Water for Gardening in a Drought

November 4, 2013

in Food, Water

Shelter from cold and heat may or may not be a primary survival requirement, depending upon our climate. Having a supply of water for drinking is a primary concern, along with the ability to filter it, purify it and store it. Then we turn to our food supply and typically, we start storing a few weeks or months of extra food to get through tough times. At some point, it becomes obvious that we cannot simply store enough food to last indefinitely and we also must think about food production to replace stores. This means foraging, raising livestock, perhaps hunting and most importantly, gardening.

Gardening brings its own basic requirements of shelter, water and food. In a moderate climate, rainfall may be sufficient to water a garden, but we also need to consider how to get a garden through periods of no rain. And this can greatly expand our water requirements and change our planning.

The single most critical planning point is to decide how much water must be held back for drinking reserves only. In a severe drought, we may need to sacrifice the garden in order to preserve ourselves and plan to replant the garden when rain returns. This means we need to know how long the worst droughts have lasted in our area and always maintain an emergency reserve that can last through that amount of time.

Once we have the emergency drinking reserve established, we can think about adding to our water collection and storage capability to water our garden. A good place to start is with a rain water collection and storage system and either soaker hoses or drip irrigation.

Here is an example of some planning for a drip irrigation system designed to survive a drought:

  • We know that in this area (central TX), it never goes more than 90 days without some rain.
  • We have five raised bed gardens that are designated as critical and we want them to be able to survive a 90 day rain drought.
  • We can water each raised bed with 10 drip points, gauged to 1/2 gallon per hour and watering twice a week for an hour each time or 2 hours total per week.
  • 50 total drip points at 1/2 gallon per hour each for two hours each week = weekly total of 50 gallons of water per week or 200 gallons per month.
  • We need to store an additional 600 gallons of water for drip irrigation during a 90 day rain drought.

[NOTE – these are crude estimates and needs will vary with the individual requirements of a specific garden, plants and climate.]

In order to accomplish this plan we will need the following supplies:

  • Two 275 gallon IBC tote rain collection containters and all associated piping and connectors to collect and store rain from a gutter downspout. 550 gallons total capacity.
  • 1/2 inch supply line tubing to get water to the beds.
  • 1/4 inch feeder tubing to deliver water inside the beds.
  • 1/2 gallon per hour drip emitters (x50).
  • all associated connectors and couplings needed.
  • Estimated cost for 2 IBC totes installed = $300, for drip irrigation lines and connecters = $100, TOTAL COST estimate = $400.

It is important to establish a water discipline protocol. If we need to hold 600 gallons in reserve to survive a 90 day drought, then during normal operations we need to keep the two IBC totes nearly full all the time. We need to establish “normal” water volumes and “drought” watering volumes and a protocol for each. We need to know when to switch from normal to drought, so that we have enough reserve to make it through the drought.

[NOTE – remember that the gardening water requirements and supply are different from drinking water reserves and supply]

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