Saturday, September 13, 2014

Storing the Monsoons



This past  month, Arizona and Nevada were flooded by monsoon rains, with Phoenix recording 3.3 inches of rain in just seven hours, a record for the city.  This led to flash floods in there and in Nevada, causing much road damage as detailed in the video below:


Everyone knows rain in the desert is rare - that is what defines a desert.  However, when the rare rains do come, the ground is frequently so inhospitable to water that flooding results, and the water quickly rushes away back to rivers and streams toward the ocean.  We are unable to use the water for irrigation purposes, and the vegetation that would be able to use it is frequently swept away.

Is there a way to harvest this rainfall, all while slowly flash flooding?  We know trees slow the speed which rainfall reaches the ground with their leaves force the water to slowly percolate down to the ground.  Also, trees planted along waterways (called riparian buffers) serve as physical barriers to water rushing into already swollen streams.  Tree roots also loosen the soil, allowing compacted desert earth (called hardpan) to accept water rather than running it off like glass.  So, clearly planting more trees in the desert would be a valid way to help with flood control.

However, trees don't easily get established in the desert.  As mentioned, most rainfall comes in a very short period in the desert, and the ground does not absorb it.  This process is explained in the video below.


So, trees (and other plants) need a stored source of water to continue living after the monsoon-like rains disappear.  For this purpose, a device called the Groasis Waterboxx was invented.  The Groasis Waterboxx is a self-refilling water battery for trees, a dew and rain collector that stores water and slowly releases it to the roots of a growing plant.  The principles of the Waterboxx are explained below.


Since the Waterboxx can be completely refilled with just 4 inches of rain, once yearly monsoons can provide much of the water a tree needs.  In fact, the Waterboxx had an 88-99% success rate sustaining young trees for one year in the Sahara desert planting trial.

After the tree grows and gets almost too large for the Waterboxx, the Waterboxx can be removed and reused for other trees for up to ten years.  The Waterboxx planted tree will have deep roots that reach underground capillary water, allowing it to survive the periods between rains without dying.  The deep roots also prevent the tree from being washed away during storms, a serious problem with store bought trees with shallow roots.

Dew Harvest LLC was started because we saw the incredible value of the Waterboxx, and we hoped to encourage its use in the United States.  We believe huge numbers of trees could be established with this device, storing carbon, mitigating floods, providing food for wildlife and profit and enjoyment to landowners.  Learn more about the Waterboxx, or buy the Waterboxx here.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Southwest Megadrought

A recent study suggests that the American Southwest may be more likely to undergo a decade long drought within the next hundred years.  The study, by Toby Ault of Cornell University, states that decades long droughts have happened in the past for unknown reasons.  The records of these droughts comes from tree rings (which are narrower if the tree that year grew under drought conditions).

Much of the American Southwest is already in drought conditions, with California and Arizona suffering unusual dryness.  Lake Mead, the great reservoir behind the Hoover Dam, is at historically low levels as seen below.


Bath-Ring-lower-water-levels
Lake Mead - From National Park Service - the white rim visible well above the current water level

So if there is not enough water to continue the current lifestyle and agricultural productivity of the desert Southwest from irrigation, what can be done?  Some places, like San Diego, are experimenting with desalination of seawater to make freshwater.  This is not practical for much of the Southwest interior states, or even states like Arizona (which famously lacks ocean front property).  

Because of the obvious presence of rivers and streams, it is forgotten that there is over six times more fresh water in the air than in rivers.  There is also more water available in capillary water (not ground water in the traditional sense) in the soil than is available in rivers and streams.  

When the location of fresh water becomes more evident (air and soil moisture stored as capillary water) the question quickly becomes - how do we access this water?  An inventor and Dutch flower breeder by the name of Pieter Hoff also had this question.  He retired from his flower business, spent 7 years and 7.1 million dollars developing a device to access this water.  His invention is called the Groasis Waterboxx.  The Groasis Waterboxx is a self recharging water battery for trees and other compact plants,  It is filled initially by a person, and the soil underneath it is moistened.  The Waterboxx then collects dew and rainwater, stores it in a fifteen liter reservoir, and slowly releases it to the roots of a growing plant.  The Waterboxx never needs human refilling after initial set up.  

The Waterboxx encourages the roots of the tree to reach for deeper capillary water by creating a vertical water column.   This is directly opposite of traditional irrigation which encourages shallow root growth by releasing large amounts of water to only the top layer of soil.  Shallow roots are then more likely to dry out quickly once the irrigation water is stopped (due to drought).  After the tree reaches this water (and becomes self-sustaining), the Waterboxx can be removed and reused for up to 10 years.  


