Water, Water, Everywhere

14 thoughts on “Water, Water, Everywhere”

  1. Being that I live in SF and grew up in HI and I think about housing for water alot, is there any chance I could buy 30 minutes of your time with a cup of coffee if you’re ever in town?

  2. Many houses in South Australia have rainwater collection systems and holding tanks. Water is tricky in that part of the world.

    At one house, the lake in front serves as the emergency water supply. It’s in a national park, and we had it tested for drinking. At our other place, well, it’s in town. The town does a pretty good job with reliable water.

  3. Very interesting. Thanks! I have thought a lot about resource management, but have done next-to-nothing about water. Where I live in Virginia we have abundant water like in Cincy and there is little incentive to conserve, since most of the cost tends to be the meter fee unless you use a lot of water. What I HAVE taken action on is energy use, much of that has been boring old insulation and convection loss.

    Something I have been trying to figure out and you may consider: here in VA we have abundant sunshine like much of CA, but our winters average colder. Since water has such an amazing specific heat, I wonder about storing it in such a way that it helps regulate temperature…

    1. If you’re building new or putting on an addition (depending on the solar orientation of your property) you could have large tanks of water next to south facing windows. The water will act as a thermal flywheel.

      1. Yes, something to do with the south side and passive gain. What occurs to me is that a wonderful tech would be like a paint that turns from white in summer to black in winter, and water inside to absorb the heat.

  4. Johnny, what does the rest of the system look like? I assume that you need a pump of some sort to pressurize the system. I’m wondering how this sort of system would do to replace a ‘normal’ water system or even a well.

    1. The simplest system is a plain vanilla tank that isn’t connected to anything and has no moving or mechanical parts. You fill it up with a food grade garden hose and hope you never need it in an emergency. (But I sleep better at night knowing I have it on hand.) I highly recommend the Sure Water people out of Utah. For about $600 you can get a 260 gallon tank for your garage or basement that will fit through a standard doorway. For $800 you can get a 525 gallon tank. http://www.surewatertanks.com/

      A rainwater catchment system is no different from having a private well. Water must be moved from where it is to where you want it. Connecting the rain gutters on your roof (preferably a clean roof material like metal) to a holding tank is cheap and simple so long as the roof is a tiny bit higher than the top of the storage tank. a “first flush diverter” helps keep the intake water clean before it gets to the tank. http://www.rainharvest.com/rain-harvesting-pty-downspout-first-flush-diverter.asp You’ll need a place for excess water to drain away when the tank is full and overflowing. Then you’ll need the water to be moved from the tank into the house with filters and/or gravity and/or pressurizing equipment in between. None of this is complicated or any more expensive than what most rural homeowners deal with as a matter of course. Do a few Google searches for the right kind of system in your area.

      The devil is in the details. It all depends on your location. My spot in Hawaii receives 120 inches of rain a year. That’s ten feet of water – and it falls pretty consistently over the year with a slight mini drought in the winter months. http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/rm-12.pdf There’s very little need for garden irrigation so only the house needs water. In a normal year California gets steady rain for a few months in winter followed by about eight dry months. But not all years are normal. The last three years saw almost no rain at all. Then we get biblical downpours. Then nothing again. I suspect southern Ohio/northern Kentucky has a good distribution of steady rain and snow melt throughout the year, but the freeze cycle complicates things a bit. As do regulations… Anyway. Do your research. Keep it simple. Don’t go crazy with complex expensive systems. When in doubt, boil or ferment your water before you drink it.

    1. On average a water tank system costs one dollar per gallon. A larger tank costs much less per gallon. A smaller tank a bit more. If you only need enough water for drinking and food-related activities and you live in a place with regular year round rain (almost everywhere east of the Mississippi) you can get by with a relatively small tank. If you have no other source of water and rain is scarce and erratic you’ll need a larger system. I started with a 1,000 gallon tank in Hawaii (about $1,000) and expanded it over time with additional tanks.

      1. Fair warning. Cincinnati is pretty strict about rainwater harvesting/retention, and so far does not allow gray water systems at all as far as I can tell either. Below is a note from a recent building permit application. It may not matter for something happening under the radar, but water and sewer issues here are pretty screwy.

        “Owner/Developer must notify and, if required, submit a plan to GCWW of any proposed ‘LEED certification’ / Green Initiative plans involved in the project.
        Please contact GCWW Engineering/Planning, water availability review; (jeffrey.koch2@gcww.cincinnati-oh.gov) (513) 591-6867.”

        “Are there secondary water sources, not GCWW water, or the use of public water system as a makeup water source, Water Harvesting/Collection, cisterns? In accordance with current GCWW Laws, Ordinances, Rules and Regulations, GCWW requires specific detailed information to approve such devices/systems.”

        1. I understand that many (perhaps most) municipal water systems have endless procedures and restrictions. For example, rainwater catchment and storage is strictly forbidden in the entire state of Colorado. This makes sense to a regulatory agency keen on guaranteeing public health and safety and rationing a scarce commodity that’s already been legally apportioned. It’s often these same authorities that are at a loss when the system fails and the water supply goes funky – as in West Virginia or Flint. At a certain point I’ll have to decide if I want to jump through all the ridiculous hoops, or simply let go of the concept in Cincy. I’m not sure anyone from the city will care if I keep a freestanding tank or two of city tap water in my basement for emergencies, so long as it isn’t plumbed into the larger system.

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