An easy fix to a perplexing problem
No matter the size of your greenhouse, installing a rainwater catch system is logical step. This is an innovative solution to reuse naturally occurring rainfall. These water-efficient systems collect rainwater from the roof of your greenhouse and divert it to a storage tank for later use.
Whether you are an accomplished commercial farmer or simply own a greenhouse to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, water is a basic necessity that may not always be readily available as today. That’s why installing a catch system – what our cousins in the UK call a ‘water butt’ – is a proactive step to avoid future complications.
We should note that certain states restrict the use of rainwater catch systems. To see the State Rainwater Harvesting Laws and Legislation in your state, click here.
There are plenty of reasons to consider installing a rain water catch system. Here are three that matter the most:
1. Savings! Lots of money to be saved
“The price of water is increasing—sometimes dramatically—throughout the world,” according to the Water Information Program. While the water bill may not be something that worries you today, and may not in the direct future, why not contribute to preserving the most crucial resource on the planet?
Beyond sustainability, price may become an issue sooner than you may think. The price of water rose six percent in 30 of major cities across the U.S. in 2014, and has risen 33 percent since 2010. For farmers, cutting costs wherever possible is imperative to lasting success, and this is a cost-efficient way to do just that.
2. Conserve the world’s most precious resources
Even if you live in a moist and humid climate with plenty of annual rainfall, the growing conditions within an enclosed poly-covered greenhouse are essentially the same as an irrigated desert – sunny, hot and dry. Excuse the cliché, but setting up a catch basin catches more than just a drop in the bucket.
Approximately 900 gallons of water will flow from the roof of a 30' by 96' high tunnel with a half-inch rain event. Clara Coleman, a second-generation American organic farmer, consultant and speaker, notes that the water collected from the roof of your greenhouse from runoff is a great asset with one caveat. Water collected by this method should only be used for irrigation through a drip system since the water collected could contain high levels of bacteria that may harm your crops.
3. Use your time more productively
As irrigation is one of the most important aspects of a successful greenhouse, you most likely contribute a large amount of time to daily irrigation and emergency problems that crop up. The simplest and most economical solution is to water your garden with a watering can or hose with a hand-held sprinkler attachment. That might be a viable option for smaller greenhouses, but not for most large greenhouses or any commercial operation looking to scale their business in the future.
Watering by hand is extremely time-consuming and physically demanding. Infusing a drip system, as one example, with your rain water catch system will allow for a ‘set it and forget it’ irrigation system. That’s not to say you should not check in daily, but a check in requires far less work than lugging hoses, attaching valves, carrying buckets and the like.
A shining example of success
Rimol customer Rick Rutledge, of Rutledge Farms in West Virginia, purchased a 30 x 72 Nor’ Easter model in 2009. The high tunnel has single poly on the roof and end walls, and roll-up sides for ventilation. Unique to the high tunnel was designing a rainwater collection system since Rutledge Farms had no access to water where the high tunnel was located. The Rimol design team used a 2’ x 8’ hip board at the top of the roll-up sides to create a system that would allow the poly from the roof and sides to attach to the hip board, creating enough space in between the wire lock systems to install a gutter.
Rick purchased vinyl gutter from a home improvement store for a few hundred dollars. A more expensive option is to have a gutter company install steel gutters which are more resilient to the weight of sliding snow. When the gutter fills up, all of the water runs to one end of the greenhouse. Collection tanks outside contain the water which is then transferred into a tank within the greenhouse. A drip irrigation system uses the collected water for watering the plants. The crops end up having tempered water and there are no pressure issues with the gravity fed irrigation system.
Let California’s current water debacle be reason enough to look ahead and implement efficient, environmentally-helpful rain water catch system in your greenhouse. I don’t mean to pick at the scab of California’s ongoing drought. Drought does not represent a universal issue yet in the U.S. Though, it may in the near future as climate change continues to pull moisture from the sky and disrupt global weather patterns.
If you would like more information about the possibility of installing a rain water catch system, or just want to learn more about your greenhouse options, give our greenhouse specialists a call at (877) 746-6544 or email .
This post includes content originally posted to the blog on March 13th, 2015. It has been updated for timeliness, and accuracy.