Watering & water storage

It’s good to see Melbourne’s dams over 60% full, but we can’t afford to sit back and relax.

Storing water for the home food garden is crucial for self-sufficiency and building resilience into our lives in the face of change. In a reticulated system, such as we have now, energy is need to pump water to suburban homes. In the energy-scarce future that’s ahead of us, we can’t guarantee that we’ll always be able to turn on a tap and have water at our fingertips.

So….putting in a tank should be a priority. Much more so than the latest brand of plasma TV.

It’s important to look at the cost of storing water per litre. Obviously, the bigger the tank, the cheaper the price (assuming the same material).  Our first tank, a 9,000 litre, cost about $1000. Some years later, we bought two 4,500 litre tanks and they cost about $1000 each. Cost per litre for the first tank was about 11 c. Twice that for the second tanks. Prices do rise, unfortunately.

When the drought was in full swing, Bunnings were selling 100 litre rainwater storage bins for $90. I saw several people buying them. I did a quick calculation—cost of water storage = 90 c/litre. That’s a lot.

Yet I bought two black plastic 60 litre rubbish bins (Willow brand) for $20 ($9.98 each). That’s 120 litres at a cost of 17 c/litre. Quite a difference. It seems the people who bought the $90 bins didn’t stop to do any calculations or consider what else was available.

In fact I’ve bought many more Willow bins over the last few years. I must have a couple of dozen now. Here’s what you can do with them:

*Turn the domed lid upside down and drill a small hole in the centre. The lid becomes a rainwater catchment:

*Put a bin in your veggie garden or beside a fruit tree, up on some bricks or a polystyrene box, for added height. Drill a hole in the side near the bottom and insert a length of 5 mm plastic tubing with an in-line tap. Open the tap and direct the water where you want it, when you want it. During water restrictions, with watering restricted to certain times of the day, you can use that time to simply fill up all your bins and then water when you want to. Better than standing and holding a hose for 2 hours.

*Use the bins to make nutrient tea. Just toss weeds into the water and let them rot down. Comfrey makes a great nutrient tea. But keep the lid on the bin….it stinks!

*I have a bin beside my water wicking boxes with a plastic jug in it. Handy for adding water down the access tube or watering in newly planted seedlings. I also have one in the polyhouse filled with water plus comfrey tea, worm juice and seaweed fertiliser. Great for watering seeds and seedlings.

You might find that mozzies can get into the bin through the hole and lay eggs. I used to scoop the larvae out with a kitchen sieve until I took the lid off a bin one day and found a million drowned mozzies floating on the surface. The adults must have hatched, but couldn’t get out through the hole!

Always be on the lookout for extra water storage receptacles. Second-hand baths are great. I have two now. The first one I snaffled from somebody’s nature strip during a non-burnable rubbish collection. The second was a present from a friend who scrounged it from his local tip.

As well as storing water, I use the baths to grow azolla, the floating water fern. If it’s allowed to completely cover the surface, mozzies aren’t a problem. I can scoop off handfuls for the worm farm or for mulch and it soon grows back to cover the surface. With a bath, you can put some timber slats or a sturdy wire frame over the top and put seedling pots on it. When you water them, the excess water drains straight back into the bath. One of my baths is full of tadpoles at the moment.

When you water from stored water containers  (providing you put them in the right place), you can let gravity do the job for you. It’s a no-brainer to put in a tank and then an electric or petrol-driven pump to get the water where you want it. That energy won’t always be around, but gravity will never go away!

2 Responses to “Watering & water storage”

  1. Veggiegobbler Says:

    Your bin idea in the veggie patch is a great one. You’ve inspired me to do just that with a spare bin I have.


  2. Frogdancer Says:

    Some really good ideas here. Can’t wait to see what you’ve been doing!


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