Sunday, July 19, 2015

Drought Update: 57%, And Thank You Dolores!

Thank you, Dolores!

The results are in:  the water company guy read the meter.  For May and June, we achieved 57% savings over 2013.  
And still flowers!
I wonder if our for-profit water company executives are up late at night wondering if customers realize they don't need so much ridiculously expensive water.  

Savings outdoors:  measuring each irrigation zone and focusing on the five highest.  For those five highest, the drip system was improved to cut water use by 75-90%.  Finding and repairing invisible leaks.  Significant savings.  For one area of tall screening plants--trees, really--grey water from the washing machine and much less from the irrigation system.  I got a type of detergent recommended for grey water (no sodium content).  The plants look happy. Less runs of the irrigation system and more careful spot-watering of threatened plants.  

Savings indoors:  "navy" showers, mostly.  Less hand washing of dishes.  We've kept a bucket in the shower to collect warm-up water for a long time--it isn't much per day--a gallon and a half at most, but that keeps the plants on the balcony better watered.  More benefit for the plants than anything else.
Visible but insignificant:
I tried saving kitchen sink water, but there wasn't that much--easier to rinse rice, fruit, and veggies out in the garden.

A good illustration of perception vs. reality.  Collecting a gallon of water in a bucket in the shower every day seems virtuous, but digging around (and digging and digging) to fix several hidden 50-gallon-an-irrigation-cycle leak has far more impact.  
Invisible but significant:
Shortening a 20 minute shower to one minute is significant.  Washing machine water to flush rather than clean water--probably more trouble than it is worth, but it does reduce water use a bit.  It's more of a "ha ha!" salute to the water company.   
'Wildfire' blooms on.
The dishwasher uses a surprisingly small amount of water per load--around seven gallons--the amounts were in the user's manual all along.  Now I know.  The washing machine was different--it claims to use less water for a small load, but the difference isn't that much.  I know this by collecting the water into a barrel.  Now I know--we don't do many small loads, but now I do less.  
Here along the wall, the roses are not so happy:
Most of the garden looks decent.  The area out front along the east facing slope, a row of roses, doesn't.  I believe there are avocado roots there from the tree above.  Perhaps replacing the roses with agaves, which would extend the Agaves from along the driveway out there--would be interesting as a design.  There are a few good roses there, but some duds. Flower production from roses generally has dropped at least 57%.
Water = new growth:
 After I'd gotten all the savings worked out--a surprise.  Tropical Storm Dolores met up with a low pressure system.  Yesterday, a miracle:  it rained.  Today, an even bigger miracle:  it poured.  In the immortal words of Rainbow Dash, ohmygoshomygoshomygoshohmyGOSH!
   We've not gotten a period of rain like that since 2005.  Then suddenly we get it in July!
The downpour was so heavy I was worried the koi pond would overflow.  I filled every available container with rain water.
 
   We got probably at least an inch and a half.  Huge.
 I walked out and I could hear every plant in the garden going:  "Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhsommmme!!!!!!!!!"
Time to pull the cars out and wash them off with free water:
 The hummingbirds vanished during the heaviest downpour, to reemerge at the feeder after the rain eased, wet and ready to fight.  Note birds with wet heads.
Thank you thank you thank you Dolores!

28 comments:

  1. Ahhh, I wish it was here in London it rained barrelful’s of water! We haven’t got any water restrictions this year, but it is soooo dry and the few times it has rained the last 4 months it has only been short showers. I will soon have to get to grips with irrigation systems myself, have never had it before but have decided to put one in place in my new garden when planting up the beds, I have decided on a soaker hose. Some research will be necessary as I have no idea how much hose to put in per square meter and once everything is planted it will be difficult to move it. Great photo of the wet hummingbirds!

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    1. My goodness Helene, you are up early! Summer rain here is almost unheard of, so this is quite an event.

      Best of luck to you with the soaker hose system. If your water is not high in minerals, soaker hoses work very well. Irrigation installed is a lot of work but does save a lot of time in the long run. All the work you must have to do caring for all those potted plants--no wonder you are up early.

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    2. I am not up early, I am actually very late to bed, often seeing the sun rise before I go to bed – I have a completely twisted circadian rhythm and can’t seem to change it despite trying my best. Not really so much a problem as long as I don’t have appointments with the rest of the world :-)
      I water the plants in the evening so not a problem for them. As for soaker hose and minerals, yes, that will be a problem since the London water is very hard, lime scale affects everything including soaker hoses – but from what I am reading it doesn’t seem to be a big problem for soaker hoses, possibly because they are buried and wet all the time so the lime scale doesn’t dry out. Not sure, time will tell I guess.
      I look forward to not having to water though, just set the timer and not worry :-)

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  2. I posted a thank you to Dolores myself earlier today. We didn't get as much rain as you did - only about 0.65 inches thus far - but it has been enough to fill or almost fill my rain tanks. (I haven't checked the status of the 265-gallon tank after today's rain yet.) Last month's water bill showed that we'd saved 47% vis-a-vis our 2013 usage but I haven't seen the accounting for mid-June to Mid-July yet. We had guests this month AND found 2 leaks so I'm a bit nervous but, for the most part, we're doing the same things you are (minus the navy showers). I am collecting rinse water from the kitchen sink, even though it contains some soap residue - that's another area of concern. My husband think I'm obsessed with water and I expect some of the neighbors who saw me mulching my succulent bed and carrying water buckets around in the rain think I'm nuts. I'm beginning to think I'm becoming a character in the "The Water Knife"? Have you read it? Think Mad Max only with a water focus.