Dew Harvest was started in the United States to help promote the Groasis Waterboxx.  We truly desire to see new forests, vineyards, and orchards planted across the drier parts of our nation.  With drought currently evident in much of the country and increasingly likely in others, it is clear that the time for the Groasis Waterboxx has come.  Be the first in your area to start growing trees and other plants with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Waterboxx today.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Customer Results of Gardening with the Groasis Waterboxx


Dew Harvest has been selling Groasis Waterboxxes for about 18 months currently, and we feel privileged to introduce this technology to the United States, where it has so many uses.  When we ship Waterboxxes to a customer, we encourage them to email us picture results (to testimonials@dewharvest.com).  We are now receiving our first testimonials, and these are very encouraging.

Below, you see a customer in Hemet, California who purchased a tomato plant at a local store and planted it with the Waterboxx.  As you can see, the tomato plant not only survived but thrived and increased greatly in size in just one week.
This customer inserted a second wick in the base of the Waterboxx (to deliver more water to the roots of the tomato), and because of this the Waterboxx may need to be refilled with water occasionally, but it will still collect dew and rainwater and store them in the reservoir.  If only one wick is inserted, the Waterboxx will never need to be refilled.  The Waterboxx's design prevents evaporation of the water that has been released.


Same tomato plant, seven weeks after transplant
This customer from Hemet, California did rig up a hanging trellis system above the indeterminate tomatoes because they grew so large they needed more support.  To quote him "With a good tomato harvest, a single Waterboxx has the potential to pay for itself in one growing season".  


Of note, tomatoes in particular are much less likely to split because of the consistent 50 mL (10 teaspoons) of water delivered to their roots daily.

If you have recently purchased a Groasis Waterboxx and would like your results displayed (with your location and/or name, your preference being honored), please email them to us at testimonials@dewharvest.com.

As always, you can buy the Waterboxx at www.dewharvest.com  
At Dew Harvest our motto is "Replant the Earth"

Friday, August 22, 2014

Desalination

Desalination, also called desalinization, is the removal of salt from seawater to make available more freshwater for human consumption.  Since only a tiny percentage of water on Earth is freshwater, and most of this is locked in glaciers, some arid areas bordering oceans or salt lakes view desalination as a necessity.  Israel gets over a third of its drinking water from desalination, and the amount of drinking water obtained from desalination worldwide is expected to almost double by 2020.

Desalination is possible through three main mechanisms.  First, simple solar distillation of seawater uses the different boiling points of pure water and salt to separate the two.  Water boils (evaporates) at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, while NaCl (sodium chloride, or the main salt in the ocean) doesn't boil or evaporate until 2,575 degrees Fahrenheit.  Since the sun warming seawater can get some water molecules to evaporate at a temperature lower than 212 degrees, water is collected on a clear plastic or glass pane.  This pane is sloped, and the pure water drains downward into a trough, awaiting drinking.

A picture of a solar still - From USGS
Solar distillation or desalination clearly does not produce a great deal of fresh water quickly, so other more expensive but more productive methods were developed.

Vacuum distillation decreases the pressure in a container of seawater to near that of atmospheric pressure.  This causes the pure water to boil at a lower temperature, allowing it to be separated from the salt (which is very difficult to boil as noted above).  This pure water is again separated and collected.  See how vacuum distillation works in the video below.



The most recently developed method is reverse osmosis, where seawater is pumped at very high pressures through a semi-permeable membrane (which only allows water through).  The salt remains.  This method is generally cheaper than vacuum distillation.  The biggest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere is now being built outside San Diego.  See how reverse osmosis works in a video from OceanIt below.



Both vacuum distillation and reverse osmosis use electricity, making them both expensive and polluting.  They also leave an unwanted byproduct of very salty water which must be discarded.  If this brine water is just mixed in with ocean water again, many animals in the area of the brine will die.  Also, the costs of desalination preclude it from being used for any purpose beside drinking and cooking water.  Irrigation would clearly be far too low value a purpose for this water.

So, if desert countries do increasingly come to rely on desalination for drinking water, how can they grow trees and other plants for food production - especially since desalination is expensive?  The answer is - they can use the Groasis Waterboxx.

The Groasis Waterboxx doesn't use salt water at all, but rare rainwater and condensation to grow plants.  Unlike most types of desalination, it doesn't use electricity and doesn't have any moving parts.  A tree or other plant is planted with the Waterboxx, water is poured around the tree, the Waterboxx is filled with water, and the grower's job is done.  The Waterboxx will maintain its water supply from condensation and refill completely with 4 inches of rain.  See a video of how the Waterboxx works below (from Groasis):



The Groasis Waterboxx allows trees and other plants to be planted in deserts and other very dry areas with high survival rates.  88-99% of trees planted in a Sahara planting trial survived using the Waterboxx, versus only 10% that survived without the Waterboxx but with weekly irrigation.

