I live in California, and we're in the midst of one of the worst droughts ever. I'm old enough to remember the most recent worst drought during the '70's,when my dad did his part for water conservation by putting a brick in the toilet tank. Our governor has declared a drought emergency, halted deliveries of water to central valley farms, and asked consumers to reduce their water usage by 20%. It goes without saying that when the governor is willing to suspend water supplies to the state's largest industry (and no, it's not film making; it's agriculture), we're in dire straits, indeed.
The price of fruits and vegetables is going to go up. And Yours Truly likes homegrown tomatoes in the summer. How can I have my summer veggie garden AND reduce my water usage by 20%?
By pimpin' my water.
Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) and I are pretty water conservative. We don't run the washer or the dishwasher without a full load. We rarely wash our cars at home. Our lawn is watered by sprinklers on a timer, and most, but not all, of our shrubs are on drip irrigation. We have low flow toilets and low flow shower heads. Although our HOA told us we could let our lawn go fallow, BMNB isn't falling for it. "They'll be the first ones to turn around and tell you that you better get your lawn green after you've let it die." He'd rather take the hit and water the lawn instead of replacing it later on.
What's a homegrown tomato lover to do?
First, you start conserving. I've put a 5 gallon bucket (You can get them cheaply at Home Depot) in my shower, and when I run the shower to warm up the shower water, the cold water goes right into the bucket. I keep the bucket in the shower for any bodily runoff. Between me and BMNB, we're averaging about 5 to 7 gallons or more a day of reclaimed water from the shower. I take it an additional step by taking "sailor showers," which I learned from my dad, who served in the Navy. As one of six kids, shower time was at a premium when I was small. My dad taught us to wet yourself up, soap yourself down, rinse yourself off, and get out, all without leaving the shower running completely during the process. As much as I love long showers with continuously running hot water, a homegrown tomato lover's gotta do what she's gotta do.
After conserving water, you start pimpin' the water you have. That reclaimed shower water? I'm using that to water the shrubs that are on drip irrigation as well as the ones that are not, like my Heirloom and Fiesta roses and my Freecycle irises (I got them off of Freecycle). So far, they're looking good. I've told BMNB to turn off the drip irrigation. Most of our shrubs are drought resistant -- sage, lavender, Nile lily, rock roses, jasmine, Shasta daisies -- and can take reduced watering. The magnolias on our lawn are a bit more temperamental, but they get watered with the lawn. We're cutting back on watering the lawn, too, but not so much that it will die.
I also reclaim any water I use to wash any laundry or CPAP equipment I wash by hand -- panty hose, delicate blouses, breathing hoses, you name it. Not only do I reclaim the water they soaked in, I rinse each item over a bucket and reclaim that water, too. I even reclaimed a tub of bath water and watered my front lawn with it.
The water that would have gone to the drip irrigated shrubs? That's the water I'm using for my veggie garden. I don't know if it's a one-for-one match, but I'm betting that it is. I've always watered my summer veggie garden by hand, using watering cans. It's easier for me to keep track of how much water I'm giving each row or type of plant.. BMNB could not get comfortable with the idea of using reclaimed water to grow the vegetables he would eat (I'm sure he thought of it as "booty water," since some of it rolled off our bodies in the shower), so I had to be creative -- pimpin' reclaimed water for use on my drip-irrigated shrubs, using the water I would have used on my shrubs to water the veggies, and cutting back my total water consumption as much as possible.
I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Does she love homegrown tomatoes that much?"
Yes, I do. I really do. Besides, if I don't grow my own vegetables this summer, who will?