The average person in the United States uses 80-100 gallons of water every day.*
Living in the High Desert, drought is a constant consideration. We pipe in water from other areas that receive more rain fall and snow pack than we do and we cross our fingers every season for it to be a bit wetter than the previous season(s). Unfortunately, despite all of our crossed fingers, Santa Fe remains quite dry, averaging only 14.21 inches of rainfall and 22 inches of snowfall annually. (source)
What this all breaks down to is a constant awareness that our water is a very precious resource.
Additionally, there is an awareness about the Fire Warnings and Restrictions and the hopes against the burning of towns and small cities too often than I’d like to remember. I could easily talk about these things here, but that sounds just plain awful. So, while forest fires and the bark beetle and our continuously changing climate are definitive issues that need to be talked about and addressed, for today at least, I’m going to take another angle. Today I’m going to talk about how drought threatens us urban farmers and gardeners personally and what can be done to make the most of a very bad situation.
Now, please note that the number above, those 80-100 gallons per person per day, does account for some outdoor watering, but it doesn’t account for the extensive watering that can come from growing hundreds of pounds of food each season. However, food is life, right? Without water, we have no food…and without food and water, well, we’d all die. Bummer, right? So, how can one grow their own food and conserve water at the same time? Here are a few tools and skills we’ve learned along the way over the past couple of years.
Drip Irrigation, Companion Planting, and Heavy Mulching Are Essential
Installing drip irrigation on all of our beds has not only saved us hours of hose-in-hand watering time each week, but also ensures that the water actually goes into the ground right where we need it to. Additionally, watering in the evening ensures that the water can soak into the ground over night and not evaporate immediately due to our high elevation and very hot sun. This summer, we plan to utilize this nifty tool to determine how often and how long to water.
Companion planting, bio-intensive planting and permaculture principles call for certain varieties of fruits and vegetables to grow together in harmony. Whether they add to and deplete the soils differently or whether they have different roots structures that compliment each other, packing as much as possible into your garden also helps keep down the weeds and shade the soil form the suns baking rays.
Additionally, heavy mulching beneath each plant and on top of your drip irrigation keeps as much of the moisture in the bed as possible in between watering. Plus, it helps with weed control.
Water Catchment & Grey Water
We are incredibly lucky to be able to legally collect rainwater here, so many, many people have rain barrels on their property. We put in our first rain barrels a few years ago and are able to collect hundreds of gallons of water every time it does actually rain from our ~800 square foot roof. Now, in the case of an emergency, I wouldn’t want to drink this water without some serious treatment, but it is incredibly helpful in watering our growing fruits and veggies throughout the summer as well as in offering a tiny piece of mind in the event of a SHTF situation (seeing as we are not incredibly close to any water sources where we are in the middle of the city).
In addition to our rain barrels (of which I’d like to add a few more), we also collect grey water inside and use it to water both our indoor plants as well as our outdoor plants throughout the warm months. 1) We have a couple of buckets in the shower that catch the water as it’s warming up for us each morning. 2) We have the leftover water from boiled eggs or pasta that goes directly to the chickens or the compost pile. 3) We have the bucket under our potting table that catches the water used to wash our freshly harvested fruits and veggies which goes directly back into the garden.
Now, we could set up a grey water system from our (energy efficient) washer, but haven’t figured out how to make that work yet since we don’t have any landscaping and you’re really not supposed to use washing machine grey water on veggie garden beds.
Alternative Planting Methods
Now, people have been living and growing their food here in the High Desert for countless years, so I don’t doubt that it can continue to be done. There are multiple methods one can use, including waffle gardens, some of which we’ve tried, many of which are on our list to try in the future.
The Brutal Truth
If the drought continues well into the future like many think it will, serious changes beyond our current conservation methods, will have to be made. Now, I am not saying that people cannot populate deserts with very little water, we’ve obviously been doing so for a very long time. What I’m saying is that doing so is considerably more challenging than I can even fully wrap my head around right now. In the meantime, we’ll do everything we can to conserve the water we have, as well as save a little back just in case of an emergency because, like I said before, there are no real water sources close by, which would pose a serious problem if we no longer had the benefit of city water.
What’s Your Threat?
Do you live a dry place? How have you adapted to the climate while continuing to grow your own food? Maybe your threat is different? Do tell! I’d love to hear how your working around whatever your threat may be!
What’s Your Threat? What’s the biggest threat to you and your family? Check out some amazing blogs and how they attack their biggest threats to being more prepared and more self-reliant!