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Water Butts (5)

19 April 2013

Collecting Water for the Garden

As our weather becomes less predictable we seem to be having extended periods of rain and dry weather which isn't ideal for the gardener. Outdoor water use accounts for around 7% of the total water use, but in the summer this can rise to over 50% of peak demand. By collecting rainfall you can help to reduce this figure, and also save money when you need to water your garden if you are on a metered supply.

Rainwater is better for your garden than tap water as it does not contain any minerals, chlorine, fluoride, or other chemicals, and can be collected via the downpipe from your house roof in a water butt. This rainwater can be used for topping up a pond as well as for watering the garden.

A water butt is easy to install - I have fitted two myself - and just needs to be positioned adjacent to a downpipe from your roof, ideally the one nearest to your garden. These days they come in a wide range of shapes and sizes so even if you haven't got much room you should still be able to find one to fit. They are frequently supplied with a diverter kit which is fitted into the downpipe and which diverts water coming down the pipe into the water butt. Once the butt is full rain flows away down the pipe. Alternatively you can connect the downpipe directly into the water butt but will need to fit an overflow pipe for when the water butt is full. You can also connect water butts together to save even more water.

Butts range in capacity from 100 litres to 300 litres with the cheapest costing around 25. It is worth buying a stand to fit the butt otherwise you will have to build one yourself. Without one you won't be able to get a watering can under the tap. The water companies often have offers on water butts - I got one of mine through Yorkshire Water - so it is worth checking their websites.

Water can also be collected from greenhouse and garden shed roofs. I have fitted guttering and a downpipe to take rainfall from my shed into two connected dustbins.

Grey water can also be used for many watering jobs in the garden, though not for watering plants for consumption such as fruit and vegetables. This is water that has been used used for domestic tasks such as bathing, washing clothes etc. which is saved from going down the drain and after cooling is used in the garden instead. It can be transported by bucket or you can install special pipework to make the job easier. This water is fine to use to water plants though not for topping up your pond.

In our house a lot of water is wasted waiting for the water to run hot for washing up. If you have the same problem why not collect this water in a watering can for use in the garden. As it is clean it can be used for any plants.

A couple of useful tips are:-

Fill up all your watering cans if you are expecting rain - you will then have more capacity in your water butt before it fills up.

Cut the bottom from old drinks bottles, remove the lid and plant upside down next to your favourite plants. Fill the bottles with water which will slowly filter down to their roots without wastage.

Lets hope we get sunny days with overnight rain to keep these water butts topped up.

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