Acting Early to Avoid a Possible Water Shortage

By , March 4, 2010

While our unusual weather here in Alaska is far less dramatic than what the east coast has experienced lately, it’s far enough from normal that we’re taking bold measures.

I heard the term “snow drought” on the radio, quoted from a fairly official source, to describe our lower than normal snow pack this year. Even with our low ridge, we rely on a snow cover that’s deep enough to melt slowly in spring, and hopefully, to linger into early summer to feed our water catchment systems. Last year’s water shortage is still very clear in our memories; we’re afraid of a repeat this year. That’s why we decided to prepare early for switching from our winter water tank to the summer one.

The homestead’s original owners established the system so that in late spring, after the last freezes, the intake of the summer system would be opened to fill that tank. Once it had filled, the house can be switched to the summer tank. This allows the winter tank a respite in which to replenish from snow melt and rain run off. Since the summer water source dries out in the summer, eventually, the switch must be made back to the winter system, usually in late summer.

That’s the model. We decided to alter the practice a bit to prevent a shortage later.

There’s risk involved. It’s very possible that we’ll still see one or more hard freezes this season. By setting the creek diversion to fill the summer tank, we committed to extra vigilance against freezing. It’s worth it to fill the tank early, especially since the current strong run off will mean clearer, fresher water than we usually expect from that source. By building a reserve early, we can use that tank longer into the summer, as the dwindling source won’t be required to fill the tank in coming months.

Last year Michelle researched weather records, and arrived at an earlier “safe date” for planting in the spring. She has, in effect, proven that we can start considerably earlier than the “official” safe planting date. Likewise, we find ourselves adjusting the water guidelines to ensure that we have water when we need it.

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