Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Water Use

As we struggle with the lack of water here in my area, I realize just how lucky I am to still have water. In a recent post Maggie in North Carolina wrote about her well needing some repair during which she made a point of mentioning how thankful she was that her well (unlike some in her area) had not dried up. She also mentioned something that I have also wondered about on occasion this year which is what the HECK do you do with your animals if you can't get enough water?? As she said: The YMCA isn't to keen on them following you in for a drink or a bath in the case of her geese.
Lately, even before that, I had begun to wonder exactly what would I do in an emergency brought on by NO water availability. I mean---in regards to the livestock. Obviously my situation as a human is a bit easier than a sheep's would be. I can leave if I need to---but they can't. And of course in the case of bringing in water for them, well my one small jack russell doesn't drink much. On the other hand my 16 or so sheep plus our very large Pyrenees does. I figured it up based on the daily "average" per sheep of 2 gallons (depending many factors---but seemed like a good settling point) and I would need currently 34 gallons of water per day for all the sheep and their companion Mikey (the big dog) or 920 gallons per month.

Early this summer we had purchased for $50 each some water containers. Plastic of course, wrapped with a metal structure attached to a metal pallet. We bought them used from a water treatment facility. They receive their water treatment chemicals in them---so we could drink out of them if we needed to. With a bit of filtration for the humans of course. Also, we have had water in them and out of them a number of times---so they are pretty well rinsed out I think.
So, though they were originally just to collect rainwater for our plants use, we decided that they would make good back up sheep waterers for emergency situations. Even something as likely as the water mains being broke, bad storms ect. and the water being off for a day or two (or three) could cause problems depending on when we last filled the troughs. So, to have an emergency water back up for the animals, we will put these containers up on a stand, kind of like a mini deck, and site them so that when we do get gutters up on the chicken coop and barn they can fill with rain. In the mean time, since we have not had rain in a while----we will manually fill them from our public system this time. Just in case you know. We will then attach an automatically filling drinking bowl (their small, about the size of a man's cupped hands) that will keep only a small amount in the bowl at any one time---refilling as it is drunk up. That way there is little of the water wasted if it gets dirty or something of that nature. No evaporation and only a small bowl to clean instead of a large trough. I mean really---when a hundred gallon trough gets algae ---you have to dump about 75 gallons on average to clean it out. Kind of a waste---especially at this time. (I am sure most of you have now heard on the national news how bad it is here in Georgia in regards to the drought and drinking water issues.)
Since we have three of these, that hold 250 gallons each, we should have a short amount of emergency water available to us. Enough at least to be able to figure out what to do--just in case you know? It equals a paltry 20 days worth of water, however it is a help and when we don't have to have it---well it will be nice fresh rain water instead of chlorinated water for the animals to drink. A small aside for those of you who don't know---the chemicals in the water interfere with the uptake of some vitamins and minerals leaving your animals, and you, with a reduced amount or none at all sometimes. We found this out when we began testing our animals to correct some mineral problems we had here.

Of course this is just a small itty bitty way to barely make it. I think cities and municipalities need to wake up to the idea that we need to be more open minded about some of our water issues. We need to think outside the box---or at least consider some of the "boxes" that have come along. We need to reduce, conserve AND reuse. We will always need a certain amount of water for irrigation of our crops---but we need to get beyond the point of choosing water to drink or for food production when it comes to droughts. Also, the wildlife ----- they would like some left for them too.

So I came up with a few things that I would consider if I built a new house---or that I think governments should start seriously considering.
Take toilets. We are incredibly scared about the idea of crapping in a toilet that doesn't flush our poop and pee to some unknown spot. If everyone was forced to switched to composting toilets----do people not think that a whole industry of "compost cleaners" wouldn't spring up to clean them for the squeamish in our society? Of course I'd rather shovel my partially decomposed poop than drink it with chemicals added to make it safe. Put like that it's kind of yikky isn't it.

How about grey water? Why, after all this time, is grey water not more often pushed by local communities for lawn and tree watering?

Or better even than those two idea how about an old/new idea----the "Living Machine". (Capitalize it because it is a patented technology---which I didn't know.) It's that idea we have all seen at one time were they send the water through all these tanks of algae, fish and water plants to re-clean it to as good as or better than it was going in. Developed by Dr. John Todd in the 60's---he has a whole institute, known as Ocean Arks that focuses on studying it. I could easily have a certain amount of ongoing water for my livestock to drink with this concept---something to consider if I ever have an extra dollar not spent on hay or remodeling the problems we still haven't gotten to with this house. Besides from the research I have read about in regards to this system---it costs a fraction of a traditional water treatment plant to build and run AND you get an ecosystem to walk through that doesn't stink to high heavens.
This idea obviously would not work if I had NO water---but in a drought I could absolutely help conserve with this method for supplying drinking water to my animals.
There are a number of places in Europe that use this idea too--not so much in the U.S though but here is Penn State college doing it for a research project.

Some words to search with for more information on this would be:
greywater + reed beds
vertical flow (alone or with one of the above words)

Here's a fairly decent picture site (see the link to move on farther at the bottom of the page)

Also here are a few links for some sustainable book sites that carry books about this issue (plus more):
Low Impact Living Institute (british site)

Eco Logic books

constructed wetland association -- books only on reed bed sewage treatments.


SimplyTim said...


Looks like you're in for some rain.

Quick, put all your pots and pans and sponges our right away.

Good luck!


Robbyn said...

Great ideas for water saving! It's neat that you mentioned the John Todd reclamation (not sure what the term is) system...I'll be looking into that more in depth when I'm here for a bit at the computer for any length of time...I wonder if that's the reed bed system I've read about before...sort of filtration using certain plants, water collection in a pond-like containment that flows slowly through massed plants like reeds until pure water is the end result. My husband seems to think that that technology is also being used on a large scale with Disney to clean all their sewage and runoff waters and that they utilize water lilies and filtration ponds, the lilies doubling also as fertilizer when thinned out regularly. There is SO much more we can be doing, at any rate. You might want to check out the interesting locked together water storage that they're using at the PathtoFreedom site, too. (I'm not plugging for anyone's business, though...just found it interesting :))

Ah, it's always exciting trying to find solutions.

Oh yes, and have you ever seen the Incinolet toilet? I'm curious if anyone's ever used one. I'm thinking it's waterless completely...

This is running too long...great posts, Monica! :)

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Robbyn we are talking about the same thing---same idea anyway. That man was the first to "go public" with it I believe. Of course now others have joined in and our doing it their way :-)
Oh yes---I didn't think you were "plugging" for anyone! I have 1-800 numbers and corresponding web address left frequently----that's definitely a plug! :-) Your mention of the other site is just a comment and is fine with me.

Lisa Gonzalves said...

Hi there,
just thought you might want to check out this site:


farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Thanks Lisa for the link. Interesting and lots of good ideas. I had never seen that one before---thanks again.