The Waterboxx has been used throughout the world, and Dew Harvest is now distributing the Waterboxx within the United States.  The Waterboxx allows land owners and gardeners to plant all types of trees and many different garden plants.  We document our success with pear, cherry, oak, and sequoia trees as well as cantaloupe and pumpkins elsewhere on this site (click the respective plant for links).  Be the first to in your area to start growing with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Waterboxx here.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Where is Earth's Fresh Water Stored?



The Stephens Glacier - From USGS: Glaciers hold about two thirds of all the world's fresh water
Most people know that most of the Earth's water is salt water in the oceans (almost 97% in fact).  Many people assume that fresh water is mostly found in rivers and lakes.  This is not the case.  Two thirds of all fresh water is in glaciers and ice, not readily accessible for human use.  As we see many glaciers in the northern hemisphere recede (even while they may be getting thicker in Antarctica), some of this ice may become available in fresh water lakes, but right now it is largely inaccessible.

Of all fresh water, 0.26% (or one quarter of one percent) are in fresh water lakes.  Over eighty percent of  all the fresh water in North American Lakes is in the Great Lakes region. (Incidentally, these lakes were formed by glacial melt after the last ice age, so glacial melt today could potentially have similar effects).. So, there is not much available to the Western part of the United States that most needs the water for irrigation and other uses.

What about rivers?  Well, all the rivers in the world only hold 0.006% (that is six hundredths of one percent) of all water.  We frequently use rivers to irrigate crops, but their main advantage is that they are self refilling, not that they hold significant water.  If fact, we use so much of the water from the Colorado river that it doesn't even reach the sea anymore.


The Colorado River drying out before it reaches the sea - from USGS
With drought becoming more prevalent, and ground aquifers becoming depleted, isn't there another renewable source of water that could be tapped to grow plants?  Yes, there is.  0.04% of all fresh water is held by the atmosphere.  This is over six times what is available in rivers.  The problem, up until now, has been there was no effective way to harvest and store this water for use by growing plants.  The Groasis Waterboxx has changed all of that.

The Groasis Waterboxx is a self refilling water battery, an ingeniously designed dew harvesting device that pulls moisture from the air at night, and stores it to slowly distribute to the roots of a growing plant.  It also captures rainfall and stores this for later use.  See how the Waterboxx works in the video below:


The Groasis Waterboxx pulls water from the air, funnels it to a reservoir using its unique lotus leaf inspired lid,  and slowly distributes it to the soil beneath.  This allows the tree roots to grow to deeper capillary water (also called soil moisture, where another 0.05% of all fresh water is stored), making them drought resistant once the Waterboxx is removed and reused.  See the root growth with the Groasis Waterboxx at this link.  Contrast this to what is normally done when planting a young tree - drip or sprinkler irrigation means water stays in the top of the root zone, causing the roots to grow more shallowly and making them more likely to dry out during drought.  The Groasis Waterboxx has suddenly made this atmospheric fresh water, squeezed out in condensation most mornings, available for the growth of the plant.

We at Dew Harvest have used the Waterboxx to grow cherry, pear, oak, and sequoia trees, as well as annuals like pumpkins and cantaloupe.  Be the first in your area to begin planting trees the way nature intended with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Waterboxx today.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Growing Cantaloupe with the Groasis Waterboxx



The Groasis Waterboxx was developed to grow trees in very dry areas without irrigation or other continued watering.  For this purpose, it is superb, with 88-99% survival during a Sahara desert planting trial.   The Waterboxx has been less well known until recently as a way to plant fruits and vegetables, especially vine crops, without any continued Watering.  We had had very dry summers here in Indiana recently so we wanted to test by planting pumpkins and cantaloupes with the Waterboxx.  It is also best to start seeds of a new plant outside the Waterboxx to ensure the most light initially.  We planted several cantaloupe seeds in a peat pot, and transplanted these into the ground.  We placed the Waterboxx over this new cantaloupe, and filled the Waterboxx as well as pouring about one gallon of water down the central opening of the Waterboxx.  Below you can see the cantaloupe on July 28, 2014.



It was a cold spring here in Indiana (as well as a remarkably cool summer) and we may have gotten the cantaloupe in the ground late, but we saw good growth within a few days of the leaves of the cantaloupe reaching the top of the Waterboxx.  Below you see the Waterboxx on August 2, 2014.

The cantaloupe continues to grow very well now.  The Waterboxx usually has one wick, releasing approximately 50 mL (10 teaspoons) of water daily to the roots of the growing plant.  We inserted a second wick after drilling a 3/16 inch hole opposite the original wick hole.  This has given the cantaloupe roots more water, and with our amount of rainfall in Indiana, the Waterboxx has stayed completely full.  In drier climates, a second wick may mean the Waterboxx would need to be refilled.

