World Water Day – Celebrate a Tree

NiagaraRiver

As we make way for Spring, we have a day to advocate for the sustainable management of water resources….

An average family gets up every morning and uses about 400 gallons (EPA estimates) of water daily, but a mature tree might use up to 50 gallons (some stored, some transpired).  Most gardeners do understand how to conserve water, but are they doing it?  Your trees conserve, do you?

Where does all the water come from? There are a lot of people and trees out there.

Snow_Niagara_Falls_Parks

It begins as rain or snow and flows into our lakes, rivers and streams, some ending up stored underground. Some gets retained in the soil.

See why snowfall is necessary in climates that get cold winters?  Snow that does not melt immediately will have a delayed effect on the water table, raising it now as we go into Spring to aid new growth.

MeltingSnow

But first you need the snow that hangs around.

All the grumbling over long winters is not something snow belt gardeners should be doing. The effects will be seen in subsequent years as water tables drop, especially if not getting seasonal rains to replenish the water table and trees start to die.

Tree_In_Snow Granted, western states rely on snowpack much more than Mid Atlantic areas that get seasonal rains. But have these areas been getting enough yearly rain?

In the last five years, nearly every region of the country has experienced water shortages. At least 36 states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages by 2013, even under non-drought conditions. (EPA source)

Lowering water tables and supplies equals a higher concentration of pollutants in water.

NiagaraRiverFactories

Having concern for our water supplies and wildlife, we should consider using less water that results in waste.

NiagaraRiverGeese

Humans interfere with the water cycle in these ways:

  • Using large amounts from surface sources. (human use in excess)
  • Polluting water. (waste water adding back into natural supplies)
  • Removing the world’s forests. (see below)

NiagaraParkTrees

Trees store water

Trees act as a watershed by absorbing water during heavy rain, storing it and slowly releasing it back into the environment. Surface waters, aquifers, and plant life make up the watershed.

TreesLake

Trees assist the watershed by helping to regulate it. In its lifetime, a tree helps to re-charge and clean more water than it took to establish it.

Water moves through three layers: (source)

  • The upper unsaturated zone, consisting of soil moisture.
  • The water table, where water exchanges between the saturated layer and the unsaturated layer.
  • The zone of saturation. It holds pockets of water for longer periods than does the water table.

Tree roots receive water from the unsaturated zone and the water table, depending on climate conditions.

DucksSwimming

Trees slow their transpiration rate to conserve water when water is scarce. Extended drought puts all trees, not just those experiencing normal aging, into premature senescence which has detrimental effects on our forests.

So for the trees sake, think about water conservation, trees do.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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65 Responses to World Water Day – Celebrate a Tree

  1. Christy says:

    Hi Donna…very interesting post. My hubby and I are very aware of saving water. For example, we don’t let the water run while we brush our teeth. Every little bit helps. We installed one water barrel to capture rain water and will probably install more…(they are very easy to make.) Before we left San Diego, CA, we had water restrictions for several years. It’s a very real problem.

    • I also do those small practices too because they add up. Imagine if everyone did as well? Having water restrictions makes people more aware. In our region, we have the most fresh water in the country with the Great Lakes and our Mighty Niagara.

  2. Good thoughts all. I use between 15-30 gallons per day and conserve year round. Check out my blog on this issues by typing “water” into my search bar. Diane

  3. newvoice says:

    How different the world looks under a blanket of snow. But water is precious and we are looking at ways of saving – via rain harvesting and greywater use. Everyone should be doing one or the other. THanks for this post! We must all be aware.

  4. Gardengirl says:

    Great post. It is so important that people see the far reaching effects of wasting water and how they will come back to affect them in the future.

    • That is so true, many do not think about the waste. Not only is it a precious resource being wasted, it often gets into ground water and pollutes. In my one photo, what may not be noticed, is all the factories along the Niagara River. Waste from factories polluted the river for many years. I believe now it is treated before dispelling, but I do not know exactly what is done. Also the steam from the smoke stacks is cleaner than it was a long time ago. But, you look at the drainage pipes pumping into the river and around them is a greenish slurry. I have no clue why it looks like that.

      • Gardengirl says:

        I did see the factories in your photo. Living near Lake Michigan and several steel mills and an oil refinery, I’m well aware of water pollution problems. If everyone would just do their own little part to conserve water, it would all add up to be a big help. Even though standards are much improved, they aren’t perfect and pollution is still a problem so we need to help Mother Nature. You probably don’t really want to know why it looks that way around the pipes, just hope it gets better.

  5. lucindalines says:

    Good information. I try, my family tries. I just wish that we had more contraptions available to make saving water easier. I suppose they are out there, I just need to hunt for them.

