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Conserving water in the house starts with the shower, including a shut-off valve for $10 at the shower head, and a bucket to collect the water that flows as the temperature is adjusted. [photo by Patric Hedlund]
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In the laundry room, a pipe is installed to carry the second rinse cycle water to a barrel outside. [photo by Patric Hedlund]
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They set an egg timer in the house to know when to come change the washer hose from the septic drain to the grey water pipe. [photo by Patric Hedlund]
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Fresh water is brought in by truck for watering vegetables. [photo by Patric Hedlund]
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The couple are caretakers at a ranch with a spring. They fill buckets and bottles to bring in to water their veggies. [photo by Patric Hedlund]
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Watering the flowers with grey water. [photo by Patric Hedlund]
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Watering veggies with water brought in by truck. [photo by Patric Hedlund]
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How do they do it? Joan and Rick Kotnik have a grey water irrigation and conservation strategy for staying green through the drought in Lake of the Woods. Their secrets can help us all.
By Joan Kotnik, LOW water customer
While the Lake of the Woods Mutual Water Company looks for a solution to its water supply problem, at our home we are adapting to the shortage with several solutions of our own. Our lawns may not be lush, but they are green, and our vegetable garden is amazing. Here is some information we learned from research on the internet.
Up to 75% of a family’s water usage is for outside irrigation. A typical family of four uses 5,000 gallons per month indoors and 16,000 gallons per month outdoors. That outdoor calculation is based on five watering stations set to irrigate 10 minutes each, every other day.
We built our raised-bed vegetable garden in February 2013, before the LOW water crisis was announced. We hauled in truckloads of compost from Community Resources and Recycling Centers in Taft. We placed compost in the vegetable beds, on the paths between them, and in our flower beds.
If you water during the heat of the day, half that water can be lost to evaporation. The compost prevents that loss.
Healthy trees, plants and grasses have more efficient root systems to absorb and retain every drop of water, so we used Scotts Super Turf Builder on the lawn, and plant fertilizers for our flowers. You could see the improvement in just 48 hours. Then, in May (when we got the bad news about the water crisis in LOW) we had another riddle to solve: where could we get the water to keep our plants healthy?
First, we conserve water at our home by doing small things. We learned, for instance, that turning off the faucet when brushing our teeth can save 8 gallons per day.
While waiting for the shower water to warm, we collect about a gallon of clean water each time into a bucket.
We installed a $10 “shower flow control” valve from Ace Hardware. Just flip it to stop the water flow when soaping and shampooing. Then flip it back on for rinsing off. The water temperature stays the same.
Our largest water source for our landscaping is the grey water from our top-loading washing machine. Rick, my husband, added a second drain pipe in the laundry room at a cost of under $20 for parts. We use an egg timer to remind us when to switch the hose from the first drain pipe to the second drain pipe.
The final rinse water (about 25 gallons) goes to a 32-gallon trash barrel. For health and safety reasons, this grey water must be used within 24 hours, and only on the ornamental plants, not on veggies.
Rick spends a few minutes in the early evenings using a watering can, filled with grey water, watering the lawn and flower beds.
While he does that, I water the vegetable garden, using about 23 gallons per day of water we transport in our truck, using five-gallon buckets and one-gallon recycled water bottles. We’re growing tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers, lettuce, collard greens, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, beans, onions, garlic and herbs for our family.
Our “extra” grey water is given to our neighbors to water their lawns. They are also using their rinse water from washing the dishes and recycling shower water.
As neighbors, we’re sharing our ideas, pooling our resources and getting to know each other better in the process.
For more info about compost, call David Baldwin, 661-845-4056, of Community Recycling (at the corner of Bear Mountain Boulevard and Wheeler Ridge Road between Lamont and Arvin).
This is part of the July 5, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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