Sunday, March 25, 2018

Water Flow

Weather: Last Sunday we had another cold front pass through on its way to the plains, and left a little incidental snow. It was rather like being a plant on the Oregon trail where wagon trains continually passed through, but with no interest in staying. They left their dead and discarded objects, much like these fronts casually leave us some moisture. Last snow: 3/18. Week’s low: 14 degrees. Week’s high: 77.

What’s blooming in the area: Apricots, crane’s bill

What’s reviving: Globe and weeping willows, daffodils, garlic, garlic chives, hollyhocks, sidalcea, pink and yellow evening primroses, coral beardstongues, chrysanthemums, dandelions, June grass

Tansy mustard is invading along the fence with a neighbor who mows his yard periodically, but almost always after his weeds have gone to seed.

Tasks: I continued to hack away at the alfalfa under the crab apples. One thing that always surprises me is that the tools I actually use are not the ones recommended. So far, the small floral rake has been the most useful at breaking off dead stems and grasses. I guess it functions like the hoes local men use to weed, only with the rigid teeth it picks up broken stems and debris so I don’t have to bend down as often. I only use the loppers to cut what the rake can’t handle.

Animal sightings: The ground squirrel broke off the bottom of a fence board to give itself safer access to my yard. The neighbor’s dogs had started using it’s earlier route under the fence until I dropped a large Russian thistle on the other side. Those carcasses may actually be good for something.

Weekly update: Last year, when I couldn’t use my thumb, I spent my garden money upgrading my watering system. The ground squirrel had destroyed many of my hoses by biting into them to get a drink. It never returned to the same hose, but broke open a new one every time.

In February 2017 I had to replace my well pump and in April the outside hydrant. I had never been happy with the well. From the first day, I had no water pressure. The only sprinkler I could run was the simplest one with a rotating disc, and, if I was lucky, it’s circle of water was five feet across. More often, I could only get a three foot circle. Soaker hoses would irrigate no more than two inches on a side.

Every time I asked people why I got non answers. I was assured the well was fine and producing the correct water pressure. Last February I learned the pump I had was the right size, but was low quality. The driller probably used it either to keep his bid low enough to be accepted or to increase his profit. The man replacing the pump gave me the same brand and size, but the top of the line. The difference in price was less than all the replacement cost of all the trees that died from lack of water.

The intake on the original pump probably got clogged as soon as it was used. Last February, the man also set the pressures on the storage tank. I’m not sure if that had been done before.

Once I had the possibility of improved water pressure, and I knew as soon as I turned on the hot water, [1] I wanted to solve the flow problem. A year or so before I had replaced a destroyed 15' hose that came directly off the hydrant with another and the water distribution had fallen by more than half. Even though both hoses claimed to be 5/7" in diameter, one was obviously larger than the other.

I vaguely knew there was a difference between outer diameter (OD) and inner diameter (ID), but hadn’t thought much about it. Last spring I started looking at the size of openings in hoses. Often the constriction was the hole in the washer, but some hoses I saw in stores also had metal rings where the fitting attached to the hose.

I had laid soaker hoses out and, because of the poor water pressure, often had several hoses in parallel. They were attached to on-off Y valves that I could open and close. The Y valves were listed as 5/8" diameter, but when I looked inside I discovered pieces that shrank the opening. The actual ball valve hole was only 1/4" across. It didn’t matter if my hoses were 5/8". All that was going to get though was 1/4" of water.

Since they were all that was available locally, and then only early in the season, I went to Amazon and found one manufacturer who claimed to deliver "35% more flow than standard valves." The valves had larger openings, and, to accommodate the balls, were also simply larger.

When I first had laid out the hoses, I had put shutoff valves at every location, so I if there was a problem I didn’t have to turn off the hydrant. Last summer, I replaced every intermediate Y connection with a simple valve that didn’t narrow the flow of water.

Of course, as I remembered last Sunday when I tested the hoses before I burned the week’s accumulation of dead wood, it meant I had no way to stop water where the ground squirrel got in last winter, except at the hydrant. But, if we didn’t forget the summer’s problems during winter, we’d never carry on the next summer because, of course, the problems always return.

Notes on photographs:
1. Hoses, 6 May 2013. You can see the tansy is only coming up next to the hose or the retaining wall at the top where runoff collects. Later in the season, these plants cover the spaces between themselves, but the areas where there are no plants will only support less thirsty grasses.

2. Hose destroyed this past winter by the ground squirrel. It usually leaves the inch wide hole.

3. Hose with a constricting band between the faucet connector and the hose connector.

4. Commonly available 5/8" 2-way Y on-off valve with 1/4" ball opening.

5. Two Y valves; the one on the left is like the one shown in #4.

6. Another hose destroyed this past winter by the ground squirrel. This one has several smaller holes.

End notes:
1. The hot water got hotter. That didn’t make any sense, but a woman in a local plumber supply shop said the increased pressure of the incoming water kicked up the accumulated debris at the bottom of the water heater. That activity then allowed the hot water to get into the house pipes faster, and so didn’t cool as much.

No comments: