Posts tagged ‘water’

Water Conservation at Smithsonian Gardens

Join us this Saturday, May 9th, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m for a celebration of “Water, Water, Everywhere” at Garden Fest in the Enid A. Haupt Garden. In this blog entry Sarah Tietbohl writes about just one of the many ways we try to conserve water at Smithsonian Gardens.

Moongate Fountain in the Haupt Garden

Moongate fountain in the Enid A. Haupt Garden

When I first started at Smithsonian Gardens in 2010 I was assigned the job of cleaning the Moongate fountain in the Enid A. Haupt Garden.  I was excited about this task as I would have an opportunity to learn to use a new piece of equipment and keep cool during the hot summer months.  I estimated that the fountain would need to be cleaned maybe once a month. With the pond open between April and October, that would total seven times a year. That spring, the cleaning schedule started out at once a month.  As the season went on and the temperatures climbed into the 90s, I noticed that the fountain was growing algae at a rapid pace. It turned the water a sickly slimy-green color. That once-a-month cleaning turned into scouring once or twice a week! That season, I ended up cleaning the fountain well over twenty times. The next year it was the same story.

Moongate fountain in the Haupt Garden

Sarah explains her environmentally-friendly method for maintaining the Moongate fountain.

After the summer of 2011, I really started to think about all of the water, energy, and time it takes to clean the Moongate fountain. I started to gauge the amount of water that was being used in one year to clean and fill the fountain. I calculated that it takes 2,300 gallons of water just to fill the fountain each time it is cleaned, plus 200 gallons or so to clean it. I decided to research environmentally-friendly products that would reduce the amount of algal growth, thereby cutting down on the amount of water needed to re-fill the fountain after each cleaning. Fewer cleaning sessions would also result in less emissions (and noise) generated from the power washer that runs every time the fountain is cleaned. I started experimenting with a non-toxic black pond dye. Adding black dye to the fountain reduced the amount of sunlight that was able to penetrate the water, which in turn reduced the algal growth. I found the dye to be very effective and talked my colleagues into using it in the fountains in the Ripley and Folger Gardens as well. Thanks to the black dye solution, Smithsonian Gardens has reduced fountain water use from 60,000 gallons a year to slightly less than 22,000 gallons- a terrific way for Smithsonian Gardens to employ a sustainable alternative in its operations.

-Sarah Tietbohl, Smithsonian Gardens 

 

May 7, 2014 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

The Fountain Garden

The theme of Garden Fest this year is “Water, Water, Everywhere.” Join us on May 9th, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Enid A. Haupt Garden for a celebration of the role water plays in sustaining healthy garden and healthy humans. The day will include live music, the creation of a water-themed community art project, and numerous educational activities. In this blog post Smithsonian Gardens volunteer Annette B. Ramírez de Arellano takes an in-depth look at the history behind one of our most popular water features in the gardens. 

Gardens are central to the design of the Smithsonian Quad, which comprises the space between the Castle and Independence Avenue. While the Victorian parterre is the largest and most central area of the Enid A. Haupt Garden, two smaller gardens are tucked among the museums. The Fountain Garden, which abuts the National Museum of African Art, is of Moorish design and incorporates key design elements of the architecture of North Africa.

The Fountain Garden

An overall view of the Fountain Garden looking towards the National Museum of African Art, 2004.

 

The Fountain Garden was inspired by the Court of the Lions in the Alhambra, the 12th century fortress and palace in Granada, Spain. The Alhambra, which is at present Spain’s most-visited monument, reflects the era of Al-Andalus, when Muslims had control or great influence over territory that extended from Central Asia to Spain. Between the 8th and the 14th centuries, Muslim Spain was a center for the arts and sciences. In the 13th century, Granada was the stronghold of the Nasrid dynasty and a thriving state in both commerce and the arts. The Alhambra, which was begun in 1248 and took 100 years to be completed, was emblematic of the dynasty’s power. It is still the world’s oldest Islamic palace to survive in a good state of preservation.

The Court of the Lions

The Court of the Lions in the Alhambra, Granada, Spain. Photo by Flickr user mttsndrs

Within the structure, the Court of the Lions has been called “the most elegant complex of Muslim architecture.” The courtyard consists of two adjacent squares forming a rectangular, with a fountain in the center and 6 fountains in the periphery. The central fountain has 12 lions in a circle surrounding a large marble basin. Water emanates from the mouth of each lion. The courtyard is surrounded by 124 intricate columns which include 11 different types of arches.

Wall Fountain

The wall fountain, seen in the background here, cools the air in the hot summer months.

Like its predecessor, the Smithsonian’s Fountain Garden incorporates water, tiles, and the symmetrical shape formed by the crossing of four streams of water representing the four rivers of paradise (water, wine, milk and honey).  But it is highly stylized version of its Andalusian counterpart, and has jets of water rising directly from the ground rather than spewing from the mouths of lions. The garden also includes a Moorish-inspired wall fountain, in which the water falls over a vertical surface. This provides a soothing sound and cools the ambient air during the warm summer months. The wall is planted with vines that form a veil or chador, thereby alluding to the cultural roots of the original fountain in what is now Spain. Art and function therefore merge with history in the garden which abuts the National Museum of African Art and can be enjoyed by visitors within the Museum as well as by those walking through the Quad’s open spaces.

