Wednesday, June 28, 2006

And the house on the rock stood still

Those of you who watch the news a lot, or perhaps the Weather Channel a little, know that the Washington, DC area and the whole of the eastern seaboard has received more than its share of rain in the last week. There have been floods, flashfloods, and mudslides, evacuations and lots of property damage. My sister's house was not excepted.

All in all, the damage isn't too bad. What really makes the flooding in the basement frustrating is that my sister's contractor just completed the finishing of the basement a week ago. The water only rose a couple of inches, but it did a number on the drywall (especially in my (future) room (I think we all embed parentheses just so we can be like Jon)). The carpet took the brunt of the damage; the tacking strips and the pad are gone, but we were able to dry out the carpet and it should be okay. It will probably end up costing a couple thousand dollars to repair and do some exterior work to prevent this from happening again.

This is where it gets interesting: We already have a sump pump because of the high water table. It may have to have its hole deepened so that it pumps out water longer before it reaches basement level. A contractor will also probably end up digging a ditch for an underground pipe that will drain groundwater to the street. So here's my question: is there a way to harness this water and use it?

As some of you Salsa Night frequenters know, I'm in the process of terracing my sister's hilled backyard (the week of rain, by the way, (with me out of town) has undone some of my hard labor there). Eventually these terraces will hold a garden, both of the vegetable variety and the flower variety. Is there a way to reroute this water so that it irrigates the garden? Would it involve purchasing more pumps? Is it potentially simple? Is it even desirable? Any input would be appreciated.

Meanwhile, I will get back to my garden project and try to actually get some block wall up before the next torrents arrive.



Warren said...

I think Nebuchadnezzar and his hanging gardens can tell us how it was done.
"The Garden is quadrangular, and each side is four plethra long. It consists of arched vaults which are located on checkered cube-like foundations.. The ascent of the uppermost terrace-roofs is made by a stairway..."

"The Hanging Garden has plants cultivated above ground level, and the roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. The whole mass is supported on stone columns... Streams of water emerging from elevated sources flow down sloping channels... These waters irrigate the whole garden saturating the roots of plants and keeping the whole area moist. Hence the grass is permanently green and the leaves of trees grow firmly attached to supple branches... This is a work of art of royal luxury and its most striking feature is that the labor of cultivation is suspended above the heads of the spectators".

Reroute that water above your quadrangular garden using Archimedes' screwand let it flow down.

nick said...

So does it rain enough during the growing season to be able to store an appreciable anount of water? Is water expensive? Is the garden terrace downhill from the house or uphill?

If the answer is yes to all three, then I would definitely try and store the water (even if the garden is uphill). Maybe you could put in an underground cistern to store it. Then you would have to install a pump to pump it out. Or, you could use the pump you already have and store it in a tank on the highest part of your property, then you won't need any pumps to get it out when you want to waer the garden.

Jared said...

Please refer back to my post for the newly placed diagram (not to scale) of my sisters house and yard, viewed from the side of the house.

As currently constituted, the water gets pumped directly to the driveway, where it runs out to the street and consequently to a storm drain.

To answer Nick's questions: Regardless of rain, there is a high water table and the pump turns on at least a few times a day. Lately it's been running every 30 minutes or more. We could store plenty of water. Water is probably not as expensive as it is in Utah, but it is a cost that we could defray with our own sump-pumped ground water.

Could the pump we currently have be used to pump to the top of the terracing? Could we install a tank in the hillside along with an irrigation system so that we could water by simply opening a valve? What about container size? How do we plan for overflow (the pump runs so much that we would have to have a huge tank to store all of the water that we don't end up using--especially in the winter)? Is there some kind of literature that I could check out that explains how to do all this stuff?

Talk to me, my friends.

Nick said...

I'VE GOT IT!!! Warren's quotation inspired me.

Use the pump to get the water up to the top of the terrace (which I believe will be possible if your diagram is to scale) jusr like you suggested. BUT, instead of just using the water for the garden, use the rest of it for a little stream that could originate at the top of the terrace and flow down across your property to the storm sewer- since it is going there anyway, might as well make it pretty. You wouldn't have to have it on all the time (pumping every 30 minutes probably wouldn't get you enough water for a continuous stream), but you could have it on for when you are out in the yard or having people over or whenever you want. You could definitely through a small pond in there too and have some really nice looking water plants that you can get at a few specialty gardening stores (which I am sure there are plenty of over there)

So at the very top of the terrace you could put the tank. Slightly below that put the pond. Then coming out of the pond could be the stream flowing down to the storm sewer, but make the outlet stream be positioned such that once the pond drains down to a certain level, the flow to the stream stops. Then, when you want the stream to flow again, open the tank to flow into the pond. The tank water can also be used at any time to water the garden too.

Dang. I'm already jealous.