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How do urban farms get water; city won't connect unbuildable lots to water  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 1559
Location: Denver, CO
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This is all hypothetical, not (yet) actual for me.

In Denver, there are many plots of land, an acre or so in size, that are too near creeks for them to be buildable; either they may flood, or there is no convenient way to access them. This is the best soil in the area; I've gardened on such sites before. They also tend to be a lot more moist that other areas.

However, there is a hitch. Usually, the city will not connect a plot of land that can't be built on to the water mains. If they will, it can cost up to 20,000 dollars, which precludes any rental arrangements on such properties. (They are usually owned by somebody, often the owner of a nearby house, but are not usually one with the house property, according to Zillow.)

Water can be got from a neighbor's hose; I've done this on two different plots. But this is awkward, can be expensive, (their bills go up all out of proportion to the actual water used, due to different billing brackets) and can cease if somebody moves.

Water can NOT be taken from streams or wells here in Colorado.

Structures usually can't be built, so there is no easy rainwater catchment available.

I assume trucking water in is prohibitively expensive?

Are there options I'm missing? I'm sure there is a nearby plot I can rent quite cheaply, with good bottomland soil; but until I figure out the water, I wouldn't want to commit myself to something.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2385
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Her the city charges $30,000. Just got one installed, but hard to do for more than 1 site.
So the prices that you are seeing is normal. Most of the urban farms here add a water barrel and get a van to carry water.
But it is probably alot wetter here in New England.

If you can get water off the sidewalk that would be best. I would build alot of swales, way more than the recommended amount so that you soil can store alot of water during rain events. You can probably develop your own landrace that need less water if you "suffer" for a year or two. If possible focus on herbs that need less water. Selecting your species and cultivars carefully might help. There are probably quite a few people here who have some super drought tolerant cultivars that might send/sell you some of their seeds.


 
Posts: 353
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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Is it possible that you could get an agreement with a neighbor that would also apply to their buyer should they sell the property. If you paid the entire water bill of the house where you obtain the water the owner would have a hard time saying no; now or in the future.

One of my problems is that I've been on well water for a few decades and no idea what a typical household water bill runs. And I don't know how you intend to use the land. If you're running a community garden, growing commercially or using this to raise crops for you're own use. If for instance this is for your own use then the bill you get would be the same as if you were growing on the property where your house is. If this is a community project then you'll need to charge a use fee that covers the water use. Obviously if this is commercial then your prices will just have to pay for the water use. Another problem I have is that here in the east you own the water on your property and under your property. If it was here in the east I'd suggest you drill a well or pump water out of a creek. I got a price many years ago to drill a well. It was $10 a foot for the first twenty feet and $8 a foot thereafter. It's probably triple that now???

I know of a community garden that dug a hole in front of the garden and tapped into the main. In that case there had been houses there so it might have been connecting to the pipe after it passed the curb box, and turning on the curb box. I wasn't there when this was done. Honest!
 
gardener
Posts: 2286
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Best would be a temporary structure to catch and store rain.
A tarp strung to feed rainwater to an IBC tote for example.
Or you could truck it in.

An above ground pool is pretty temporary.
IBC totes are probably better.
How about an in ground wicking bed?
Cut slots in the bottoms of thirty buckets.
Dig a hole big enough to burry   30 inverted buckets two or more inches below grade.
Put 29 buckets in the hole, inverted, and one right side up.
Fill in the spaces between the buckets with sand, and gravel.
Cover the entire thing with soil, leaving your one right side up bucket as your "well"
Plant on top.
Fill or remove water from the "well" bucket.

I have  wondered about keeping a tailer with an IBC tote at the house to collect greywater.
A bubbler would provide aeration, to prevent  the grey water from going black.
When full, the greywater tea would be hauled to my nearby lot and emptied, right onto the soil and mulch.
 
