Without water there is no life. Both plants and animals need water to live. There is no doubt we are the lucky country. Many of us haven’t stopped to think about water. We simply turn on a tap and we have fresh, sparkling water always available. But are we thinking about water in the right way? Harvesting rainwater is a great way to save on your water bill.
There are so many ways you can harvest rainwater keeping the rain that falls on your property, right where it belongs ready for when you need it most. Read on and learn about the many ways you can store water. Check out ways that you can drain water directing it into your own garden storage system. Don’t let your rain and water go down the drain.
Idea #1 – Self-watering raised garden beds
Many gardeners have been taught to create raised garden beds for a whole host of reasons. We were told that raised garden beds have less weeds, that they can retain water better in areas that have sandy soils or that they deliver improved drainage in heavier clay soils.
Other reasons for raised garden beds were that they don’t get compacted by human feet and that the garden beds themselves stay warmer for longer delivering great growing conditions supporting plant growth. And better still raised garden beds are a feature. They look great! But there is one more reason that raised garden beds should be part of your garden. They can be self-watering meaning you can have more time to spend doing other things! You have two options. You can buy your raised garden watering bed system as a kit or you can DIY.
You can store water in your raised garden bed keeping water right where plants need it to grow. All you need to do is make sure your raised garden bed is placed flat on the ground. It needs to be flat to ensure your water can flow evenly across your entire garden bed. You can place a series of connected trays or tubes (think ag pipe or dishwasher drainpipes that are perforated and covered with a light mesh material and surrounded by gravel to let the water flow in) in the base of your garden bed.
It is important that the reservoirs are placed at the level that your plants roots will grow too. You can install an overflow tap allowing water to run out. Your tap should be installed at the height you want to stop storing water at delivering an overflow point in the event there is too much water in your garden bed. Your water system can have a filling tube making it easy for you to fill up your well and to test water levels in your well.
Other advantages of creating a self-watering raised garden bed are that your plants grow deeper roots, and they don’t experience water stress meaning they can grow for more hours every day.
Idea #2 – Install a landscape tank
Turn your garden into a style icon with a landscape tank. Landscape tanks feature a raised garden bed that is set above the rainwater tank underneath. Instead of needing to hide your rainwater tank you can think of your rainwater tank as beautiful landscape architecture that stores rainwater for your garden.
Landscape tanks are a great way to harvest rainwater. Landscape tanks are made from high grade concrete that can be decorated just the way you like. You can render them, paint them and more! Plumbing for your landscape tank is the same as any other rainwater tank.
Tanks are joined together through rubber seal rings and your landscape tank can be placed anywhere around the property creating path edging, a garden nook, an entertaining area and more. Landscape tanks can be used as a fencing system at the front of your house, they can be used near a swimming pool or they can be used as retaining walls. The possibilities are endless!
Idea #3 – The DIY garden basin
Many areas in Australia don’t experience huge amounts of rain and cheap garden drainage ideas are at your fingertips. You can direct stormwater run off to areas of your garden where water is needed. If you have a long sloping driveway you can dig a trench at the bottom of your driveway and you can then create a channel directing water straight into your garden basin. The width and depth of your trench will depend on how much water you want to move away quickly in a storm. Your trench can be up to 45 cm deep and between 20 and 90 cm wide depending on your needs. You can line your trench with landscape fabric and then place a layer of gravel that is 20 cm deep.
After you have laid the gravel down cover it with the leftover landscape fabric and you have created a drain. If you don’t want to use gravel purchase a length of ag pipe and place the ag pipe in your drain. To make digging your trench easy make sure you have watered the area thoroughly an hour before you start digging. It will be a whole lot easier!
A garden basin is the opposite of a raised garden bed. In drier parts of Australia, we need to think differently about how we garden. To have water right where plants need it you can create a garden basin. At its deepest point you want your garden basin to be lowest and you can then gently slope the area back to the level point of the rest of your garden. This becomes a natural water storage point, that you can direct your stormwater runoff trench to. The basin gives you an area where water can pool in a major rain event.
Plant your basin with trees who will make short work of the water collected. The trees planted in a basin are provided with the water they need to thrive. You will be rewarded with strong growth keeping you cool in our hot summers.
