As last year's dry spell has become the Drought of 2008, former Lake Norman Pool and Spa worker Scott Barfield offers an ancient solution:
In its first full year of operation, Barfield's new company, Lifewater, installs rain-harvesting systems that can irrigate the landscape, wash cars and even flush toilets. His company works with residential and commercial customers and also can install wetlands, waterfalls, streams and ponds.
Barfield wants to offer alternatives as Lake Norman and other Carolinas communities face restrictions on when and how they can use water.
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Last month, Lifewater completed construction of a custom water feature for Mooresville's Charles Mack Citizen Center.
The five rim rock towers in the center's inner courtyard operate on rainwater. They range from 24 inches to 36 inches tall and bubble water from the top, which then cascades down along the sides. The water feature is built in a raised planter about two feet tall and nine feet in diameter, Barfield said.
Water from the fountains drains back down through decorative stones into a reservoir, where it is then recycled and pumped back up to the rim rock.
Each time it rains, the roofline guides rain water through an architecturally designed gutter that empties into the center of the raised planter, refilling the reservoir.
“The collection of rainwater off rooftops allows us to collect a precious resource,” Barfield said. “You can use this for landscape irrigation, for laundry – it's super-soft for clothes.”
“This is simply an ancient practice of water conservation, and all we're doing is marrying it to today's technology.”
Barfield, who lives in Concord with his wife, Lisa, and three children, had worked for 20 years in landscaping and turf and golf course care.
His “aha!” moment came as the 2007 drought unfolded. He was working for Lake Norman Pool and Spa, and because of water restrictions, they couldn't fill pools.
“When you have a rain harvesting system on site … it's guilt-free,” he said.
Lifewater has been working around the Charlotte region, including at Aimee Hite's home near Freedom Park in Charlotte.
Hite had been using 12,000 to 15,000 gallons of water a month just for irrigation, she said.
“We had a lot of leaks,” Hite said of her irrigation system.
On her property, Barfield installed two 5,000-gallon water storage tanks. They fill with water collected from several gutters. He also overhauled her inefficient irrigation system.
Greg Bové of Concord has talked with Barfield about installing a filtering system.
On his own, Bové bought one rain barrel for irrigating his lawn and shrubbery, and he hopes to get another by fall. If Barfield installs a filtering system, the Bové family can use rainwater for other uses inside the house.
Bové said he got interested in harvesting rain after visiting Bermuda, which collects rain coming off roofs, takes the water below ground, filters it and pumps it back out.
“Some countries depend strictly on rainwater for all the household water,” he said. After the Bermuda trip, “I got interested and said, ‘We really ought to be doing things like this ourselves.'”The cost of a rainwater collection system can range from $1,500 up, Barfield said. He can make irrigation systems more efficient by using moisture probes that sense how dry the ground is so the system runs only when needed.
“I'm all about the green,” said Hite, the Charlotte customer. “It's the right thing to do.
“Water is becoming the next oil,” she said. “With water being so expensive, and climate change and drought … I think it's going to get worse.”