A Drop in the Bucket

There is reason to be concerned about the future of our water supply. On March 9th of 2009 the US Bureau of Reclamation delayed the use of the Klamath River for crop irrigation until late April citing snowpack levels 29% below average. A front page article in the April 27th 2009 edition of the Oregonian discusses the water rights challenges of the Umatilla Valley. Unlike the Klamath, water rights for the Columbia River is a multi-state concern that could prove to be serious issue. Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon all share rights to the Columbia. With 700 million dollars of crops produced in the Umatilla Valley alone there is plenty at stake. The Oregonian article quotes state representative Mike Schaufler of Happy Valley: “People think oil is something to fight about. Wait until we start running out of water.”

With a growing state population, environmental requirements for fish, and no firm state plan for future water needs is there anything the citizens of Oregon do?

One answer is rainwater catchment.

The interest in catching rain has risen dramatically. Most people have seen rain barrels being sold or know someone who owns some. Yet the fact is that most people are still unfamiliar with the concept and, even worse, don’t believe it is worthwhile. To understand the value of rainwater catchment one needs to see how rain caught in barrels, cisterns, tanks, and even buckets can multiply.

Value is relative to use.

A 55 gallon drum used to catch rain can mean 55 gallons of water saved or 550 gallons. It depends on how often the user chooses to use caught rainwater instead of water from the municipal utility and how often that drum is refilled.

Here is a partial list of non-potable water uses around the home and farm: washing pets and livestock, washing vehicles, washing windows, watering plants and crops, washing clothes, flushing toilets, and filling HVAC units and radiators.

Catching rainwater saves fresh water times two.

The municipal water utilities of Forest Grove, Beaverton, Hillsboro and Tigard and the Tualatin Valley Water District purchase water from the Joint Water Commission. The utilities then purchase the power they need to operate pumps to move water to homes and farms from major power producers like the Bonneville Power Administration. 80% of the power produced by the BPA is hydroelectric. So to move water to your home or farm requires the release of water from the dam systems of the Columbia River. The less water needed from the municipal water supply the more available in that supply and the more available in the Columbia.

So if it seems like catching rainwater won’t do much good. Remember that a drop in the bucket is better than a drop out of it.

Jason Garvey

Portland Purple Water LLC



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