Below you see the cantaloupe on August 16,2014, with several small yellow blooms.



The cantaloupe has grown significantly by August 24, shown below.



The Groasis Waterboxx allows a means to grow plants in very dry areas.  Areas where cantaloupes are traditionally grown (like Southwest Texas) have very irregular rainfall, but the Waterboxx can counteract this by providing daily moisture to the plant.  The Waterboxx has also been used to grow many other plants, including pear and cherry trees, oakssequoias and pumpkins.   You can buy the Waterboxx here from Dew Harvest.  We will continue to update this post with the progress of our cantaloupe planting.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ocean Acidification and the Groasis Waterboxx


There is much controversy over whether human carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming.  Warming has come in fits and starts, and the warmest summer in years in 2012, has been followed by one of the coolest this year.  Global warming predictions are based on computer models, and are not readily falsifiable (a hallmark of all other scientific inquiry).  Also, both scientists and governments stand to gain power and money (through research dollars and carbon taxes) should the belief in global warming become more widespread.  The French philosopher Voltaire once said "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him".  Perhaps, for those in power, the same is true of global warming.  Thus, anthrogenic (man caused) global warming is controversial.

What is not controversial is this.  Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is increasing.  We have objectively chronicled this rise over the past decades.  We know this is from human activity, releasing millenia of stored carbon in coal, oil, and natural gas into the atmosphere.   Below you can see the slow but steady increase carbon dioxide levels as measured at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.  

Mauna Loa CO2
From NOAA
So, carbon dioxide increase is easily and objectively measured and uncontroversial.  Why does this matter if global warming is unproven?  Because rising carbon dioxide has other negative effects.  First, rising carbon dioxide can raise the acidity of the oceans.  We are observing this happening right now.  When carbon dioxide comes in to contact with water, it frequently forms a chemical reaction by which a hydrogen ion (or proton) is released.  The equation is shown below.


Seawater carbonate chemistry
Also from NOAA
This loose hydrogen ion is actually what makes things acidic.  The scientific abbreviation pH even stands for "power of hydrogen".  The exact same process happens in the body, which is why you will see people with certain conditions (like diabetic ketoacidosis) breathing very fast in order to decrease acidity of blood.

For most of recent history, the oceans have been slightly basic.  However, with increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the above chemical reaction is happening more and more, and the ocean is becoming more acidic.  It is believed that the ocean absorbs 30-40% of all carbon dioxide, and that the acidity of the oceans has increased 30% as well. This can have negative counsequences for the many ocean creatures that pull other chemicals out of water, as detailed in the video below.  



This ocean acidification also is slowing the growth of other organisms that pull calcium out of the water, like coral.  If these grow more slowly, the entire ocean food chain may be adversely affected, meaning fewer fish and fewer marine mammals.  The economic cost alone, not to mention the ecologic cost, would be very large should this process continue unabated.

Most of the proposed solutions to increasing atmospheric carbon aren't solutions at all, but draconian restrictions on affordable energy and unrealistic targets for emission reduction.  Such policies are so bad economically that Europe, previously a leader in decreasing carbon emissions, has reversed itself and now loosened its emission guidelines.  The same is happening in Japan.  Clearly, decreasing emissions is not a viable solution currently.

If you look at the graph at the top of this post (carbon in the atmosphere), you will see that it actually is saw toothed in shape.  This is due to seasonal variation, or the decrease in carbon dioxide in the air during summer because of uptake from plants undergoing photosynthesis.  Plants pull carbon from the air, use it during photosynthesis, and store it in sugars and wood (cellulose), potentially long term.  If we planted enough trees, even if we then harvested these trees for timber, we could dramatically reduce or even stop the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  This would slow or stop ocean acidification, in addition to making moot the debate about global warming.

How can plant more trees?  Isn't most land with enough moisture to grow trees already growing crops for food?  This was the case, there way little more arable land, until the invention of the Groasis Waterboxx.

The Groasis Waterboxx was invented to plant trees and other plants in very dry areas without irrigation.  The Groasis Waterboxx collects dew and rain water using its lotus leaf inspired lid.  This water is stored in a reservoir, and slowly released through a wick to the roots of a growing plant.  This allows the plant (usually a tree), to develop deep roots that reach underground capillary water.  When the tree reaches this water, it is drought resistant and the Waterboxx can be removed and reused.


The Groasis Waterboxx
Dew Harvest was founded because we saw the value of the Waterboxx, and were upset that it was not more widely used in the United States.  We began selling the Waterboxx, and you can buy the Waterboxx at our website.  We truly believe that trees are the solution to many of the world's ills, including increasing carbon in the atmosphere and ocean acidification.  Be the first in your area to start growing trees with the Waterboxx.