Watering the Vegetable Garden With City Water

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Most vegetable gardeners that live within city limits, like myself, rely on city water for watering the vegetable garden when there isn’t much rain.

Even with the use of rain barrels and other systems for capturing rain water, city water may need to be used when those systems run dry.

But using city water for watering the vegetable garden might have some undesirable effects on plants and the soil.

If you use city water to water your vegetable garden, here are a few things you may want to consider before doing so.

Is City Water Bad for Vegetable Gardens and Soil?

It is widely known that cities add chlorine and fluoride to the public drinking water for sanitation reasons.

While this is essential for keeping the water supply safe and healthy for us to drink it isn’t so safe for our vegetables.

Watering the Vegetable Garden With City WaterChlorine and chloramine are thought to be harmful to beneficial microbes living in the soil and fluoride really doesn’t help our plants much either.

Chloramine, which is chlorine and ammonia mixed together, is said to kill yeast when trying to bake bread using water with it. The water must be filtered in order for the bread to rise correctly.

This can be especially bad when using city water for brewing compost tea or worm tea. The whole point of brewing these organic teas is to condition the soil and add beneficial microbes.

If the chemicals in the city water are killing those microbes you have just made the tea somewhat ineffective.

Don’t go into a panic about using city water, it won’t kill your vegetable garden. All plants need water to be able to take up nutrients and survive, and using city water is better than using nothing.

In my opinion, plants seemed to have lush growth, deeper colors, and produce better when watered with rain water over city water. The vegetable garden always seems to look better after a slow drizzly day of rain.

Some gardeners say they see no difference in using captured rain water and using solely city water, so it all lies within the beholder.

If you want to keep your gardening water supply chemical-free there are a few things you can do to reduce, or eliminate, the chemicals found in tap water.

Eliminating Chlorine In City Water

The easiest way to get rid of any chlorine problems is by not using it as much as possible. Install one or two rain barrels around your home and use the captured rain water.

You could also have a well dug on your property for watering the vegetable garden and washing cars.

Although it can be a large one-time investment monetarily, a well can end up saving you money on the water bill for the long term.

A quick and easy solution is allowing the city water to sit for a period before using it in the vegetable garden. Chlorine and fluoride will evaporate when left sitting for at least a day.

Allow City Water To Sit for 24 Hours So Chlorine EvaporatesFill up a few five gallon buckets and let them sit overnight then use the water the following day to water your vegetables. The chlorine will evaporate leaving you with fresh, chlorine-free water.

Try to avoid leaving the water-filled buckets out for too long if you have problems with mosquitos in your area.

Water that is left standing for too long can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Covering the buckets is not recommended because this inhibits the evaporation of the chemicals.

Using City Water or Rain Water

The next time you grab the water hose to water your vegetables take a minute to think about the possible chemicals in your water supply.

You might not be necessarily be damaging your plants, but you could improve your garden and your soil but taking a few steps to improve the quality of the water you use.

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Comments

  1. ConnieSue says:

    it is my understanding that chloramine DOES NOT EVAPORATE. Cities have come to use chloramine (chlorine and ammonia mixed together) instead of chlorine.

    for more information go to http://www.chloramineinfocenter.net/WhatIsChloramine.htm

    • Hi Connie – yes, chloramine doesn’t evaporate like chlorine. It is used because it last longer. More and more cities are using chloramine over chlorine, but some still use it. There are some cities that add fluoride and some do not.

      It’s always best to check with your local water works to find out what chemicals are added in the water supply.

  2. Cherina McFadden says:

    Some places it is illegal to use rain barrels. Starting last year in our state we can use them but we are supposed to register them with the state.

  3. I’m amazed that you need to register a rain barrel as stated by Cherina McFadden. You would have thought they encourage it – not only does it save expensive, treated drinking water. It also means less rainwater has to be processed by the storm drain systems. I would have thought providing free rain collecting barrels would pay for itself financially and environmentally.

  4. I live in an area where we don’t have public water. Everyone in my town has a well. It’s not really as rural as it sounds. We live 45 minutes from Boston.

    Well water is not always the best for plants either. My well has naturally occuring floride and other minerals. The pH is also very basic. The other issue to consider is the electricity it takes to pump water to the surface. Our electric rates are pretty high. So, although well water might sound like a great answer, harvesting water from your roof is the option I’d go with in most cases.

    I use a rain barrel as much as possible, especially for my blueberries, which enjoy acidic soil.

    • You make a great point about well water, Bill. It might not be the best solution, but is a possibility. Well water can also be very hard and contain high amounts of iron as well. There may be a need to purchase water softeners which will also add to expenses.

      I agree that the optimum solution is to use captured rain water, but there are times when this is very limited. For instance, last summer I received 1/4″ of rain between May 5th and August 12th. It was a very dry summer that meant an empty rain barrel for me most of the summer.

      I had to begin manually collecting gray water and relying on city water to supplement my watering needs. I’m actually very glad you brought this up because I totally forgot to mention gray water as a means for watering the vegetable garden.

  5. One solution I haven’t seen mentioned, is the one I used here in South Texas. A Filter. While not a trivial DIY exercise, plumbing a filter into the water line used to go to your garden is not very difficult or expensive. Of course, it does presume a dedicate water line to the garden for drip or faucet. Yes there are smaller filters for hoses and faucets, but I have no experience with those. I’ll leave that to others to test as I am a dedicated drip irrigation gardener. To that end, I added a filter at the water line that clears out all the nasty stuff we have been discussing.

    Great Subject, tee!

    • Hi Steve – Wow! You know I didn’t even think of using a filter! That’s a great idea! If the filter is good for removing chlorine and chloramine then you are all set for using it in the vegetable garden.

      Of course, like you mentioned, the filter should be directly plumbed into the water line that’s used for watering the garden, but that’s really not that tough in most cases.

      Thanks for your valuable input!

  6. I can attest to the difference between city water and other sources. My dad has planted his garden the last couple years and used well water from his new home. His plants are full and a lush green. Previously, he lived a couple miles south in the city and his plants were never as lush and productive as they are now. Rather they were thin and lighter green. Same soil but different water source.

  7. Quote: “Chlorine and fluoride will evaporate when left sitting for at least a day.”

    It is my understanding that fluoride is very difficult to eliminate and does not evaporate.

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