Emergency Water and Waste Disposal (August 15, 2009)
More on collecting rainwater at home.
Correspondent Chuck D. shared the results of his own research into collecting and storing water at home. I have taken the liberty of reprinting his emails as numbered points.
You're right -- this is a "simple at first" thing that really isn't. That was my experience when I started to research and buy for it. I ended up spending some money on accessories that I didn't need because it isn't simple and there is no readily available "How To for Dummies" in one place.
Thank you, Chuck, for these highly informative pointers.
My wife noticed a brief article in Sunset Magazine on collecting rainwater which mentioned that old wine barrels can also be used. The article did not address the key issue this raised in my mind--will the stored water taste like wine? It is practically a Bibilical question... a wood barrel would dispense with the plastic degradation issue but raise others--like everything else in life.
Next up: longtime correspondent Chris H. shared photos of rainwater/filter system and something few plan for: alternative disposal of human waste. Chris lives in a small Northwest city, and also has food-drying racks and an amazing cider press.
I use 4 50 gallon barrels joined at the bottom with an overflow (far right) and a hose bib at the bottom right. Although the rain comes off a composit shingle roof, it can be made potable with this simple gravity system which uses silver-impregnated ceramic filters. You can filter pond water if necessary.
The AquaRain type system has affordable ramifications for all potable water-challenged places anywhere in the world. There are many variations of this low-tech solution. But because low-tech, low maintenance also mean low-profit, corporations are uninterested generally.
Also lets not forget the toilet. Municipal sewer systems can break down, too, even if you have water. So I built one of these in my city backyard:
It's just a sophisticated porta-potti... which is legal. I call it a "comfort station". No "stuff" ever hits the ground (5 gallon bucket), no odor (use peat moss). I compost the it for my fruit trees. Note the solar powered vent.
Thank you, Chris, for the excellent photos and suggestions.
Once of my recent jobs (after helping a friend install some curved plywood sheathing) was digging up a clogged sewer line (fun stuff, I recommend it as a way to burn calories). I mention this because digging a deep hole for human waste--a latrine--might not be that easy depending on the soil in your area.
Having built a plywood "shack"/shed/cabin in the middle of an abandoned field with only a handsaw and other hand tools in my younger days (and digging a latrine, carrying water to the garden in 5-gallon buckets, etc. etc. etc.) then I have already considered how we might dispose of human waste safely and inconspicuously in a dense urban area for a few weeks of "emergency" such as after an earthquake. Dig deep, dig often, compost.
Chris's system is much better and well worth studying.
These titles might be of some interest:
Just in Case Kathy Harrison
Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front
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