Monday, April 20, 2009

Keeping Water On Site

One of my garden goals has been to do better with water. Even in our wet winter climate, I've created a very low-tech management system which almost completely avoids dumping wastewater into the city storm sewer system. This is important for a number of reasons.

First, it serves to rehydrate my own ground. That means less watering in the dry season. Keeping water on site means a wetter base to build from. Soil is an excellent water storage system, vastly better and simpler than tanks or cisterns in many ways.

Second, it's cleaner. Water only has to move through a few feet of intact soil to rid itself of many pollutants. A number of 'primitive' peoples knew this and used natural stone or soil systems to clean drinking water. By contrast, runoff water that flows directly from the roof or pavement into the storm sewer system carries with it whatever pollutants it's picked up along the way...automobile excrement, pesticides, smoke, etc. Those toxics go directly into stream systems and harm the creatures who live there.

My management system is super simple. I create nearly level swales or slightly tilted runoff beds lined with river rock and with perforated pipe in the bottom and channel my water there. These have permeable bottoms and essentially become small wetlands or streams when there's lots of rain. I put a line of stepping stones down the center to allow me to 'walk the stream'. This design allows me to dual-purpose water management areas as paths, so I also stay off of the delicate surrounding ground during the rainy season.