Water, Straight from the Roof

In Terry County, a positive water conservation trend is catching on: rainwater harvesting systems. Rainwater harvesting is a system of pipes and tanks that catches water during a rainstorm and collects the water in tanks that can be used for future use. As a joint venture between the South Plains Under Water Conservation District, NRCS, and the Terry County Soil and Conservation Board, Glen Martin, a producer in Wellman, Texas was the first in Terry County to add a rainwater harvesting system to his barn. Martin’s barn is 19,000 square feet with two 10,000 gallon tanks and two 5,000 gallon tanks. Just one rainfall of 1 to 2 inches can completely fill all 30,000 gallons. Local South Plains UWCD agent, Layne Marlow, traveled around the state looking at other Rainwater harvesting systems to learn the do’s and don’ts of installing a system for the Martin’s barn. This project had zero engineers on site but you would never know by looking at this effective design on the Martin barn. Eight inch PVC pipe acts as gutters and runs the water to the tanks. Before the water gets there, however, it must first fill up a “flush pipe” which acts as a way to get out the dirt and debris stuck in the pipes. After that valve has been thoroughly flushed out, the tanks have nothing but crystal clear rain water inside.

On the Martin farm, the water collected is used to mix pesticides, spray their crops, and wash tractors and vehicles. Martin the producer and owner of the system said, “Every drop I collect is a drop I don’t have to pump from the aquifer.” The Martin farm has a low functioning well, so cutting back on well usage is a priority. It is the hope of Glen Martin that more research about spraying with rainwater will be done. In theory, surfactant, which is sprayed on crops to help the water stick, may not even be needed when spraying with rainwater. Getting rid of surfactant would save producers a lot of money.

Martin and his joint partners in this project host farm tour groups often to open up a conversation about rainwater harvesting systems. Other Terry County producers like Jet Wilmeth of Diamante Doble Vineyard have added the same systems to their barns. As Glen Martin put it,“It just makes sense. The water is there. It’s a free tank of water.” Martin is now the recipient of the 2016 Texas Water Boards Rain Catcher Award for Agriculture. Because of the Martin Farm system, NRCS has extended cost sharing for rainwater harvesting systems, from solely livestock to all agriculture statewide. Installing a rainwater harvesting system is tax-free in the state of Texas. Rainwater harvesting systems are an easy way for building owners everywhere to save water and extend the life of the Ogallala by replacing the well water with rainwater, straight from the roof.