Photos by Cherie Langlois
One of our new rain barrels.
After our dry, sunny late winter and early spring spoiled us rotten, we’re back to spring weather as usual here in western Washington.
I have to admit, at this moment I’m not feeling ultra-enthusiastic about the return of the rain, even though I know we need April showers to bring May flowers, and I know it would be a huge pain if our well ran dry this summer, and I know how crucial water is for sustaining our crops, our livestock, and us. Oh, and don’t forget the rest of life here on Earth, too.
I know all of this, but right now I just really, really want to garden with the sun on my back and without wallowing in mud.
Looking on the bright side, however, I do feel pretty enthusiastic about another project my husband crossed off THE LIST a few days ago: installing two plastic rain barrels to catch the copious quantities of rainwater flowing off our house and pump house roofs.
For a few years now, we’ve been catching rain off the horse/sheep barn and pump house roofs with metal wash tubs, and using it to water the animals and our fruit trees.
Our blossoming apple tree.
This practice conserves fresh, potable water and the electricity it takes to run our pump, plus helps cut down on rain run-off which carries soil sediment and manure nutrients into local waterways. We’ve also found catching rainwater actually saves us a bit of time spent wrestling hoses (dip the bucket, carry, pour). Now, we can catch and store more water in the barrels and, because they’re outfitted with spigots, attach a hose to irrigate garden plants.
This summer, we’d like to install two more aesthetically-pleasing wine keg rain barrels under the downspouts in front of our house, too.
I know it might sound odd—trying to conserve water in a place where it pours from the sky a good chunk of the year.
But the more I learn about this precious resource, and about the impacts that growing populations, droughts, and other factors are having on water supplies around the world, the more guilty I feel about wasting it.
Here are just a few sobering water facts, gleaned from the April 2010 special water issue of National Geographic:
• Only 2.5 percent of the Earth’s water is fresh, and nearly 70 percent of this is frozen. Salt-water makes up the majority of water on Earth.
• While Americans use on average about 100 gallons of water a day, millions of poor people in developing countries survive on fewer than 5 gallons.
• World-wide, one out of eight people lacks access to clean water.
• In 15 years, it’s predicted 1.8 billion people will live in regions of severe water scarcity.