Ir­ri­gate with rain­wa­ter, gray­wa­ter


Santa Fe is en­joy­ing one of the wettest spring­times on record. And although that is rea­son enough to re­joice, con­serv­ing wa­ter is al­ways in sea­son. We are lucky to live in a city that is one of the most wa­ter-ef­fi­cient (per capita) in the coun­try. We have pro­gres­sive city and county or­di­nances that pro­mote wa­ter con­ser­va­tion in var­i­ous forms.

For newhomes be­ing built, city and county land-use codes re­quire roof rain­wa­ter catch­ment (depend­ing on the size of your home). Also, new homes, re­mod­els, and ad­di­tions in the city (if adding more plumb­ing fix­tures) are re­quired to meet the re­quire­ments of the toi­let retro­fit pro­gram, as well as the wa­ter-ef­fi­ciency re­quire­ments un­der the city’s Green Build­ing Code. Th­ese pro­grams as­sure that all new plumb­ing fix­tures in the city are wa­ter-ef­fi­cient, and that when adding new fix­tures we si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­place old in­ef­fi­cient plumb­ing else­where in the city. The city’s Land UseDepart­ment is work­ing cur­rently to up­date its codes sur- round­ing rain­wa­ter and gray­wa­ter re-use to stream­line the up­take of thesemeth­ods in the city.

The wa­ter-con­serv­ing tech­niques we have found to be the most ef­fec­tive have been those that are low-tech and easy to main­tain. Roof rain­wa­ter catch­ment can be as sim­ple as down­spouts that empty into drain pipes that con­vey rain­wa­ter into cis­terns for stor­age or be­low-ground in­fil­tra­tors to pas­sively wa­ter the land­scape. Grav­ity can be the most ef­fec­tive dis­tri­bu­tion method, if the site al­lows. If it re­quires a more ag­gres­sive dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem, rain­wa­ter can be pumped to sup­ply a wa­ter-ef­fi­cient drip ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem. Try group­ing plants of sim­i­lar wa­ter­ing needs into ir­ri­ga­tion zones so as to op­ti­mize wa­ter con­ser­va­tion. Use drip emit­ters sized ap­pro­pri­ately to plants’ needs, and add a rain-mois­ture de­tec­tor to stall the pre-sched­uled wa­ter­ing rou­tine when it has just rained.

Rain is not the only source of wa­ter avail­able for re-use. Gray­wa­ter may be re-used, and that can be done very cost-ef­fec­tively. Waste wa­ter from showers, tubs, van­ity sinks, and laun­dry can be piped into the land­scape to sup­ple­ment ir­ri­ga­tion. Un­treated waste wa­ter from toi­lets and the kitchen sink can­not be used for ir­ri­ga­tion. Gray­wa­ter should not be stored, to avoid the risk of bac­te­rial growth, so gray­wa­ter cis­terns are not used. Al­low­grav­ity to bring the ap­pro­pri­ate waste wa­ter out of the home and into the land­scape. Gray­wa­ter must be dis­trib­uted be­low the sur­face of the ground, never sprayed or dripped onto the sur­face— again, avoid­ing po­ten­tial ex­po­sure to bac­te­ria. Sim­ple in­fil­tra­tor beds can be used where gray­wa­ter can drain into mulch, gravel, or pumice beds that are cov­ered by soil and cover crops, fruit trees, or or­na­men­tal plants.

By re-us­ing wa­ter from our roofs and our drains, we can con­tinue to en­joy a green land­scape with­out adding any fur­ther bur­den on our public wa­ter sup­ply.

Mark Gior­getti and Les­lie Gior­getti are both prin­ci­pals at Palo Santo De­signs, a Santa Fe de­sign-build con­trac­tor spe­cial­iz­ing in high-per­for­mance homes. Mark serves as pres­i­dent of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders’ As­so­ci­a­tion, and Les­lie is an as­so­ciate bro­ker with Santa Fe Prop­er­ties. Con­tact Mark at 505-670-4236, mark@palosan­tode­ and Les­lie at 505-670-7578, les­lie.gior­getti@sf­, and visit www.palosan­tode­

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