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Water at Green Duck Farm

by Amy Rankin


Where do you start when you have no scheme water, no bore, no infrastructure, and very little money? This was our starting point at Green Duck Farm.


Step one – What is our climate?

Located on the fringe of the Wheatbelt between Wandering and Pingelly – past data shows an average of 500ml rainfall a year. The lowest was 230ml only a few years ago. The Wheatbelt is known for its long dry summers and generally is prone to autumn storms unleashing a large proportion of the annual total in very short periods, causing erosion across bare paddocks and chaos on the dirt roads.



What are the options for off-grid water?
1. Build a bloody big dam!

They love them out here in the Wheatbelt. Why have one when you can have 10? Just dig a new one when the old one goes salty. This requires big expensive machinery, clearing an area and a few years to settle out to be useable. Also, the evaporation in this area is much greater than the annual rainfall. This clearly wasn’t our solution.


2. Sink a bore

We investigated this. We had a go at some divining, a friend offered to divine the block over Google Maps, we tried to find the expert local diviner (sadly he’d just passed away) and the cost to get a hydrologist with fancy machinery was out of our budget.

Over a few beers at the local pub, we discovered that other locals haven’t had much luck with sinking bores. They needed to be deep, had inconsistent flow and were generally high in salt.This put a bore into the high-risk-for-cost category, and we moved it down the list.


3. Water tanks

Great – that seems like a simple solution. But where does the water come from to get into the tanks? Ah – catch it from a roof! We didn’t have any of those. But we did have a big old shearing shed with the uprights still standing …. Albeit a little bent and rusty. So, we invited out our wonderful friends, cooked up some food and got to it! Now we have a big undercover area that has hosted a diverse range of events and uses. This roof – along with a 110kl tank and the gutter system it came with provides approximately 85kl in an average year. We got 2 smaller poly tanks and connected those to smaller sheds giving us the safety of backup water and water across a few locations should one of the tanks fail.


Two years on and we have 5 proper water tanks – with a combined total of 323kl and an eclectic range of salvaged blue drums and IBCs shoved under any potential capture (e.g – the small dunny roof).


Is this enough? Is this resilient? What happens when it runs out? What happens when it doesn’t rain? How do you move water around when there’s no power or pipework? These are all questions we are working through. While it sounds like a lot of water storage, keep in mind that we have planted thousands of trees, some of which need summer watering. We also have a garden and animals.


What else have we done to work together with the water?
Monitor

Each time we’ve had a huge downpour – we’ve headed out and observed the patterns it’s created on the slopes, firebreaks and coming off from the road. This shows us where to make small changes to catch, slow, store, or sink the water.


Survey

We created a driveway with a gentle slope – reducing run-off and erosion. We have identified areas where water pools after a rain. These will become “pocket ponds” as we divert water into them. Holding water for that little longer after a rain means that a higher diversity of plants can be grown in the area and increases available habitat for critters such as frogs, insects, birds and reptiles.


Behaviour patterns

Our dunny doesn’t flush! You have to set up a shower or boil water for a bath – this really makes you appreciate water.The washing machine runs weekly, and it only runs if it’s full. Every drop from the dishes, showers, sink and washing machine goes back onto plants.


Long-term plan

We’ll attempt a dam one day. But it’ll function as a wildlife dam – with lots of plants around and well, with a name like Green Duck Farm… we hope it’ll bring all the ducks to the pond. We’ll use the topography and some pathways to make sure maximum capture from run-off and channelling collects into the dam and we will use plants and position to reduce the evaporation.


Other topics constantly on our mind and in our practices are planting cover crops, building soil, designing the landscape, buildings and zones to maximise the goal of ‘Catch it, slow it, sink it,

store it'.


The beginnings of a shower - much improved since then

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