Idea #4 – Install a rainwater tank
Rain harvesting is a great way to store water to supply your house and garden. When you think about how much water you will need there are a few factors for you to consider. You can think about how big your roof is, the average rainfall in your area, any restrictions on tank size or area and importantly how much water your household uses.
Take a look at your water bill to see how much water your house uses on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. It is easy to calculate how much rain you can harvest. Every square metre of roof will harvest 1 litre of water for every 1mm of rain that falls. The bigger your roof the more water you can harvest. A rainwater tank is an ideal way to store water for your garden.
Check out the rules and regulations for your area. You may be able to install your rainwater tank above or below the ground. As you think about installing a rainwater system make sure that you filter leaves and debris. Installing gutter guards and filters are great ways to keep leaves and other organic matter out of your rainwater harvesting system.
Installing first flush diverters is also a great way to stop water contamination helping to keep your rainwater fresh and clear. Rainwater can be used on your garden, in your home water supply system for uses such as flushing toilets. Putting your rainwater into everyday use is a great way to reduce the size of your household water bill.
Idea #5 – Install a grey water system
We are a lucky country. Our wastewater systems are excellent and a lot of us haven’t stopped to think about how much water we let go. There are two types of wastewater – black and grey. We can leave the black wastewater to the experts but what about the grey? Water running off from your shower, baths, basins and the laundry is too good to let go!
Grey water systems can be installed to capture water that is good enough for your garden. Treated greywater can then be reused on your lawn and other areas of the garden. Your treated grey water can also be used for toilet flushing or as a cold water source in your laundry. Check your local government website to learn more about the requirements for grey water systems in your area.
Idea #6 – A secret shale
A secret shale is a very a cheap water storage idea. We all love a good downpour of rain. When you watch rain fall you can see nature at it’s best. Rain soaks into your soil. Think of your soil as a sponge. It will take water up right until the point that it is saturated. At this point any excess water will now run off. This is the water you can save and store for later use.
Your garden can be designed to slow down and absorb excess rain. You can build trench systems and basins directly into your garden bed. The system you create underground allows more water to be saved and stored. By installing a secret shale you are effectively creating your own secret underground water storage system. This can be accessed later by the plants in your garden. By watching how excess storm water runs off your property you can see how you can set up your secret underground storage system delivering a natural point for any water to run off when the storage system is full. Like the trench idea you direct excess rainwater right where you need it to go. And the best part is it’s your secret. Shhhh!
Water harvesting is a great idea
Plants need water to grow. For too long we have been letting our storm water go and many of us don’t give a thought to the water that we let go down our drains. We have been fooled into buying treated water and we are supporting expensive wastewater removal systems.
Nature is clever and we can follow a few of natures’ ways to save ourselves money by storing and saving water for use in our garden. We can even put stored water to use in our houses. Rainwater can be stored in tanks, in underground systems and it can be diverted direct into garden beds. No matter how you choose to store water you are making a choice to capture a precious resource that you can put to good use in your garden. The more water you save and store the more you can support plants to grow in your garden.
What is The Leaf Collective?
The Leaf Collective is a community-government-university partnership of people working together to keep leaves out of drains. Led by Griffith University and funded by the ACT Government, interested Canberrans have helped come up with lots of ways to make it easier to gather and use or remove the leaf litter falling near our stormwater drains.
In late 2020 the ACT Government invited proposals for a community-based social marketing approach to the problem of leaf litter polluting Canberra’s waterways. Community-based social marketing puts community wishes and needs at the centre, and then measures effectiveness through small pilot campaigns before scaling up. Social Marketing @ Griffith were the ideal fit for the job, with their “Co-create, Build, Engage” (CBE™) process. The project team applied CBE™, working with people in Canberra to understand what they’d like to see. Read more about that work here.
The Leaf Collective was the result. In autumn 2021 a range of discount offerings, leaf pick up services, an adopt-a-drain project, a citizen science app and other initiatives were tested by the project team. In just 6 weeks this pilot program got people living in Canberra involved. The evaluation study identified that the pilot helped to reduce the amount of leaves entering ACT waterways. People living in the ACT joined the collective diverting 200,000 litres of leaves out of stormwater drains.
Our work continues and this summer we are running a further pilot based on research completed late in 2021. You can explore program elements realised after co-creation by exploring our project website. You can also follow us on Facebook to watch how our work continues to unfold.
The Leaf Collective was co-created with ACT residents and experts working on water quality, waste removal, composting and much more.