Posts: 17
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I'm in TN and do not need not a permit to put in a pond if it is for "agricultural" purposes.  Same thing goes for sheds, barns, coops, etc.  If it is for agricultural purposes then you need no permits here in TN. Does Colorado have the same rules?  If so have a pond dug.  A small pond can hold a lot of water. Buy a generator, pump, and a hose and you are good to go. Agriculture is a right here in TN.

I highly suggest you look up Colorado's "Right to Farm" rules.  May find what you need there or you may end up in the same boat you are in now?
 
pollinator
Posts: 596
Location: Southern Arizona. Zone 8b
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Check with the fire department.  In a lot of areas they will deliver water to you.

A lot of people haul in water where I live, often 500-1,000 gallons at a time.
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
Posts: 1559
Location: Denver, CO
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Thanks for all the thoughts!

It is interesting that so many of you are suggesting trucking in water; I'll have to look into that. I could probably combine some water catchment with a big tank that could be topped up with trucked water IF it is not prohibitively expensive.

I could, in theory, dig a pond, but I'd still need water to fill it; I'd get into trouble if I use any flowing or ground water, though it could be used as cheap water storage. (Until recently, catching rainwater was illegal! It is still a grey area in the law.)

Catchment is a bit limited in that I'd need an equal area of catchment and growing area.

This last year I gardened about a thousand square feet on a three quarter acre lot. In addition to my garden, the owners had some lawn and gardens, though there was a lot of unirrigated space, and they were not crazy about the lawn.  The water bill for the irrigation months was well over a thousand dollars; their winter bill was about thirty dollars a month.

I'm tossing around a few catchment type ideas here. https://permies.com/t/94064/Alternate-rows-plastic-sheeting-dryland#770254




 
Posts: 86
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It floods in winter?

That sounds like a very large water source. How do you take advantage and store some as it could be all you need. It will also be full of nutrients so there's that. A lot of nutrients fall out into sediment but can be reintroduced to the water easily via stirring. Be aware if you have fish in your storage this may cause an algae bloom - anoxia - fish death.

If you can do earthworks, you got water. Pond it. Plant the pond to shade it and shelter from wind.

"Catching rainwater was illegal" There's a law I have zero respect for. Made by muppets, for muppets.
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
Posts: 1559
Location: Denver, CO
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When and if these areas do flood, it would unfortunately be in the spring or summer as a flash flood, probably thunderstorm driven.

On most of the sites I've seen, there is an "upper terrace" and a "lower terrace." Both due to flood risk and competition with willows and cottonwoods along the creek, crops do better on the "upper terrace" and the slope in between.

In theory, houses could have been built on the upper land, but when the neighborhoods were developed, there was no way to squeeze in another line of houses.

I could dig a pond in the "lower terrace" but in my built up area I think the "muppets" would figure out pretty quickly that I was stealing water from the creek with my pond. Water wars are still going on here, they are just fought in court now.

 
S Bengi
pollinator
Posts: 2385
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
122
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If you dig a 10,000 gallon pond, line it and then filled i with sand. It will be 50% space and you could now fill that space with 5,000 gallons of water, and better yet you will have less erosion problems. And no one would know about it, think of it as a quasi-sand dam.
 
pollinator
Posts: 285
Location: North Carolina, USA Zone 7b
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A clear poly rain roof over the garden, as big as needed for water catchment and still let in light.   You said you're not allowed to build structures so I'd start with City Council - present an attractive, good management plan, promise you will improve the property possibly even mitigating runoff into sewers, that sort of thing.   See if you can get a waiver.   You didn't say if this will be personal or a community garden.   If community, odds are even better you could get a waiver.
 
pollinator
Posts: 237
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
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A plastic cistern or an above-ground swimming pool could be your storage, and the water trucked in. Around here, there are trucking companies that haul "pool water"...
For us, using city water comes with tiered water usage rates, plus sewer usage rates based on water use!
So, one avoids those extra fees for a swimming pool fill up, and it is done WAAAY faster than with a garden hose.

You'd have to comply with rules/permits regarding a pool... like fencing or some other way of preventing kids from drowning...
The cistern might be less hassle.
 
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