Collecting Water for Ourselves and our Climate


Rain is free water.

All while my children were growing up here on this mountainside, when it rained, the water flowed into our little valley, ran into the pond and then the creek. Sometimes, during the rainy season, there was more water than the drain pipe could handle and the water would flow over the driveway from the pond to creek. But then, in the summertime, there would be weeks on end with no rain. The crops got drenched with city water, and the other areas of the field and woods eroded by heavy rainfall became parched, hard-as-brick, lifeless dirt.

The water bill got paid, our vegetables were eventually harvested, but I didn’t understand the degradation that was happening to the land and the creek during that whole time, how the gullies formed by the rain on exposed ground were carrying precious sediment into the creek, and the creek was sinking lower each year, flowing so fast that it carves deeper and deeper into the ground and no longer floods into the fields when it rains. Instead, all that farmer’s gold is washed into the Reedy River and ends up in lakes where it’s not wanted.

I have always used city water everywhere that I have ever lived. Mostly we don’t have a choice. Even here, I have a precious spring on my property that feeds two ponds before the water flows away. But the city water was hooked up before I arrived, and I was informed that that is irrevocable. Even if I dug a well, I’m wouldn’t be allowed to disconnect from the grid, ever. Hmm, I won’t get into that. The point is that the more I want to grow, the more city water I would have to use, and, that water lacks crucial microbiology needed to turn dirt into soil.

This past summer was brutal. At the same time that I couldn’t go outside at mid-day without retreating quickly to air conditioning, I was learning about how I could address climate change here at Martha’s Kitchen Garden. While ending pollution is certainly a factor, restoring our soil with microbiology is a very powerful tool that we can all address right now wherever we live. Planting trees will cool you off, bring the rain, help restore the soil, and provide biomass for building more soil. But without water none of that can happen.

I have truly been a busy beaver, covering bare soil with mulch, building check dams and digging swales, all to slow the water down and spread it out when it rains. I used every bucket and tote I could find and started collecting rainwater from the rooftops of the house, sheds and carport, and they all filled up rapidly when the rain came. I started using that water for the chickens, goats, cat and dog, and our numerous houseplants. Now, with some help from James and Kirk we have installed 50 gallon barrels at $30 a piece, and 250 gallon totes at $80 a piece, and it feels like the best Christmas ever. I can’t wait for it to rain and watch those tanks fill up with unbleached water.

Everyone can collect rainwater no matter where they are, or how humble the set-up. Just put something out to collect the rain. I got really inspired watching Andrew Millison trot the globe on Youtube talking about water revolution. He shows examples of people around the world collecting water in urban and rural settings. One woman in a city in India had a set-up to make potable water and was growing food on her roof and keeping her family hydrated during a water shortage. Women around the world are becoming self-reliant with the ability to collect water and grow their own food. There are endless examples of how we can, and why we should collect water that won’t contribute to flooding due to overpavement, and will be there when we need it.

Think about it. The infrastructure we live with was created for us to be good consumers, not with the idea that we would have food and water sovereignty. It’s time to start collecting on our birthright.

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