Creative watering when there's no water...ideas?

mrs.desertMarch 14, 2006

I'm hoping that some of you brilliant minds can help me out there! My husband and I purchased an large property in the walhachin area in BC, Canada - just outside of Kamloops if anyone is familiar. Fabulous soil, just no water available - zone 4 and desert conditions (we have cactus and sagebush and that's it). We have to drill a well, but currently don't have the thousands needed to do it (waiting till retirement!). This area used to have apple orchards, but the system for irrigation isn't in place anymore (70 years ago from the river below that we don't have access to). And me being the gardening nut, of course wants to put in drought tolerant trees in A.S.A.P. - but need them watered to get them going!

My questions are then:

1) Has anyone ever successfully used this irrigation system that they use in deserts (saw an article that was out of india), you essentially dig a pit (3 feet down, 2 feet by 2 feet), cover with clear plastic/glass, and when the desert heat starts, it pulls the water from the soil, condenses on the glass and you can "harvest" this water for seedlings. Sounds great, but has anyone ever actually seen it done?

2) We were also thinking that if we could submerge a bucket of water with a lid, cut a hole in the side and stick a wicking material in the hole, that the plant might pull the needed water out slowly - just like those self watering pots. Then we could refill once a month when we visit and camp on it.

Sorry so long, we'd really appreciate the input. I would've posted this on the irrigation forum but they seem to already have lots of water so didn't think it was fitting.

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char3214

I live in an area of NY, about 2 miles away from lake ontario. I know most people on my road dont have wells because there is no water, or it is nothing but sulpher. they have trucked in and put it in a big plastic container which is in the ground or their basements. If you have water trucked in, I would have to say use drip irrigation, it uses the least amount of water, while getting right at the roots of your plants, none is wasted. Like I said I am not sure if you have water trucked in or not. You might want to check out a website www.irrigation-mart.com, they seem to know alot, maybe they can help you.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 11:21AM
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jason_reno(z5 NV)

If Canada has something similar to the University Extension program, I would talk to them first. They would have resources tailored to the local conditions. Your solar still would depend on a couple of factors. The first is the amount of ground water and its ability to move through the soil. If you have heavy clay, you might dry your hole and no more water would move in. Second, I can't imagine this would have a very high production rate, cups per day rather than gallons, and would probbably need frequent tending.

I would recommend setting up some water tanks and drip irrigation lines. You could fill the tanks once a month and let the water seep out through the drip emitters. Below is another website to look at.

Another thing to consider is rain/snow catching. Build a camping shelter of some sort with a tank to catch the water (snowmelt) runoff from the roof. Even a 10'x10' roof with 7" of precipitation (Reno's average) would get you 430 gallons. The hard part is sizing it to catch a year's worth of water in the winter.

Here is a link that might be useful: Drip Works

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 3:44PM
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gw:mrs_desert

Thanks very much for the ideas - I will absolutely keep you posted of what we experiment with and what is a success and what isn't. Fingers remain crossed. ;)

    Bookmark   May 11, 2006 at 7:14PM
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julie_m

Hi Mrs Desert..I know this is a bit late and I hope you still check in. I'm from Australia and always have water availability problems so we have just installed a rain water tank. I guess you have them in your neck of the woods. Run poly pipes from your guttering into the tank and just wait for it to fill up...like we are...still waiting.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 4:06AM
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zachrey(5)

Hi Mrs. Desert,

What is your annual rainfall amount? It can't be zero. We live out on the mesa near Taos, New Mexico and are experimenting with ways of growing a complete diet ala John Jeavons' "Grow Biointensive" method of sustainable mini-farming while using as little water as possible.

We are digging little holding ponds and ditches to guide and capture stormwater runoff to use for the beds. And I'm sure you could do the same. If the Nabateans of the Negev desert could do it with half the rain we get 1,500 years ago, we can do it too! We get about 7" to 10" of precipitation annually out here.

Last year, we got about 10" of rain and my first vegetable bed (80 square feet) flooded several times with about 1" to 2" of water. It really felt great to watch that water soak into the bed. The fava beans and potatoes loved it.

The bed has a berm around it to help contain the storm water and allow it soak in.

I am currently experimenting with growing potatoes in a 4' by 4' Cellu-GRO contained planter with hoops and plastic draped over it. It is kind of like Biosphere II except nobody is living inside it. And, like Biosphere II, keeping it cool is the biggest obstacle.

But it sure doesn't need much water! I've probably watered it five times since March 15, 2006 and nothing has wilted yet. It got up to 125F today w/o wilting but they are getting leggy from the heat I assume.

I assume you are completely inland. What is the average dewpoint out there? If the dew point is high enough during the growing season, it is conceivable that you could condense some water vapor by recirculating very cold water (if available) through a length of hose spread out on the vegetable bed.

What are your temperatures and sunshine amount like over the year? What kind of soil do you have (acid, alkaline, clayey, sandy...)?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2006 at 6:35PM
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gw:mrs_desert

Thanks so much Zachrey for the bio-sphere idea! I hadn't thought of that, having plants actually living within it as opposed to just collecting the water that way and transporting it elsewhere. I'll have to give it a try.

As for details of our area, average rainfall per year is 252mm - so approximately 1 inch. Yes, I realise - I huge challenge! Low temps in January are -28C (-18F) and highs in July are 34C (93.2F) (Hope I did the calculations right from C to F). I don't know what the hours of sunshine are but I know it's alot. I don't know the dewpoint, but I know it is very dry all year. The cold water through the pipe idea I think would work - but we don't have electricity yet to keep the water cold (electricity to the lot line but will hook up when we actually build there - not quite yet!). Soil is fabulous though - not sandy not clay - can't wait to start planting!

