Friday, 13 April 2007

All tanked up and waiting for rain

If there is a salutary lesson from the water restrictions accompanying our worst-ever Australian drought, it’s that a gardener is critically dependent upon readily-available water in order to garden, and that Government water policies do not take into account those of us trying to think globally and act locally.
Water in Adelaide - sourced from the Murray River – costs us city folk $1 per 1000 litres, compared to ten cents for the same amount of water used by an irrigator along the Murray to grow our food.
I once measured how much water it took each week to keep the family supplied in fresh fruit and veggies from the backyard garden. It worked out at about 10,000 litres per week (costing $10/week) and took me about ten hours of watering to get that on with a sprinkler.
So along came Level 3 water restrictions, allowing me three hours of sprinkler use between 5 am and 8 am on Sunday mornings (selected, no doubt, to force one to make the harshest possible choice between sleeping in and consuming water!) I can also make use of a trigger-controlled hose for the rest of the week. That’s seven hours of hand-held watering, for those of you not following the arithmetic.
OK, so I’m the only man locally growing food locally; my neighbours don’t actually leave their houses all summer, as their pavers don’t use water, and no wildlife, chickens, fruit or vegetables need be supported as a consequence. So I applied to SA Water for some dispensation or exemption, on the following grounds: -
1) I don’t water lawns at all, ever
2) I recycle household water onto the garden
3) I use rain water for seedlings and household drinking water
4) I don’t water flowers or ornamental plants – heck, I don’t have any, they’re mostly natives
5) Local gardens save huge amounts of energy otherwise used in shipping produce in from Queensland
6) I use the garden to test instruments I’ve designed and sold that have been used by over 2000 Australian irrigators to save water
7) If we buy fruit and veg, we go and get it on our bicycles
8) The vegetable garden is heavily mulched every summer to save water
9) I’m monitoring soil moisture, and watering only as needed.
10) I’d restricted my planting area this year by one third to save water
11) I’d ordered another 45,000 litres of rainwater tanks, bringing my total on-site water saving capacity to 60,000 litres.
12) This property is over 1500m2 in size, which is more than two to five times as large as most other blocks in this suburb, where large blocks are the norm anyway.
OK, so that’s a dozen good reason for giving me a fair hearing. I even sent SA Water a copy of my book – ‘Tales of a Backyard Farmer’ – just to show them I was fair dinkum about this gardening business, and had been at it since the age of four.
Months dragged by with no reply to my application, months in which I spent large chunks of my life looking down the hosepipe. Finally, with summer officially over, I received a form letter from SA Water informing me that I could water three hours early Sunday morning, and spend any extra watering time staring down a hose pipe…
So after much effort, I’ve cleared all that kikuyu on the dark side of the yard, and there stand my three new rainwater tanks, which took six weeks to deliver, as demand has outstripped supply. Now I just need to plumb them into the guttering, the house, and the garden…
Despite these efforts, I can’t escape the maths; 60kl is no more than six weeks supply, in a state where we don’t get decent rains for months on end. Pity I can’t get a sympathetic ear from my water provider, or trade water rights with my Paver Neighbours!

1 comment:

Kate said...

This government has turned out to be disappointing. They don't really care about the real situation only about keeping face with the other states.It is all so ad hok (?). Of course people should be growing their own food.