  6. This is a wonderful post on water, Donna!
    Quite a few things I didn’t know!
    Happy Friday, my dear!
    🙂

  7. This is such an amazing education of our valuable water resource. I hope you’re sharing this with kids too.

  8. Lovely post and so important. As a gardener, I’m trying to introduce more native plants to my yard every year — the ones that don’t need so much water during our hot spells.

    • Native plants are good and there are many not native to your region, but elsewhere in this country that survive the dryer conditions. The way global warming is going, many plants will become native to an area that were not formally.

  9. todd says:

    Multi – National corporations are buying our water. They manage municipal water systems all ove the country often charging very high prices for very poor service. Fresh Water is our most precious natural resource.

  10. Great Post – thanks for sharing! I plant native plants and have removed sod (recycled it) and put down rock or pea gravel. I also make sure some of the plants are good for birds, bees and butterflies too. It is important to conserve water:) Happy Weekend!

  11. Phil Lanoue says:

    Excellent and thought provoking post!

  12. I wanted to comment that I almost missed posting this. I wrote it a while ago and realized yesterday the importance of today. It is good to observe and advocate. After all, there is not a larger group of those that care for what the Earth offers than gardeners.

    I write on water quite a bit and this is the first I looked at the water table. With may places not receiving snow in winter and have drought conditions in summer, trees are very stressed and there is much worriment on the part of those raising and caring for trees. Forests are suffering in some places and it would be ashamed it we start losing those special, old trees.

  13. Excellent post!! This is a most important issue where I live, where water is a scarce resource and not only for gardening. We are trying to convey to what we know about using techniques that not only save water for now, but for the future. And you know? with just a bit of thinking there are many ways to use water intelligently. Great to spread the word!

    • It is good to hear that it is for the future too. I keep reading how that is so important and it is difficult to get people in this country to even think about the present. Water flows too freely here for people to grasp what it is like in other places.

  14. alesiablogs says:

    You are my hero with your posts on taking care of the land. You know me as I have posted several comments on your blog-I like my nature to stay nature and you always take me back to why I think this way when I see your beautiful photos and see the birds enjoying themselves in the trees. I have tons of trees around my home and sometimes I get scared thinking one will fall on my house, but it is not worth cutting it down because I see every kind of bird in them…Even a raccoon at times! Those rascally little fellas!

    • Thank you, you are kind. I am like you with trees. It is hard to part with them even when they are ailing. Like you, I see so many animals using them. The Mulberry behind my garage is actually on the neighbor’s side of the property line and it is in bad shape, but still produces much fruit (mostly from stress) and the birds just love that tree. Someday it will have to be removed because it damages so much property. My garage roof (acidic fruit) and floor (roots) had to be replaced because of it. The neighbor next to me also replaced a roof because of it.

  15. alesiablogs says:

    By the way I have got free water buckets from the water company here to collect off my roof..It is an amazing way to utilize all water!!! Hoorary to our water company here!

    • Wow, I have to look into them. They never gave rain barrels away in our city, but did give good quality composting bins for a low cost of $10. That was really forward thinking of them back in the late 80s. I gave my two to the mailman since I use nursery tree pots. I got two others to start composting that way, the mailman and his mother who did not live in our city.

  16. You make so many important points. A great way to conserve water is to plant plants that are suited to your garden conditions and don’t need supplemental water.

  17. Karen says:

    I always find your posts interesting and so informative. Nice post.

  18. HolleyGarden says:

    I’ve often wondered how some trees have lived through our long droughts. Now I know!

  19. In terms of the garden, we are very modest in our water use. Inside the house, we could probably be more careful. It’s important to talk about this issue, I think few people are aware of how serious to problem of the water supply is going to become. It is shocking how our fracking, industrial, and agricultural industries treat water as if it were an inexhaustible resource. I am constantly amazed by the kind of short term thinking that dominates among the “smartest” and most powerful people in this society. I will say that I feel lucky to live in the Lake Michigan watershed.

    • You are correct, what I have been reading over the years, it really is a serious problem. We are far too causal in our approach to use in this country, but some areas are waking up with dying reserves. Last year, I showed a photo from Nat Geo’s site and placed the link to images around the country that were so sad from the drought.

  20. I don’t water any of the plants in the garden and I am really judicious about have the potted plants are cared for. Inside the house I have replaced the water heater with a tank-less water heater, the toilets are low flow, and the showers have heads to reduce consumption. Unfortunately I know that is really just the first step.

