Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rain, Rain...come again another day

It is so dry here lately that two of my neighbors recently commented that they spent more on their water bills last month than their electric bills. That is impressive given the sheer number of 100+ degree days and the fact that AC aint cheap in that kind of weather.

We haven't crossed that line, as evidenced by the color of our lawn. Or what is left of our lawn. We have an inground sprinkler system, but large swaths of our grass are still dying because we water for only 15 minutes every other day (an excessive amount, in my opinion...if I have to have grass I would prefer it stay nice with maybe one sprinkling a week...stop laughing...)

The neighbors who are taking out mortgages with the water company? The ones with the lush green grass? Probably twice a day. (One was actively sowing grass seed while we chatted. Not sure he had any bare patches or that it would germinate in this heat, but what do I know). One side of our house benefits nicely from the runoff from our next door neighbor's daily watering (and probably the runoff of their fertilizer too, and the shadiness provided by two houses), so some of our grass is lush and green.

I just can't do it. Parts of St. Louis have been under mandatory or voluntary water conservation for a month or more. Not our little town, but still. I can't justify making my lawn lush during a severe drought so bad I've driven past huge fields of corn that are already brown in the field. What is the point? Green it up so I can have the pleasure of looking at it? So my son can trample through it and possibly dig it up with a toy shovel? So that we can have the pleasure of mowing more often in 90+ degree heat?

Sure, our part of the county tends to be floodprone and has some nearby natural wetlands (We have blue and white herons who regularly visit the pond that is behind our neighborhood). Living so close to confluence of three rivers (Missouri, Mississippi, and the Meramac) generally keeps the whole metro area humid and green even in the triple-digits temperatures of July and August. I imagine that water rationing seems kind of foreign with so much water around us.

I have been trying a few techniques for conserving some water. Silly, minor things like emptying the kids camp water bottles onto my flowers out front instead of down the sink (I figure that whatever gunk Trystan gets into his every day might even fertilize the plants). I put a bucket in the shower the other day and easily filled it with the excess water just from starting up the shower. But I am not sure that shower-temperature water was a good idea for the garden (too hot), and my husband objects to the bucket for aesthetic reasons (somewhere, perhaps, I have a less unsightly one that I used in college for toting shampoo to the dorm bathroom).

I have a water barrel sitting next to my veggie garden, and a kit to hook it into the closest downspout. (The kit is in the kitchen, still in the box) In our last house, I got my veggie garden to self-water with water barrel, soaker hose, and an automatic garden timer. I should feel guilty about not yet installing the one at the new house, except it hasn't rained anyway. I guess I could pour my shower water into that instead of straight on the plants.

Some small-minded part of me is half-hoping for mandatory water conservation to go into effect for us, just to watch those coddled lawns wither and die the day they shut off the sprinklers. Not because I dislike my neighbors, but because I think their watering choices are a tad selfish and short-sighted and that they won't recognize that until they are forced to face the reality of it. (Though I doubt they'd go down without a fight).

But really, I'm just hoping for rain. For all of us.


Bethany said...

Growing up primarily in the desert, I salute you :)

This takes a bit of work, but not really *that much* if you really would like to save your lawn (it's how I watered my grass in Albuquerque.

Put the bucket you husband objects to in the laundry room, move the hose from the washer downspout into the bucket. Get a pump, attach hose, and water with waste laundry water. Be aware that a) the first time you try this water will get everywhere, and b) you will need to use phosphate free laundry soap c) make sure the bucket is actually big enough for the water that is being expelled.

Crazy, maybe. But once I figured it out, it really became a lot of fun! Plus I've found that having a water pump has been useful in other situations too. I pretty much hate doing laundry, but when I used the water, it actually made laundry twice as useful, and keeping something alive with the water made it an adventure.

Kristi Lea said...

Intersting idea about using laundry water. Our laundry room is upstairs above the formal dining room....I suspect drywall repair on a coffered ceiling may cost more than new sod or seed . I may keep going with the shower thing, though, and keep trying to make best of kitchen water.

Kristi Lea said...

Now that I said I wont try it, I am curious as to where to attach a pump? Are you siphoning water out of a top loading washer, or just letting the washer run into the bucket? We have a frontloader and I was trying to picture what gets pumped. If we were really desperate I wonder if you could run a hose out the dryer vent and down to water barrel....again, second story laundry so it would be a bad idea to try if there is any chance of failure....

Kristi Lea said...

Intersting idea about using laundry water. Our laundry room is upstairs above the formal dining room....I suspect drywall repair on a coffered ceiling may cost more than new sod or seed . I may keep going with the shower thing, though, and keep trying to make best of kitchen water.

Bethany said...


Every washer has a hose that it expels water from. In most houses, it's not really afixed to anything, just stuck into a drain pipe. Usually it's a hard white crooked nozzle type thing. It's easy to remove. The thing is, the water comes out pretty fast and furious, which is why the first time you try it it's possible that the water sprays everywhere until you figure out where exactly to put it so that it doesn't end up out of the bucket. You could do a more permanent solution, one that I was going to get around to eventually if I stayed in NM, and that's to put in a PVC pipe that leads to the outside that you can just attach the washer drain nozzle to. I always just used the biggest tub I could find, drained the washer into it, and then used the pump and hose to get it outside. The mess isn't the pump (unless you don't have the hose attached tight enough) it's getting the water into the bucket/tub. Washers have multiple drain cycles, so it's important that you get the water out of the tub in time for the next drain cycle, unless you have a massively huge tub. My washer in NM wasn't too efficient, so I ended up draining it something like 3 times for one load of laundry, and it equaled something like 50 gallons of water. If you have a front loader it probably uses less water, and therefore would be easier to control. When I was doing research on gray water, washing machine water was considered one of the better ways to reuse water. Kitchen water often has oil residue, which can be less than ideal, although I figure it'll work. Shower water is best, but it's always the issue of getting the water where you want it. Sure, you can block the drain and stand in water as you shower, but I hate that, plus then you also have to be careful about what hair care/soap products you use. I do often put a watering can under the bath nozzle as I'm trying to adjust the temperature, and then use that water later to water my houseplants, but that's not much. You can get a boatload of water out of a washing machine.

Bethany said...

Here's a link to someone who did a similar thing with their washer. Keep in mind they used gravity feed to get the water out, whereas I used a pump because I didn't have gravity to work with (plus I liked being able to actually use a spray nozzle to water the plants).


Bethany said...

Sorry, one more thing. The rules at the end of that last link say not to spray grey water or use it on lawns. I totally disagree. What you really don't want is standing gray water outside. As long as the ground soaks it up, it should be fine.

Kristi Lea said...

aha. The pump was for getting the water to the garden. I was wondering why you needed a pump to get water out of the washing machine, rather than just moving the drain hose :)

It is something to think about for the future, but given our house setup we would definitely have to have a rather permanent and water-proof system for getting the water down to the yard without flooding walls and ceilings.

We could set up our mudroom as a laundry room (its near the garage on the ground floor, and already has plumbing), but that would make for different challenges.

Still, if the drought around here sticks around, it is a possibility.

For shower water, we have a separate tub and shower, so there is no plugging the shower drain (besides, the lip is only about 2" tall..wouldn't hold much water anyway). Hence the bucket :) And since, if/when I remember to grab it, that's not catching soap water or dirty water but just excess tap water, it should be pretty safe for garden.