Getting Tanked

Acquiring water is perennial challenge on Thornleigh Farm. We don’t bore into Lord Howe Island’s water table, as it is already under substantial pressure. Rain is to infrequent and inconsistent to sustain the gardens on its own.

Our solution? Capture rainwater, store it, and distribute it using drip-irrigation. That means tanks. Lots of them. We just installed a new 60,000l TankWorks tank, taking our total storage capacity somewhere north of a quarter of a million litres.

The new tank sits off the old butcher shop, plumbed to the shop roof. Existing tanks are plumbed off the garage and farmhouse, which means we now draw water off most of the major structures on the farm.

 

Topping Up

Nearly everything we do at Thornleigh Farm is structured around water. How to harvest it, store it, deploy it, measure it, and more. Recently, two water-related projects have been underway: A new roof for the family residence, and the restoration of a well.

Work on the new house roof includes the installation of massive new gutters, which will help us harvest more water. But the installation of those gutters takes a long time, and while the house has no gutters, we are not collecting water.

Thornleigh Farm Lord Howe Island
Water pouring into a tank from the well

This has put significant strain on our crop irrigation efforts. Recently, our supply of water for irrigation ran very low. Fortunately we had prepared for this eventuality by restoring the well, and installing underground pipes to transfer water from the well to the irrigation tanks.

Thornleigh Farm Lord Howe Island
A diesel water pump bringing water out of the well and toward the tanks

Consistently sucking large quantities of water out of the ground is not an environmentally sustainable method of irrigating our island farm. That’s why we’re investing so heavily in rainwater harvesting and storage. But in this unique case, with no gutters on the house and water levels running low, it was appropriate to draw from our backup source.

Thornleigh Farm Lord Howe Island
Pipe drawing water from the bottom of the well

In future, we will no doubt need to occasionally call on the reserves of the well. It’s comforting to know that our irrigation system is now sufficiently developed to allow us to draw from the well when needed.