    • I did not water until last year the first time. The plants were so parched and I only watered some of them. I cut them back and sacrificed bloom for thesake of the plants. Everyone talks about planting a garden that needs no supplemental water, but all plants need water and last year it was more than a month without. Sure that is rare, but it does occur. Prairie plants in images last year were gone and dry cracked ground was it their place. Prairie plants are not supposed to need supplemental water either, and many have deep tap roots that help in drought. But some places it was a far worse summer than even they could withstand. Animals suffered too and they can move. Things to come…

  21. Karen says:

    Hi Donna, great post on water awareness. I guess I’m still not too far removed from the old days of farming and having our well fail and knowing the panic of that feeling. I’m still pleasantly surprised every time I turn on the kitchen tap and water comes out. We often have urban garden visitors who tell us how lucky we are to have our own private well–‘You don’t have to pay for your water like we do in town. I’d be watering my garden non-stop.’ I secretly am pleased that people with this attitude do have to pay for their water because it would horrify me to think how much would be wasted if their supply was truly ‘free’. And anyone with a private well knows that there is no such thing as free water. Everyone needs to become more water conscious.

    Great post, Donna, as always!

    • I remember the wells of my youth. I agree, it is nice to have free water, but the worry of the wells running dry is a concern. Digging new and deeper wells is really costly too. It is funny, but even paying for water is not a deterrent in wasting it. I see that often too with neighbors having the sprinklers on non stop. I have seen them on in the rain too.

  22. debsgarden says:

    Hi Donna, thanks for a beautiful and thought provoking post. We have had a very wet winter, and it’s hard to think of water shortages. But I remember droughts of years past! Back then we acquired the habit of conserving water, which continues to this day. Even in a place that receives over 60 inches of rain a year, I am mindful not to take our precious resources for granted.

  23. b-a-g says:

    While reading your post I had a brainwave of a showerhead that only releases water while you grip it – then I discovered that it’s already been invented.

    I liked the way you made your point with the tree comparison.

    • I, like you think of ideas to make life more efficient and less costly, but never developed any. My brother, the engineer, is the one with over 100 patents. He is very obsessive on creating.

  24. Donna-an interesting a very informative post. Water is a precious resource and here on Long Island we get our fresh water from an underground aquifer sytem that is naturally filtered by our pine barren forest. If we go into a severe drought situation and overuse water there is a risk of the surrounding salt water rushing in and replacing the fresh drinking water. Thank you for opening up the eyes of many and keeping readers informed about the importance of the balance of nature.

    • That is interesting on the pine barren forest filtration. It must be a bit unique too. Concerns on salt water replacement really must keep people up at night when drought occurs. We have so much fresh water here, but still pay very high fees for its use.

  25. Marguerite says:

    Great post Donna. I was recently thinking about this as it appeared we were getting an early spring. Although admittedly I was excited to see some warmer weather I also worried about the lack of snow cover. We need every bit of snow we can get due to last summer’s drought. One of the great things trees do in my area is trap snow that would otherwise blow away. We’re working on replacing a hedgerow as well as planting our back field in order to keep some of the white stuff for our water table.

  26. Another reason I am a bit panicked at losing all my trees especially in my clay garden…the mature ash trees (8 of them) do so much for my garden as you so wonderfully point out. I am replacing them now but it will take at least 10 years to make an impact and 20 for full impact. I think we can all do more to conserve water and we need these constant reminders. The only things I water are new trees and bushes I am adding. Once established I rarely water the garden except for containers and the veggies. Another reason I like drought tolerant and native plants.

    I know we whine about snow…for me it is not the amount…I know my garden needs and wants more…I actually am just tired and need a change of scenery and of course want to get in my garden…but it is not time yet. Early spring snow is OK by me as it melts fast. The birds are certainly not deterred by it…Another fabulous post Donna!!

  27. A.M.B. says:

    Beautiful winter scenes and a very important message. I spent all winter hoping for snow and now there’s finally some in the forecast and it’s supposed to be SPRING! The groundhog was very wrong this year.

  28. meghan says:

    This day has always been an important one in my book and this year it was a special day in my native Vancouver since the city is involved in a great project called the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan. Its purpose is to raise awareness and to eliminate the negative impact that our actions often have on the environment the issues such as water consumption or the quality of drinking water being among the most important ones on our list. Clean water is only one part of a series of much more complicated issues but I believe if all of the points mentioned in the plan were immediately put into practice we could see the desired effect even in the short term.

    • I wish Vancouver much luck getting people to cooperate with the initiate. Canada is far more green savvy than we are as a whole in the US. Sad too because it seems “to go in and out of style” here. People only do when it is mandated.

  29. Pingback: Once Upon A Time: The Well | Daily Story For Children

  30. Being on a well for the first time the expression ‘drinking the well dry’ takes on new meaning. Excellent post.

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