Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

September 24, 2013

Demonstration teaches ways to reuse rainwater

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Property owners looking for innovative ways to lessen the pinch in their pocketbooks may just want to attend Tuesday's Rainwater Harvesting presentation at the Demonstration Garden at Nichols Arboretum on Loop 246.

There, they'll get a close look at a simple harvesting system created several years ago out of 50-gallon barrels whose contents have helped nurture a tropical bed at the garden, said Cherokee County Master Gardener Keith Billings.

“It was one of our early projects,” he said, describing how “a good rain of one-and-a-half inches will fill all three barrels” as it runs off the roof of a 10- by 14-foot shed.

“We use that water primarily there on the tropical bed, where we grow cannas and elephant ears (among other plants). By using a soaker hose, we can conserve water but still give them a deep watering.”

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office calls the practice “an innovative alternative water supply approach (that) anyone use,” in which rainwater is captured, diverted and stored for later use, according to its website.

The practice is beneficial, for it “reduces demand on existing water supply, and reduces run-off, erosion and contamination of surface water,” the site states, explaining that this water  “can be used for nearly any purpose that requires water,” such as landscape use, storm water control, wildlife and livestock watering, in-home use and fire protection.

Collection systems vary in size to meet the needs of a particular project.

The Cherokee County Master Gardeners first considered a system because “we are interested in conservation,” Billings said.

“It's a good way to use water appropriately – particularly rainwater – and it's basically maintenance-free as it conserves and reuses available free water,” he added. “So we're not paying for city water in that area (to keep a particular garden healthy).”

While fluctuating weather patterns lead to different actual results, “in an average year, if we have our (projected) rainfall of 45 inches per year –” he paused to do the math “– it would be about 450-500 gallons of water (collected) per year.”

And this creates a win-win situation for those who practice rainwater harvesting.

“It can be done by anyone, and it doesn't have to be done on the scale (like at the demonstration garden),” Billings pointed out. “In areas of the country were it's arid, in general (this practice) is used much more than it is here, but the trend is catching on.”

His hope is that people will hear about the water collection system at the demonstration garden and be inspired to set something up on their own property.

“It's a win-win situation,” Billings said. “Water is a precious commodity, and it's getting more and more expensive every year. (This way), we can save money, we can save time, we can save water.”

The Rainwater Harvesting demonstration begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and will be held at the Demo Garden at Nichols Arboretum near the Texas Forest Service office on Loop 456 in Jacksonville. To learn more about the program, contact Cherokee County Extension Agent Kim Benton, 903-683-5416 or email kim.benton@ag.tamu.edu.