Written By Teresa Howell |
My sis-in-law Becky came slogging up to the house after that little bit of moisture we had last week. “You know,” she said, “you’re wasting a lot of water.”
“How can that be? I’m just making coffee. You want coffee, don’t you?”
“Sure, I’ll take a cup. You know, that’s about two hundred gallons you wasted.”
“Becky, I don’t know what you’re talking about. This pot only holds two quarts, and I know we’ll drink all of it.”
“I’m not talking about the coffee, although you do drink enough of it to water a good-sized flower bed. I’m talking about the run-off from your roof. You could be using that water in your landscape.”
Becky is right. I am wasting water, and those little gullies streaming away from my house are taking topsoil along with them. But what to do about it?
A little research showed some possible fixes for that rivulet coursing through my driveway. One is a system of gutters with some kind of collection system, which would catch any moisture coming off my roof.
There are a couple of difficulties with the plan, the chief of them being financial. Installing the gutters isn’t all that difficult, or all that expensive. The storage of that harvested rainwater gets problematic, though. Around here, most water comes in the winter, and to store all that moisture until summer when it’ll do some good will take more than just a rain barrel or two. I’d need a good-sized cistern, and that would probably require a large buried tank of some sort–and a few grand to pay for it and installation, plus the paraphernalia I’d need to pump the water out once the tank is filled.
Fortunately, I can still take advantage of that water without putting in a cistern. All I need to do is to plan my landscape in such a way that it captures the water that pummels my plants and leaves a deep groove around the perimeter of my house before washing out the driveway.
A gutter system is the first element in the plan. Then I can choose where water exits my roof. From there, a dry streambed would allow the water to soak gently into the ground. Becky recommended Owen E. Dell’s Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies, which tells how to create a dry stream bed. She told me not to take the title personally.
Dell recommends making sure that the dry stream bed slopes downhill. He recommends designing the dry streambed on the pattern of a natural creek bed, which would gently follow the contours of the land. He recommends that the bed be at least a foot wide and ten inches deep, and lining it with a “filter fabric,” which would allow the water to sink in while keeping the rocks and gravel in place. There are several varieties of landscape fabric that would do the job, and perhaps prevent a bit of weeding as well.
Dell recommends the use of “percolation chambers,” which are just big holes filled with rocks and gravel, which allow quite a bit of water to soak into the ground harmlessly, but I have a big depression where I want to water end up; I’ll probably just deepen and widen the channel there.
I’m hoping that my dry creek can become a focal point in my landscape. A few gentle curves, some nice rocks, and that wasted water will do me some good, especially if I’m wise in the selection of plants.
I can take best advantage of the extra water by choosing drought-tolerant plants with deep roots, so that they can take better advantage of the water as it goes down.
There. All planned out. Now all I have to do is dig that ditch. I’ve got two shovels. I wonder what Becky is doing this spring?
When Teresa Howell isn’t wasting water, she teaches English at Great Basin College in Winnemucca.