Saturday, February 13, 2010

Not a Pretty Picture…


Even though I’ve blogged about the drought happening here in Hawaii, the rains have been bleak. Normal rain patterns throughout the islands are between 10 to 20 percent of normal for the year which is a bad sign for our islands.

Jess at Children of the Corm did a fantastic and comprehensive post on the effects of El Nino and the areas that have dramatically been impacted (great job Jess ).  Looking at the graphs displayed, the El Nino trends show the rainfall for Hawaii is predicted to be 40 percent below normal, not as severe as the actual 10-20 percent of normal that is actually happening. I never really thought too much about this until I realized in our local news channels that more coverage have been occurring about drought situations on our islands.

Things are even more complicated here on the east side of the island due to the fact since over 40 percent of households are not serviced by county water, we rely on primarily catchment systems for our water needs.  Lack of rain can make up some dire outcomes in a relatively short timeframe for larger households.

Since there are alot of people that do not understand how catchment systems work, I have them photographed below.

Water is primarily collected on rainy days through one’s own roof collecting from the gutters into a large catchment tank, the average size is about 10 thousand gallons to cover a regular household. (these tanks are about 6 feet tall and around 12 feet in diameter, I know really ugly)

From the catchment tank, water is then pumped into the house and through four whole house filters (below in blue) and then through a UV system to the right that takes out most of the impurities, it is then stored in the water heater for any heating.


This is total overkill, but I also have a reverse osmosis system under the kitchen sink for drinking purposes, it kills 99.9 % of all bacteria and impurities. There are alot of households that don’t even have filtration systems outside of just one whole house filter, I wouldn’t even consider drinking that tap water.


Since I’ve been using my water sparingly my tank is still at 30 percent of capacity, larger households that quickly run out have to order water through several water companies which are working non-stop to due to the crisis situation.  A truck filled with four thousand gallons will cost you around $150 per truck load and that will fill up less than half of a catchment tank. If your lucky to have ordered your water at least two weeks in advanced, then you will get your water…if not then you might have to jump into the ocean to take a bath until your turn comes up.

On another post, I’ll show you what I have to do to my poor trees and plants that I’ve started growing on a raw parcel of land that will be eventually where I will retire, since there is no water available there, the manual process of getting the plants watered is intensive and not a fun experience.


debsgarden said...

Until i read your posts I did not know Hawaii had such a drought situation. This reminds me of a couple years ago here, when we went months with minimal rainfall. It was hard to keep plants alive. Many communities had water restrictions so you could not water outdoor plants or grass. People could haul used dish or bath water for the purpose. A lot of plants died, and everyone's grass turned brown. Now things are back to normal, and the landscape has renewed itself. I hope your situation will improve soon!

Meredith said...

We went through a terrible multi-year drought which we've only just come out of this year, and I can totally sympathize. Here where we live now, many people are on well water and were running low or, horrors, running dry. It was bad.

When I lived in Atlanta, we were on severe watering restrictions because there was a very real danger of the supply for all those millions of households running out, and the state got into feuds with two other neighboring states over water rights to the main rivers and lakes that lie on the borders. It was a mess. Watering food plants was allowed, but even so it was nearly impossible to keep them alive... and many people lost beautiful landscaping. :(

Jim Groble said...

I wish you well. Too much water ison occasion our problem. if we get a quick thaw flooding occurs. I am very impressed by your water containment system. jim

Noelle Johnson said...

Hello Noel,

This is just fascinating to me.....the catchment tanks (such a great idea) and living off of the rainfall. Drought can be difficult and I lived through some severe ones in California. I am looking forward to seeing more about how you deal with drought in your garden.

Jess said...

Hopefully it will all be over soon for everyone! It snowed here yesterday...first time since 1989. :(

Anonymous said...

