Marcus Larson / News-Register##Carlton farmer Jim Botten collects 21,000 gallons of rainwater each year, storing it in large tanks. He uses one tank at a time, controlling the water flow with faucets.
Marcus Larson / News-Register##Carlton farmer Jim Botten collects 21,000 gallons of rainwater each year, storing it in large tanks. He uses one tank at a time, controlling the water flow with faucets.
Michaela Fujita-Conrads / News-Register##On Kate and Rafe Parker’s Sheridan property, rainwater is collected in five irrigation tanks. Each tank holds 3,000 gallons.
Michaela Fujita-Conrads / News-Register##On Kate and Rafe Parker’s Sheridan property, rainwater is collected in five irrigation tanks. Each tank holds 3,000 gallons.
By Emily Hoard • Staff Writer • 

Catching raindrops one way to conserve

As it turns out, we can.

To increase supply and reduce demand during a water shortage, some are turning toward alternative methods of conservation. They are catching rainwater runoff from their roofs.

All rainwater that touches the ground is governed by the state. But if an individual collects it before it hits the ground, he is free to save it for future use.

Michael Crabtree, senior conservation technician at Yamhill Soil & Water Conservation District, has helped several landowners install rainwater catchment systems.

“We started helping landowners who were interested in collecting water for herd animals,” he said. “It’s been really popular.”

Crabtree said watering a herd from a well isn’t always sustainable. “This is an opportunity to get the herd off the well,” he said.

“Why not use rainwater? It makes a lot of sense.”

Crabtree helped Carlton landowner Jim Botten install seven 3,000-gallon tanks three years ago. Thanks to the county’s water conservation program, he only had to cover half of the cost of his system.

Botten said his dozen cows are currently drinking rainwater from the fall, as his tanks usually fill by November. He said his 21,000 gallon supply usually lasts through August.  

“I was nervous about water,” he said. “I raised four kids and never had a problem, but I knew it was a possibility.”

A friend from Australia, where rain was the sole source of water, inspired Botten to collect rainwater to cover his herd’s needs.

Botten said anyone with a rooftop can store water.

“I’m hoping to set an example to pass on to my neighbors,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have a lot of rain in the winter. It’d be a shame not to use it.”

His cows seem to like the system too.

Before the tanks were installed, the cows drank from a pond. Now that they have an option, they choose the rainwater.

The system cost Botten $20,000, which works out to about a dollar for every gallon collected the first year.

“For one year, it seems like a lot,” he said. “But spread it out over 20 to 30 years, and it’s pretty inexpensive storage.”

Kate and Rafe Parker, who own Katula Herbs, use rainwater to irrigate their garden in Sheridan. They sell tea, herbs and spices at farmers markets in McMinnville and Lake Oswego.

They acquired the property in 2003. Almost immediately, they had a hose go dry.

When their well production dropped to two gallons a minute, they realized they had a major problem.

“The following spring or summer, we put in three tanks, then two more later on,” Kate said. “Now we have five 3,000 gallon tanks to catch the rainwater off the barn roof.”

Rafe knocked on the side of a tank and said, “They’re full of wonderful, life-giving water for plants.”

The Parkers began using the water in mid-July and expect it to last through the rest of the summer.

Rafe said, “It’s always an amazement to me, when we have these long, hot summers and farmers are irrigating their land with large amounts of water in the heat of the day. It’s amazing they’re not collecting water in a more suitable way.”

The Parkers also dug terraces with swales. That allows water from the top terrace to filter through to the bed below.

Kate adds water only when she really needs to, and double-checks all of her spigots regularly. Her “summertime necklace” is a timer that keeps track of how long each section of her garden has been watered.

“We started growing plants that are drought-tolerant,”  she said, pointing to a flowerbed featuring Mediterranean plants as a good example.

“This flowerbed hasn’t been watered for three years now. It has a good root system and is able to function without watering.”

For more information about ways to conserve in a farm setting, visit www.oregon.gov/owrd/WR/docs/Saving_Water_Farms_Ranches.pdf or www.arcsa.org.

Comments

Rotwang

But, I thought it was illegal in Oregon to collect rainwater. That guy who went to prison and all.

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