Water!  Water is vital to the all aspects of the Urban Homestead and, though we are dependent on the municipal water source for most of our water (digging a well is out of the question — looked into it), we do our best to conserve what water we do use.

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 city homestead, it’s all about conservation and collection of potable water.

Our water journey started back in early 90’s when So Cal was going through a severe drought and Farmer D took the first “radical” step by smothering our front lawn to grow food.   Mulching heavily and hauling buckets of greywater from the house, we started on the path towards cutting our water usage.

What about rainwater?

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!

One of the most frequently asked questions is about water and awhile back I put together a list of some of the “Water Wise Ways” we’ve adopted here on the urban homestead.  Check out the list

Since this list, we’ve successfully cut our water useage in 1/2 while maintaining our high harvest yields.  Our water bill for the entire year (including personal use) is $600

This month, we are taking steps forward on the water front.   We are converting even more beds and garden space to the highly efficient clay pot irrigation method and almost completing one of our greywater projects that will divert the used bath water to water our trees and garden.

Not to mention the aquaponics project. We gals have our critters and Justin, well, he’s just crazy over these fish.  We tell him you can’t pet fish and our critters are cuter.  hehe

But he’s really stoked about his new project – think it’s because it reminds him of the time spent fishing on the bay (Tampa Bay) with Grandpa.  I dug up this “flash from the past” pic of Justin fishing with “Pop Pop”

Speaking of fish and water.

Back on our 10 acres in Florida, Farmer D made a huge pond and filled it with fish.  I remember plowing through the tall grasses with our bamboo fishing poles, hanging out at sunset (good fishing time), always on the look out for slimy water moccasins and the ever imaginary phantom gator that we hoped never stalked our pond, though there were signs of a visit from one!

What is ‘Aquaponics’

Aquaponics by definition is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. Nutrient rich fish water is pumped from the fish tank into gravel beds, where plants growing in the gravel extract the nutrients from the water. The water then drains back into the fish tank cleaned of excess nutrients and freshly oxygenated.

With this system we can grow a supply of fresh herbs, vegetables and fresh fish growing right outside our back patio with no chemicals and no wastes, using about one tenth of the water required for normal vegetable growing.

More on that later.  But now for pictures!

Digging a trench

Bathwater diverted out into the yard

and out into the garden

to the raised beds

and under the raised beds

In goes our homegrown dirt – last year’s compost!

More ollas in bed

A study by the University of Pretoria showed results of “water savings between 50% and 70% are achievable with the clay pot irrigation system.”

You can purchase ollas via our online store

Putting ollas into the established herb garden out front

Clay pot irrigated herb bed – done!

Hey,  fishy fishy


  1. Laura @ LivingOurWay.com says:

    Is your greywater going to different raised beds than the ones where you have set your ollas?

  2. allie says:

    I would realy love to give aquaponics a try! Did you find a good source for your fish? (Tilapia?). I’m really looking forward to hearing how this project works out for you.

  3. Turling says:

    How for away from the ollas can the plant be? That bed looks pretty large and the furthest row must be 18 inches from the pots. The water seeps that far?

  4. Stacy says:

    I love these “engineering details” posts – thanks!

  5. Wendy says:

    I love how efficient your homestead is … how you use every bit of the space you have available in the best possible way. I’m hoping that my own place will, someday, be half so efficient, but I recognize that I have a very long way to go ;).

    As for aquaponics, we had wanted to build a geodesic greenhouse with a built-in aquaponics system (the water tank is what helped to keep it warm in our cold, Maine winters) in the back corner of our yard, but the town planning board wouldn’t approve it, and so there will be no aquaponics for us … unless we decide to do a window farm and incorporate a fish tank ;).

    Thanks, as always, for the great ideas.

  6. Kim says:

    Are you guys planning on raising and breeding the fish as a food source?

  7. Laura @ Getting There says:

    Thank you for the explanation–I had heard of aquaponics before but I wasn’t quite sure what it was!

  8. Margy says:

    I have a bed of potatoes that is a long way from a water source. I use a tarp suspended between trees as the collection source and 55 gallon barrels (just increased to two connected ones) to store rainwater. Because they are higher than the garden there is enough gravity to feed a hose for easy watering. I can hand carry water up the hill to the barrels if necessary, but we usually get enough rain even in the summer to keep them filled.


  9. PaprikaPink says:

    Do you have to do anything to keep mosquitos from breeding in the ollas?

  10. Homestead State of Mind says:

    Thanks so much for this info! We live in hot, sunny, New Mexico and have been discussing our future vegetable garden. This is an excellent way to go to conserve water.

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  15. Cam says:

    Can you please fix your images? I am looking into implementing a grey water system

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