Harvesting & Saving Water

We are so blessed to have received some rain this week. It was enough to fill the two 250L rain barrels, get the 2000L garage tank to over 1/3 full and get our house water tank out of the precariously dwindling red level! We are still being very careful with water though, as we need a lot more to break this drought from the soil and get a safe level in our main tank and it’s predicted to be a dry first half of autumn. The only reason the majority of our lawn is still green is because it’s full of weed grasses: paspalum, kikuyu and other things. The kikuyu I can live with, but the paspalum is really annoying, needing mowing when nothing else does with it’s super long seed heads and thick, thick stems. It will have to go at some point, somehow.

Some sweet relief for the fruit trees.
The 2000L garage rain tank.

This is the second year we’ve had an extremely dry summer and we’re doing everything we can to avoid having to buy-in water. This level of dryness and sunniness may not be the norm, but it might be becoming the normal thanks to global warming. I’ve been thinking about what we can do better. We tend to get a lot of rain in winter and sometimes the small rain barrels are overflowing, making it hard to believe that it could get so dry in summer. How can we harvest and store more of that winter rain months ahead of time? I’ve decided that one 250L rain barrel by the deck is not enough for that position. Fortunately, I decided this before I started building a small rain barrel stand for it. A few possibilities are:

  • Use a spare lidded plastic barrel we have and connect the two together year-round for around twice the water storage – 500L.
  • Buy a tall, slimline water tank that would hold 1000L.
  • Buy a wider 2000L water tank for a similar price, which would mean cutting off access to the house via the future patio area.
The 250L rain barrel by the deck, which collects water from the porch roof. And the spare black barrel.

For now, I am going to use what we have, which is the spare barrel. I’m planning to build a rain barrel stand out of pallets to hold these two up off the ground so I’m not using bought timber to make something that may end up needing to be replaced by a bigger stand. A stand is needed for properly getting water from the tap into a watering can and to secure the rain barrels for safety reasons. The sandpit to the left of the rain barrels is going to move, so things in this area will be changing around anyway.

Then there’s the other rain barrel of the same kind that collects water from the potting shed roof. I was planning to build a tall stand for this one to get gravity-fed water to the outdoor sink. Now I’m thinking I should make the stand tall enough so that I can sit an extra barrel underneath it. Then that could hold any excess water. Or, have a couple of extra barrels behind the potting shed. It’s really good to think through these things to make the best use of our space and our water.

The potting shed rain barrel.

With each period of rainlessness we learn more ways of careful water management. Here are some ideas for saving water. I’m sure there are more that I’ve forgotten to write down too. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments at the bottom. We can help each other learn.

Bathroom & Laundry
  • Put a bucket/bowl in the shower/bath/sink while you’re waiting for the water to heat up. Then you can use it on the garden.
  • Turn the shower pressure down if you can.
  • Don’t shower every day.
  • If you have a shower-over-bath or a shub, put the plug in while you shower and you can use that water to help clean your small child, clean your dirty feet, shave your legs, etc.
  • The toilet – if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down. Just don’t freak out your visitors and make sure you don’t mellow more than three yellows. Guys can also do their yellows in the garden.
  • Adjust your toilet cistern so it doesn’t use as much water to flush.
  • Do full loads of washing and less often. Get a few wears out of clothes so you’re not washing things that have only been worn briefly.
  • Have a frontloader washing machine – it uses much less water than a toploader.
  • Put bowls in the kitchen sink to collect water from tap usage, then use it for rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher or handwashing.
  • If you’re using a dishwasher make sure it’s full of dishes when you run it.
  • Choose to cook things that don’t require a lot of water, eg. cook eggs in a frying pan rather than boiling them.
  • Use garden water tanks as much as possible for garden watering so you’re not using your house/drinking water for that.
  • Keep an eye on the forecast. When rain is coming put out buckets, containers, barrels, whatever you have lying around to catch drips and overflows.
  • Plant hardy plants (like NZ natives if you live here) that can survive periods of drought and don’t need coddling with water.
  • Use mulch in garden beds to help keep the moisture in and prevent soil erosion.


3 thoughts on “Harvesting & Saving Water

  1. You would think that rain water harvesting would be more popular here in our chaparral climate. However, garden space is too limited in the urban areas (where most of us live) to share with big tanks. Rain falls abundantly within only a very brief season, rather than sporadically through the year. Therefore, it is not practical to collect much of all that falls at once. Then, whatever gets collected gets used up within a short time of very dry weather, without replenishment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, I see what you mean. Despite us being in the same planting zone I guess rainfall is one of the main differences in yours and my climate, with us actually getting lots of rain through some of the year. We just have to find ways of working with the climate we’re in. And the space that we have.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, collection of rainwater is more practical where the reserve can be replenished before it is depleted, or within a reasonable time afterward. I would not mind an empty tank for a month or even two. For us, a tank would not be able to hold all the rain water that falls within a limited season, but would then be emptied and occupying otherwise usable space for most of the year. A bigger tank would hold more water, but would also occupy more space. In your region, a tank could be smaller, but might be emptied for only a short time at the end of the longest dry spell.

        Liked by 1 person

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