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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Very depressing

It seemed to take longer than usual to fill the stucco tank so I decided to monitor the level to see if it leaks. It must have sprung a big leak. It's going down fast. I'm estimating about 500-1000 gallons an hour, or half an inch an hour. About the equivalent of two garden hoses going full blast all the time. Seems to be increasing too. So discouraging when I finally get the water I need, slave away for two days to get it pumped and then watch it go down the drain, literally.

This happened once before years ago and we pumped the water out into the dirt tank, repaired the leak and put the water back in. But I had help then. Don't now. And no time. For the next three days I'm committed to help band hummers and the following day is my dental checkup in Odessa. I guess Thursday I can come with lots of gas and spark plugs and salvage what I can. Just moving one of the gas pumps into place is a physical killer for me, for starters. Then there's the priming, gassing the pumps by lifting a heavy gas can, dealing with heavy hoses, and on and on. Somehow, I have to get through this. I'll still have the big tank, which is more than I had last year. Hauling water seems to me a worst form of torture. I couldn't endure it again. Took a lot out of me.

The stucco tank was never constructed properly on the low end (far side on above photo). The other sides were all dug out of hard caliche, then stuccoed, by me, by hand. But the far end was an arroyo my late husband blocked up with fill dirt, which I also stuccoed. As far as I know that's the only place that it's ever leaked. It's always leaked at least half an inch a day at best, in spite of my obsessive patching whenever it's dry. The tank's concrete is bonded to the surrounding earth and it shrinks and expands with the weather. Not good. The older it gets the worse, I suppose. I know at some point I'll have to give up, but that would be heartbreaking to do. When we built that tank we didn't realize we'd actually depend on the water to keep the oasis alive. We thought it would be surplus water. Not. I sure wish we would have constructed it better.

I took a few pictures today before my bubble burst. Here's a Common Mestra butterfly.


  1. I'm curious here, it this tank at the upper end of your Oasis ? If it's leaking above and into the soil, then it may be a good thing. The best place to store water in the landscape, even in the wild, is deep inside the earth. From there only deep rooted plants have access. If trees and shrubs have been properly trained to grow roots very deep into the earth, then access to that stored saturated water won't be a problem

    There is a process & natural phenomena of old growth woodland Habitats called "Hydraulic Lift and Redistribution" in which well established foundation trees with deep roots pull up water as needed and even redistribute it to all other plants withing the underground mycorrhizal Fungal network that every plant is interconnected to. If it is established at all.

    The other important thing too is that you are now headed into the dormancy period and this seasons El Nino event may even further fill those tanks and surrounding landscape with deep water infiltration through slow percolation.

    Researchers have also found that even STREAMSIDE trees in Riparian habitats such as your's actually prefer deep subterranean water sources as opposed to surface waters. They's learned this through Isotope studies in which a water's chemical signature is tested for as to source of the plant's hydration uptake.

    I'm writing an article on a couple of deep pipe irrigation methods and some suppliers who actually construct a few models for this purpose. As time continues it is going to get harder for you to do what you are doing. No offense, BUT YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR YOURSELF AND BENEFIT YOUR PLANTS IN THE LONG RUN. The bigger they are the more water requirements some of those Riparian plants have. Surface irrigation is a waste as most evaporates. It's better to have water store deep into the soils and allow plants to pull it up and have water loss through Evapotranspiration, than soil evaporation. AND Mycorrhizal inoculant is a must(seriously I can't stress it enough), that's how nature works. If anything happens to you your project is gone.

    Maybe David Cristiani (Desert Dweller - Quercus Group) when he comes to visit your Oasis can help you out. But engineering a plant project EXACTLY the way Nature does it is the only hope for the project.


  2. Timeless has a really good point about trees. As long as they have been trained to grow deep roots (not babied with constant water) they should be doing great right about now.

    I wish I was out there - i'd come spend a day helping you move the water. I'm trying to learn all I can about what we'll be up against and seeing it first hand would be helpful.

    I will be down probably on Friday or Saturday. If you can still use the help then, let me know and i'd be more than happy to come out and lend a hand.

    Chris Miller - One Family's Journey To Finding True Happiness

  3. Thanks for the offer of help, Chris. I may not be done by Friday and will definitely take you up on it.

    As for the trees, what I didn't water enough died last year from the drought, including all the junipers in the arroyo. Even all the native cholla died on the mountain slopes. So not watering isn't an option if I want trees. Near where that tank leaks (in the low end next to the arroyo) has always had brush growing there. And near that is a mesquite tree that isn't very big. It was there when we built the tank and after 15 years of the tank leaking it has grown very little. I don't know where the water goes, but apparently straight down into the ground. The ground is rhyolite and that's known for being real porous. The rest of the tank seems to be in impervious caliche. The theory sounds good though.

  4. Very nice article on deep irrigation. If I was starting over I would definitely lay it out that way but now it's too late. To install those tubes would require me to chisel out roots. My soil is sandy and the water I put under the tree soaks straight down. I've mulched everything good and would have plenty of water, always, if my tank didn't leak, or if we didn't go 18 months without rain.

  5. Carolyn,

    You put so much work into this all alone.. How about if readers contributed 15-20$ each so you could hire a worker to do some of this heavy labor?? Aren't there any unemployed strong men down there???
    Can you suggest this in a post ? I will be the first to donate.. How much do you need for several days labor and materials to get this tank problem sorted out???

    1. When I do find someone to work, the work is too hard and slow going plus I have to stay so on top of things it's easier to do it myself. And not practical to get someone to drive for an hour to do an hour's work. I need help in bits and pieces. Helpers invariably give out after 10 or 20 minutes. This is hard country in a soft world.