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.
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.
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.
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.
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.