Keep the ideas coming - and I will be sure to post my findings for all the experiments when they are in place in a few months!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2006 at 2:02PM
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terran(zone10/Sunset20 CA)

Hi Mrs. Desert,

Is there any way to obtain access to the river, and / or water rights? If you could, a water ram might be the solution to the problem.

http://www.animatedsoftware.com/pumpglos/ram_pump.htm

I'll link the above URL, and you might also do a web search for 'water ram'.

If this is not possible, I check to see how the indigenous peoples used and survived on the land. Native plants could be used to complement the non-natives.

For the 'condensation pit' to work, there has to be some soil moisture. Are there any fog or mist that are not counted as precipitation to supplement the 252mm. that is counted?

I see from the site http://www.britishcolumbia.com/regions/towns/?townID=4075 that juniper are indigenous to the area. I wonder how many juniper berries it takes to make a liter of GIN? With enough gin, who cares how the garden grows?

Terran

Here is a link that might be useful: Water ram

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 12:27AM
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maifleur01

Mrs. Desert, The water collection from run off would work best with lots of mulch. I hope when you purchased your property you received water rights with it. Depending on your local laws you may own the land but nothing above or below. The water delivery would be good in your situation. The place to put the water is called as cistern.

How much snow do you receive? You could save it to water with.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 10:58PM
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chloedaven

Not sure how the water restrictions are there but ours are terrible! It started out as every other day of the week but not between 10am and 4pm. Now the restriction only allows watering on Saturday night from midnight to Sunday morning at 10am. This is a major problem for me since around half of the plants I have are in pots. We had to figure out a way to water.. but not illegally. We're currently using the air-conditioning drip from our home to water plants. I've bought a plastic window box (used for planting) and have kept the plugs in to hold water. I believe it's around a five gallon container. I'm able to empty the container at least three times a day (sometimes more if it's an unusually warm day) to water plants in my yard. That's nearly 15 gallons of water that would have otherwise contributed to a puddle of mud. My plants are happy and I can't be fined for using recycled water.
Happy Gardening,

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 3:45PM
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possum888(nsw Aust)

Is there any "grey" water you can use. For example the last rinsing water from your clothes washing, the water you wash your vegetables in, the water that you run before the shower reaches the temperature you want.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2006 at 6:56AM
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jason_reno(z5 NV)

It getting close to year since the original post. Any progress? By the way, 252mm is more like 10 inches.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 8:28PM
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mrs.desert

With much thinking, researching, reading everything I could find the best approach appears to be, alas, drilling a very expensive well. I was hoping to avoid it until we were living there permenantly, however if we want to get our trees started... So in 2 weeks time, we will be drilling a 500 foot deep well (500 ft as that's what everyone's wells are at around us). The gardening pull is outwaying the waiting so I have managed to convince husband that we should drill now, and build a small "guest house" so that I can get the gardening going.

We are going to try our best at the "grey water" watering, however it appears that regulations to complete this legally are challenging, to say the least. Therefore, I think setting up an outdoor shower and just getting the laundry to drain outside into the garden is the best move.

I'll let you know how it all goes.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 2:53PM
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shazoom(z9California)

Mrs Desert,

I fully understand your dilemma and "only reasonable solution" - at least you now know the "true" value of the water. Treat it preciously!

Someone above suggested drip systems. In your area, a drip system could loose 75% water due to evaporation. The best solution would be to use sub-surface ceramic pots. I am now coming up to my 7th year of using these pots, buried at the roots of the plant, and when carrying out periodical tests, I find them in perfect condition (they do get a "nest" of roots attached to their surround).

Since the sub-surface pots are gravity feed, there is no need for regulators etc... and they are simple to install.

I make these pots in batch mode using a simple slip cast method. Partially glazed, fired and finally adding a rubber cork with a sealing compound then fitted with regular 1/4" tube fittings - should you want details please contact me. May be a hand project to take up the extra time you may have living in the desert.

All the best - Shaz

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 7:20PM
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sunsnail

The system you described reminds me of the dew collectors in the novel Dune.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 9:19AM
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shazoom(z9California)

Mrs Desert,
I fully understand your dilemma and "only reasonable solution" - at least you now know the "true" value of the water. Treat it preciously!

Someone above suggested drip systems. In your area, a drip system could loose 75% water due to evaporation. The best solution would be to use sub-surface ceramic pots. I am now coming up to my 7th year of using these pots, buried at the roots of the plant, and when carrying out periodical tests, I find them in perfect condition (they do get a "nest" of roots attached to their surround).

Since the sub-surface pots are gravity feed, there is no need for regulators etc... and they are simple to install.

I make these pots in batch mode using a simple slip cast method. Partially glazed, fired and finally adding a rubber cork with a sealing compound then fitted with regular 1/4" tube fittings - should you want details please contact me. May be a hand project to take up the extra time you may have living in the desert.

All the best - Shaz

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 5:23PM
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uncaray

I've only read about this but it makes sense. In places like Afghanistan people build small conical piles of stone, primarily limestone, next to each tree. The dew collects on the underside of the pile and keeps the tree watered. The piles are usually about 12ft in diameter and 2-4 ft high, made of irregular shaped head sized stone. The purpose is to keep the pile loose and open so moist air can circulate freely.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 10:46AM
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