Water

Water is a vital and precious commodity for semi arid city dwellers. Though we are dependent on the municipal water source for most of our water (digging a well is out of the question; we looked into it), we do our best to conserve the water we do use. [pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Our annual water bill for the entire household is $600[/pullquote]

With these water conservation measures, we’ve cut our water usage in 1/2 while maintaining our high harvest yields. Our water bill for the entire year (including personal use) is $600 [ SEE Charts ]

On the homestead in New Zealand, there was a huge cistern that collected rainwater for the household. On the Florida homestead, we had a well; but, here on our Pasadena homestead, it’s all about conservation and the collection of potable water.

Outdoor Solar Shower

Outdoor Solar Shower

Our water conservation journey started back in early 90s when Southern California was going through a severe drought.

We took the first “radical” step by smothering our front lawn to prepare it to grow food. By mulching heavily and hauling buckets of greywater from the house, we started on the path towards cutting our water usage.

In 2005, we stumbled on an ancient method of irrigation using unglazed clay pots. An olla (pronounced oh-yah) is a handmade terracotta clay pot used as an ancient method of drip irrigation for container gardening or ground applications.

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Using Ollas for Water Conservation in the Garden

Ancient agrarian cultures living in or near desert regions have used olla irrigation methods for millennia. Ollas are believed to have originated in Northern Africa and was brought to the Americas by the conquistadors. 

Research has also found ollas used in China over 4000 years ago.

In 2006, we removed our old (slightly dilapidated) shingle roof and installed a metal one that’s better equipped for rainwater harvest; however, our “official” rainwater harvesting project is still on hold until we put gutters on this old house; but, in the meantime, we use buckets and 55 gallon drums to collect the water. Every bit helps!



  • Low flush toilets
  • Washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run while rinsing. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water.s
  • Wash full loads [once a week] using our handwasher or energy and water efficient front load washer
  • Outdoor shower that waters surrounding edible forest
  • Reusing the grey wash water to water the edible landscaping (fruit trees and shrubs along the driveway or the natural “beneficial border” )

    • Hand/Spot Watering
    • Greywater to water fruit trees
    • Clay pot irrigation – A study by the University of Pretoria showed results of “water savings between 50% and 70% are achievable with the clay pot irrigation system.”
    • Mulching
    • Polyculture
    • Green”living” mulching
    • Un-lawned – edible landscaping
    • “Square inch gardening”
    • Self watering pots
    • Drought tolerant plants
    • SOS [save our seeds] that are now acclimated to our area
    • Permeable pathways
    • Concrete removal from the driveway to prevent runoff
      • Complete outdoor greywater seepage area
      • Gutter installation to divert rainwater – rain barrels or cistern
      • Tank-less water heater or solar water heater (still looking at watering heating options)

      • Photo Gallery

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