Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Natural Desalination In San Diego To Water Your Garden Plants

San Diego has recently opened the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere to help provide water to its citizens.  This very, very energy intensive process (which uses the same amount of electricity as that required to power 28,500 homes) will provide consistent fresh water, but water that is twice as expensive as that from other sources.

Of course, after all the effort spent obtaining that water, it would be a shame to use it poorly, or use more of it than needed  How are San Diegans then to garden?  Every gardener knows that plants need consistent moisture, especially in sun-soaked areas like San Diego.

Plants, surprisingly, don't use most of the water they are given.  Most of the water that falls on the soil percolates down into the soil into aquifers, runs off into rivers, or just evaporates.  Plants also use much moisture to cool themselves through a process very similar to sweating - transpiration - and this water is never recaptured.  This, to us, seems like a very wasteful system.

Is there anything that can decrease this water waste in the garden- especially given San Diego new very expensive, very energy intensive water?  Yes - there is - a device called the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon, or Waterboxx for short.

A schematic view of the Waterboxx with 1/4 cut away.  The Waterboxx works by gathering dew and other condensation on its tan lid, funneling that into a reservoir which holds 15 liters or almost 4 gallons, and then slowly releasing that, via capillary action, to the roots of a growing plant.  
The Waterboxx is a device, inspired by biomimicry or learning from nature.  In nature, several lizards and beetles survive in very dry areas by having condensation form on tiny pyramids on their bodies.  This water is channeled to their mouths, allowing these animals to literally "drink the air".  Perhaps these creatures were the inspiration for the ad campaign "taste the rainbow".

How is the Waterboxx completing desalination?  Well - it isn't doing the whole process on its own.    The sun is causing water to evaporate from the ocean, filling the air with humidity and sometimes rain clouds.  The Waterboxx can harvest the humidity as morning dew and, when it does rain, harvest the rain. This prevents the water being wasted - natural desalination.

The Australian Thorny Devil - an animal that uses its horns not primarily for defense but to increase surface area to gather water.  The water is then led down special channels to the animals mouth where it is consumed.  From Wikipedia, by Baras (his own work), via Wikimedia Commons - click for link
Once this water has been collected from dew (or rainfall when available - it takes only 4 inches of rain to fill the almost 4 gallon reservoir of the Waterboxx) - it is channeled into a storage basin.  From here the water is slowly released from the reservoir, in the amounts needed by the plant - through a small, woven wick to the soil below.  This process - wicking or capillary action - is the same process that allows water to be raised 300 feet against gravity in giant sequoias in California.

Once the water is in the soil the Waterboxx prevents the sun from reaching it - preventing evaporation.  The soil can still get oxygen, though, thanks to the Waterboxx's design.

How does this help San Diegans?  Well - the Waterboxx allows you to plant many garden plants and then never water them again!  That's right - many plants like tomatoes, eggplants, tomatillos and peppers, if planted one per Waterboxx with a single wick, will likely not need any watering after planting during the whole growing season.

For more water hungry plants like melons, extra wicks can be added but the Waterboxx needs refilling only once every few weeks at most - a huge savings in water and time.  You can see results of growing with the Waterboxx in southern California on our website here.

2 Zucchini plants growing with the Waterboxx - no water after Waterboxx set up and still 28 zucchini were harvested.  
San Diego uses a lot of electricity and money to obtain its fresh water.  Put this water to good use in your yard by preventing water waste and loss with the Groasis Waterboxx.  You can buy the Waterboxx here.

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