Thank you for stopping by my playground. I so appreciate it. You know living here for 24 years I wasn't ever clear on the catchment system. Thanks for showing it and explaining it. Much appreciated. Yeah our weather is so strange. Something has got to give here, not locally in Hawai'i, but with Mother Nature if you ask me. I think man has contributed so much to our crappy weather patterns we are having now. I don't know a lot about it at all and have no solutions except for to go more Green. That seems to me to be the answer. :) Have a wonderful Sunday :)

BernieH said...

Having experienced long periods of drought - years of drought actually - I can empathise with your plight over there.

Even though we may get a decent 'wet' season some years, the rain that falls during a month and a half is not enough to fill water-tanks where I live - so they are next to useless for us. Our 'dry' lasts around nine months of every year and, of course, longer when we're in drought so we have become very, very water conscious.

We've had water restrictions for around ten years or more now, and we also use bore water if we find a source on our properties that is viable.

As gardeners, we have to find plants that are not thirsty ... and even some drought tolerant plants don't make it through years of drought! It can be tough going.

I do hope you get some decent, worthwhile rain in the near future ... and in the meantime, your garden may have to become more drought tolerant.

Anonymous said...

My part of Australia hasn't been hit as hard as Bernie's by drought, but it certainly has been hit. One of the towns not too far from here almost had to shut down a large commercial dairy that is by far the town's largest employer a couple of years ago because the town had almost run dry.
I'm very interested in your system Noel. Does it need much maintenance?
Until recent years many of our local Councils wouldn't allow residents on town water to install a water tank due to health concerns, now they are doing everything they can to encourage us to take the strain off dwindling supplies.

Anonymous said...

Greetings Noel, This is all so very worrying for what you do here, in highlighting a particular local problem, is to draw attention to what is, in fact, increasingly a global one.

The system of water conservation you outline here could, I feel, be applied more widely to great effect. Whatever, it is a salutary reminder to us all to look after the precious resource that is water.

Andria Post Ergun said...

Reading about your water catchment system is very interesting. My husband and I spend a lot of time in Bodrum, Turkey where water shortages are a serious problem. Look forward to your future posts!

Tamara Jansen said...

Wow! I had no idea. Makes you wonder why we haven't heard more about it in the news. We've had a nice warm winter here because of El Nino. Not good for the olympics though :(

Floridagirl said...

That is such a sad story. It seems like everytime I think things are under my control, nature takes over and shows me who's boss. We certainly have our share of drought and flood (as well as hurricanes) down here in Florida.

Noel Morata said...

aloha all,

the good thing is that we are learning how to be more conservative here and also rely on our catchment systems in terms of taking better care of them. I usually put in a little bleach if we get a nice rain flush, i have the entire tank cleaned out yearly, the home and osmosis filters are changed regularly and then the IV filter is changed yearly so its a little maintenance and cost but manageable....and its good to have bragging rights about processing your own water from your roof!

easygardener said...

An interesting post. I too had no idea that Hawaii had a drought problem, made worse if you depend on rainwater. Good luck with the plant watering - that must require ingenuity and effort!

Helen/patientgardener said...

I found this post fascinating. We talk about droughts here in the Uk but compared to your situation it is nothing and very rare

Granny Fran said...

Thanks for educating us. It is awful to think of drought in Hawaii! Of course, here in SE Colorado it is a way of life, in a normal year we only get around 12 inches and have had a long period of severe drought. This past year we had more normal moisture again, and it felt wonderful.

Lynn said...

Yes, it's surprising to hear about drought in Hawaii. The catchment system is interesting and I think an eye-opener for lots of people, since most Americans wouldn't know what to do without a city water supply. In Kenya, aid groups are teaching people in remote areas about rain water harvesting, and it can be a lifesaver there.
Even here in typically wet NY state (where I live atop artesian springs, and water is emptied by gutters from under the house out into the ditch) people are starting to collect with rain barrel systems. Some of them don't have running water, and some of them use it for their gardens. Seems like a skill we all ought to know.

JP said...

Great info; we should all have catchment systems in place if possible, no? Thanks for posting, and good luck!

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