-Annette B. Ramírez de Arellano, Smithsonian Gardens volunteer

April 30, 2014 at 7:00 am 2 comments

Exploring DC Water

Smithsonian Gardens’ Green Team had a unique opportunity to visit the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant (AWTP) owned and operated by Washington, D.C.’s Water and Sewer Authority or DC Water.  Serving the District and nearby suburbs, the plant takes in more than 330 million gallons of raw sewage daily.

We had the pleasure of meeting with General Manager George Hawkins before getting a tour of the facility.  After just a few minutes spent with Mr. Hawkins you could immediately appreciate not only his vast knowledge but his passion for what he does.  He touched upon several aspects of DC Water, from its many large construction projects to its water treatment process  to sustainability.

General Manager George Hawkins details various aspects of DC Water.

General Manager George Hawkins details various aspects of DC Water.

The Washington Aqueduct provides the public water supply system serving Washington, D.C., and parts of nearby suburbs and is run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  DC Water takes wastewater and runs it through cleaning processes using mechanical, chemical and biological methods like screening, aeration, polymer use and bacterial digestion.  Once cleaned to EPA standards, this treated water is then put back into the Potomac River and the cycle begins once again.

One way DC Water is becoming more sustainable is with a huge construction project to further the biosolids management program with a Thermal Hydrolysis Process (THP) and digestion facility.  Once completed, the project will not only be the largest of its kind in the world, but also save DC Water around $10 million a year in energy costs and cut its usage by a third.  (DC Water is currently the largest consumer of electricity in the District.)  It will also reduce the amount of carbon emissions by approximately 50,000 metric tons yearly.  DC Water hopes to have the process up and running by July 2014.

George Hawkins actively looks for ways for DC Water to be more sustainable instead of simply taking the tried and true (easier) way out. Currently, any excess water generated during a large rain event that the facility can’t handle overflows into the city’s rivers.  DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project is a colossal undertaking that will help alleviate that issue; a huge cistern-like cavity is currently being built to gradually treat storm-water that overwhelms the system.  George also sees other ways of dealing with excess water, such as a push for individuals and the government on all levels to build bioswales, green roofs and rain gardens to help mitigate the problem.

The Smithsonian  Gardens Green Team tours the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The Smithsonian Gardens Green Team tours the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant.

One way the public can help be more water smart is by drinking more tap water instead of using bottled water.  To this end, DC Water is directly involved with a project called TapIt that is also found in other cities.  TapIt enables you to locate eateries (via internet search, iPhone app, or restaurants labeled with a TapIt sticker) that will let you bring your own water bottle and fill it for free.

DC Water hopes someday to become net zero for energy consumption meaning it would produce energy equal to or more than its daily needs.  With future plans to double the Thermal Hydrolysis Process and digestion facility and talks of installing solar panels, DC Water thinks it can achieve this lofty goal.  If everyone uses water more consciously and tries to alleviate polluting through trash and water runoff we can make D.C.’s rivers a major highlight of the city.

-Matt Fleming, Smithsonian Gardens Horticulturist 

December 3, 2013 at 6:30 am Leave a comment

Watering Well: Irrigation Tips for Your Garden

Now as summer approaches we anticipate getting back into the garden and tending to the lawn. There is one element of gardening that should not be overlooked and that is getting your irrigation system tuned up for the season. Fully automated irrigation systems afford gardeners the convenience of not having to drag water hoses all over their property.

Sean Jones, Folger Rose Garden. Smithsonian Gardens.

Sean Jones, Folger Rose Garden. Smithsonian Gardens.

Energize your system’s mainline slowly and check the grounds for wet areas. This is a good way to find any leaks in your mainline and repair them before money has been wasted on an undetected leak. Here are a few easy things you can do to ensure that your system is in proper working order which can also save you time and money:

  • Check the irrigation timer and adjust any previous programs that may have been input from last season as necessary. With seasonal changes come programming changes. Your plants’ water requirements are going to differ from what they were in the fall when you winterized your system. You might actually use a lot less water at the beginning of the season which can translate directly into savings on your water bill.
  • Once you have done these things, run each individual zone and check for coverage. This may require changing and/or adjusting heads and nozzles. Making these changes can save you money. Sometimes we don’t know there are coverage issues until we see failing plants at which point it means replacing costly plant material.
  • With newer technologies and advanced irrigation product design available, you may want to consider changing out older irrigation components for newer products. The irrigation industry has made many advances, especially in the area of water conservation.

Remember that irrigation is a watering supplement. Don’t overwater your plants. Give them time to become thirsty; this will help build a healthy root system because the roots will grow deep looking for water.

These are just a few suggestions that you can undertake to do your part to help conserve water resources and – at the same time – save yourself some money.

-Sean Jones, Irrigation Engineer

April 29, 2013 at 8:00 am Leave a comment


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