Four variations I employ to optimize for vertical capillary flow: 1) I favor sand over gravel for bedding the drain pipe. Clean gravel doesn't wick. 2) I forego the fabric separator between the gravel and the soil, opting instead to sleeve the drain pipe to keep the sand out of it. 3) After the sand goes in, I fill with water to the sand level and use that as a guide to level the sand layer. 4) I use sand size biochar in the soil mix to increase capillary flow capacity. The biochar allows me to use a little deeper soil, approaching 20 inches (0.5 meters), because I can count on the water wicking faster, higher.
Going from gravel to sand, removing the fabric separator, these two changes increase the risk of anaerobic soil and water biochemistry. I think I gain more than I risk, and last year I detected no issues.
Other design variations: -
Covering the bottom 80% with straight sections of perforated drain pipe to maximize storage capacity, but allows for enough space between the sections for sand wicking to pull from the base level.
If bedding with sand (vs gravel), continuously sleeve the drain pipe sections, to better communicate water between the sections.
Opt for 3" vs 4" diameter drain pipe to gain another inch of soil mix depth in a fixed height container.
Plumb the horizontal overflow pipe directly into the vertical fill pipe.
Agricultural operations have been regulated by agencies covering agriculture and the environment. Solid waste drives the response to groundwater contamination to regulation by health and safety agencies, under regulations with a lot more teeth than the environmental regulations we rely on to protect groundwater from agricultural practices.
My immediate thought is that a principle of consistency would seem to require that all fugitive nutrients lost below the root zone in an agricultural setting could trigger RCRA jurisdiction. And why not cover fugitive chemicals from fracking under RCRA?
RCRA, like the Federal Cean Water Act (CWA), accomodates citizen lawsuits. Groundwater is not covered under the CWA. Frankly, the tools are in place to avoid groundwater contamination by dairies. It should never come to this. Not withapproved Dairy Nutrient Management Plans, perennial technical support, technical feedback loops, and social feedback loops from the Feds, the states, locally controlled conservation districts, industry associations, county extension, consultants, suppliers, bankers, milk purchasers, community and business leaders. When those tools, those feedback loops, fail to protect groundwater, it is not in my soil/groundwater experience because the tools were inadequate, but rather because the system to use those tools could be gamed, and the oversight mechanisms in place to prevent gaming were circumvented.
"Accordingly, because Defendants manure applications were not only
untethered to DNMP’s Best Management Practices but done without regard to crop fertilization needs, presumably in an effort to discard their excess supply, the otherwise beneficial purpose of manure as fertilizer was eliminated and the manure discarded."
Fugitive nitrogen loss is OK if application conforms to accepted practices. Ignoring the prescribed application is unacceptable.
[Conversation in Progress btw a lord and a gardener, in answer to an inquiry about what led the gardener to employ charcoal in his Squire's garden and vineyard]
" ' Yes ; you took shelter in a mews ; what then ?'
" ' And there were two gentlemen taking shelter too ; and they were talking to each other about charcoal.'
" ' About charcoal ? — go on.'
" ' And one said that it had done a deal o' good in many cases of sickness, and specially in the first stage of the cholera, and I took a note on my mind of that, because we'd had the cholera in our village the year afore. And I guessed the two gentlemen were doctors, and knew what they were talking about.'
" ' I dare say they did ; but flowers and Vines don't have the cholera, do they ? '
"'No, my Lord; but they have complaints of their own; and one of the gentlemen went on to say that charcoal had a special good effect upon all vegetable life, and told a story of a vinedresser, in Germany, I think, who had made a very sickly poor vineyard one of the best in all these parts, simply by charcoal-dressings. So I naturally pricked up my ears at that, for our Vines were in so bad a way that master thought of doing away with them altogether. " Ay," said the other gentleman, " and see how a little sprinkling of charcoal will brighten up a flower-bed." '
" ' The rain was now over, and the gentlemen left the mews ; and I thought, " Well, but before I try the charcoal upon my plants, I best make some inquiry of them as aren't doctors, but gardeners ; " so I went to our nurseryman, who has a deal of book-learning, and I asked him if he'd ever heard of charcoal- dressing being good for Vines, and he eaid he'd read in a book that it was so, but had never tried it. He kindly lent me the book, which was translated from some forren one. And, after I had picked out of it all I could, I tried the charcoal in the way the book told me to try it ; and that's how the Grapes and the flower-beds came to please you, my Lord. It was a lucky chance that ever I heard those gentlemen talking in the mews, please your Lordship.'
" ' Chance happens to all,' answered the peer, sententiously ; ' but to turn chance to account is the gift of few.'
" His Lordship, returning home, gazed gloomily on the hues of his vast parterres ; he visited his vineries, and scowled at the clusters ; he summoned his head gardener — a gentleman of the highest repute for science, and who never spoke of a Cowslip except by its name in Latin. To this learned personage my Lord communicated what he had heard and seen of the benignant effects of charcoal, and produced in proof a magnificent bunch of Grapes, which he bad brought from the squire's.
"'My Lord,' said the gardener, scarcely glancing at the Grapes, ' Squire's gardener must be a poor ignorant creature to fancy he had discovered a secret in what is so very well known to every professed horticulturist. Professor Liebig, my Lord, has treated of the good effect of charcoal-dressing, to Vines especially ; and it is to be explained on these chemical principles ' — therewith the wise man entered into a profound disputation, of which his Lordship did not understand a word.
"'Well, then,' said the peer, cutting short the harangue, ' since you know so well that charcoal-dressing is good for Vines and flowers, have you ever tried it on mine ? '
" ' I can't say I have, my Lord ; it did not chance to come into my head.'
" Nay,' replied the peer, ' chance put it into your head, but thought never took it out of your head.' " Sly Lord, who, if he did not know much about horticulture, was a good judge of mankind, dismissed the man of learning ; and, with many apologies for seeking to rob his neighbour of such a treasure, asked the squire to transfer to his service the man of genius.
Journal of Horticulture and Practical Gardening: Volume 3
- January 1, 1862
- University of California, DavisSoil and Water Science, 1972 - 1977
- Land Profile, Inc.Environmental Soil Scientist, 1992 - present
- AgrimanagementIrrigation Services Manager, 1985 - 1992
- Yakama Indian NationLand Classifier, 1981 - 1985
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