    extending down into impervious material.
  • Failure to properly install the core trench can
    result in excessive seepage through the base of
    the dam.
  • This problem can sometimes be corrected through
    draining the pond and installing a new core
    trench in front of the dam.
  • Proper soil moisture is very important for
    obtaining optimum compaction during the
    construction phase. Ponds constructed with soil
    either too dry or too wet can result in excess
    seepage due to poor compaction.
  • There are several methods and materials that can
    be used to seal leaking ponds, including
    compaction, clay blankets, bentonite, chemical
    dispersing agents, and pond liners
  • Much easier in construction than later!!!!
  • See resources on website there are some very
    good articles on this

105
Water conservation on the small farm
  • Irrigation reducing losses, avoiding over
    watering
  • Managing crops to get the most out of your water

106
Being stingy with your water by asking the tough
questions
Youre probably already going through this mental
process
107
Irrigation
  • North Carolina is located in a humid region
    where irrigation must be planned in conjunction
    with prevailing rainfall conditions. In humid
    regions such as ours, applying routine amounts of
    irrigation water at regular intervals will almost
    always result in overirrigation and the needless
    waste of water and energy
  • Evans, Sneed, and Cassell (1996) NCCES

108
Checking soil moisture
  • The feel method
  • Instruments
  • Dont want to over water
  • In addition to wasting water, can lead to shallow
    roots, other issues

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Irrigation scheduling
  • Delivering the correct amount of water at the
    correct time
  • Know your crops water sensitivity and needs at
    various stages of growth
  • Focus on critical points
  • Monitor soil moisture, even if its just through
    spot checking with the feel test
  • Ample information out there on this check with
    your extension

111
So what are some simple steps for saving water?
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113
If you can, scale back
  • Reduce area planted no use trying to stretch too
    little water over too little land you run the
    risk of overstressing everything
  • Reduce production of water intensive crops if you
    can
  • Focus on giving adequate water to those most
    critical () crops and cut corners on the
    extras that may not be as marketable
  • Hard choices are sometimes needed

114
Crop selection
  • Certain crops and varieties are less sensitive to
    water stress
  • May not be as productive
  • May not have as high a market demand
  • Talk to your extension agent and other folks to
    get ideas

115
For example drought resistance and cover crops
  • Sudan sudex is best
  • One sees sorghum and millet planted together in
    many dry places around the world
  • Sudan grass is not a legume, no nitrogen fixation
  • Hairy vetch is moderately drought resistant
  • Cowpeas (iron and clay peas) moderately drought
    resistant
  • Crimson clover is not drought resistant
  • I dont recommend kudzu, although it is drought
    resistant!

116
Develop strategies to make the most of rain when
it comes
  • A good response to longer periods of dryness
    broken by more violent rainstorms is to make your
    soil drought-resistant
  • What you want is a way for your valuable plants
    to survive a temporary water deficit, without
    having to use a lot of water
  • So, make sure that the water from a deluge
    doesn't run off
  • Make the water percolate down to plants' roots
  • Bare plowed soil loses water quickly to
    evaporation
  • Ground cover of any kind helps
  • More on this

117
Water and your soil
  • Soil type and structure is a major determinant of
    how much water is held and whether your crops can
    access it
  • E.g., clay holds a great deal of water, but that
    water may not be easily accessible to plants
  • Soils that are too sandy may not hold water well
    at all
  • You can promote water infiltration, retention,
    and accessibility by developing proper soil
    structure and fertility
  • Organic matter, cover crops (promote infiltration
    and reduce evapotranspiration), etc
  • Advantage of reduced tillage, no-till systems
    undisturbed soil holds water
  • Also advantages for pond buffer areas
  • Worms

118
Weeds and trees
  • Remember, they compete with your plants for water
  • And competition can be fierce
  • Mature trees in peak summer heat can use 250
    gallons a day
  • Roots may go out horizontally as far as the
    height of the tree
  • May not notice until drought conditions are
    present

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The obvious things
  • You know youre doing something wrong when
  • There are puddles of water hither and yon
  • You see jets of water coming up between rows,
    from valves, at couplings, etc
  • Tiny rivers appear out of nowhere
  • Use drip irrigation and lots of mulch/row covers
    where possible
  • Use sprinklers in the evening/morning if
    necessary and maximize droplet size
  • Want to deliver water so that it doesnt
    evaporate immediately
  • Also dont stress out your plants when they are
    suffering from lack of water by feeding or pruning

120
Thanks for your attention, yall
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