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    1. Full up rain tanks--what a wonderful feeling that must be! I don't think slightly soapy water is that much of a problem--distributing it around, and then the heavy rain we'll get this winter will wash any residue far below the root zones.

      I am lucky I can stand out in the rain washing cars behind gates so no one knows.

      I looked at the reviews of "Water Knife"--graphic violence?!? Is it that bad? graphic violence isn't my favorite.

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  3. Well done and great to hear that your efforts paid well and you have confirmation of it. And nice one of Dolores for being so generous with rain!

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    1. So happy! Dolores! Dolores! Dolores!

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  4. As I read your post it is raining. Again. But when it stops our clay soil will dry to rock hard in a matter of minutes and the rain doesn't penetrate very much. So even here I need irrigation.
    That's a great result with the water saving and sounds like there is a bit of scope to free it up a little. Well done! And thank goodness for rain in California.

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    1. Yes, with the water saving I wanted room for error. I have to mulch here to keep the soil from turning into concrete. It is hard work but it helps a lot.

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  5. So happy to hear you got rain! Irrigation -- and good job with your conservation efforts -- is one thing, but rain really makes a garden perk up, even here where rainfall is still a regular thing.

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    1. Thanks! The plants and I are singing with joy. Dust builds up on foliage here over the summer and it's all washed off now. Everything sparkles.

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  6. It's been unreal the past couple days. The raiin on Saturday, pulling aside the mulch, didn't penetrate as far as I'd hoped. But Sunday! Holy mole! It is the most amazing feeling to know the entire garden is well watered in July and not just limping along. I'm all for pulling out your poor performers behind Herc -- more agaves, more aloes!

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    1. When it rained over winter and I had a pile of mulch undistributed, I discovered water moves down through the mulch--takes a few days, but it happens.

      Glad to hear you got some of the wealth in your garden. I felt like Tim Robbins crawling out of the sewer pipe to freedom in Shawshank Redemption when that rain came pouring down.

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  7. The rain you had was truly a miracle. It rained as far north as San Jose (according to a friend who lives there), but not a drop here in Davis. But I'm still happy you got the rain, instead of places that have enough already. Still, every forecast points to a wet to very wet El Niño winter. That makes me cautiously hopeful.

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    1. It was so amazing--I was watching the forecasts for rain, thinking, yeah, yeah, right, I'll believe it when I see it...and then I saw it.

      I'm cautiously hopeful as well, emphasis on cautious. I don't want my heart broken if it doesn't happen. The rate at which the rain we got yesterday was falling was very El Niño.

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  8. Wonderful news/photos of all that free water. Your detailed conservation efforts are interesting and appreciated. I'm hearing some scary things for next year here, if El Nino does indeed deliver a warmer/drier winter to the PNW (i.e. no snow in the mountains, again), and may have to change some of my ways, although a 1 minute shower just sounds inhumane...

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    1. I thought 1 minute showers unthinkable--but I decided I'd rather water the plants than myself. "Navy" showers are really not bad--I still get clean, and the water bill dropped so much--more $ for plants!

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  9. Firstly so pleased you have had soe substantial rain. Loved the little cartoon.
    Then amazing savings on water. I am guessing not everyone went to your levels of effort. Great that you managed it, while keeping the character to your lovely garden.

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    1. If nothing else, it will save some money. The bill dropped a lot. The real challenge is making the garden beautiful without using much water--I am going to try.

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    2. I took the drought very seriously--maybe too seriously? If I can eventually pull off a beautiful garden with very little water, that would be great.

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  10. I think I would rather go dirty for a few days and save up for a luxurious shower. Really impressed with your efforts and intelligent way of going about it. We may all be checking back here to see how it's done.

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    1. It has been educational. I think it's making me a better gardener. (I hope.)

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  11. Congratulations on all the rain - that Tim Robbins reference illustrated the relief perfectly! I too take all your efforts to heart, but I have to admit I have not been as good as I probably should - with water this year. (I do usually take super quick showers, though...) I'm considering a gray water recycling system. I know you use one - what was the name of it again, and do you like it?

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    1. My "system" is a trash barrel and a small utility pump--I drain the washing machine water into the barrel and pump it via garden hose to the Syzygium hedge in the back.

      I thought I posted a link somewhere to an Australian company that sells what looks like a really good greywater system, but that is for new construction only. They are thinking about an existing-structure product. However I just couldn't find the link. There is some good greywater info to be found out there. Laundry water is the "low hanging fruit" of greywater--its pretty simple to set up, depending on where your washing machine is in relationship to the garden. Mine unfortunately is surrounded by concrete so a permanent solution would involve moving the laundry room, hence my improvised system. I use a detergent recommended for greywater (Oasis). The Syzygiums look really happy, as they are now getting lots of water relative to what they were getting before.

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  12. Pennies from Heaven (and not your wallet)! Congratulations on your RAIN!

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    1. Thanks! It was so wonderful--felt more like silver dollars than pennies!

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  13. I should have kept reading. Yeah for Delores!

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    1. Well, the wet magic that was Dolores is already drying up...but the hope she sprouted for a wet winter is growing, vigorously.

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