Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Extremely Useful Things for the Makeshift Water System

So I've been thinking a bit about water.  OK.  I've been thinking a great deal about water.  Like I need a well and it's expensive and you don't know the price until it's done and in.

I'm still hauling water a gallon at a time from work and from friend's houses and from wherever I find myself.  I keep the empty gallon jugs in the car and fill up as I go.  A friend just asked if she could have a couple of gallon jugs for a raft trip and I blanched...uh...they are all in a constant rotation and in use.

There you have the first useful thing: Gallon jugs.  Bigger containers are fine too, but not as useful.  One can discretely fill a gallon.  Filling a 5 gallon is less discrete and requires a spigot and/or a hose or filling a gallon which you then dump into the bigger jug.  FYI: garden hoses are chock full of toxins that they leach into the water.  I don't want to use them for drinking water.

Here's my current system for the gallons:  Fill 2 or 3 per day during the work week.  2-3 at a time are in the freezer part of the work fridge.  These are swapped out every 2 days and taken in a transport cooler to my homestead where transfer them into the 2-3 coolers I have with chill foods in them.  The thawing gallons from the chill food coolers go into the empty transport cooler.  One often just becomes the current drinking supply.   The chilly thawing ice water is used for the final hair rinse or refreshing drink.  I also use that transport cooler and the thawing gallons to chill left overs or new foods headed to the chill coolers.  That saves my frozen gallons in the chill cooler for an extra several hours. I can usually make it 2 days, unless it's in the 90s, on one ice transport. The weekends are a challenge when it's hot.  Sometimes I will run errands in the town where I work, which is not the preferred errand town, so that I can pick up fresh frozen gallons.  Not ideal, but cheaper than a well and an electrical system.

That system brings up another extremely useful thing for this makeshift water system: a good cooler.  Right now I have 5. Only one was bought new and that was about 2 decades ago.  One is a vintage metal cooler.  It's rugged but doesn't hold cold very well so it is a transport cooler and has another task that will appear later or in another blog.  One was a cast off from a friend that I meant to use just for one trip, but it fit so well on the floor of the car and is a great size in general...a frozen gallon fits well and leaves room for a dozen eggs right on top of the gallon (this is the non-handle tall square gallon water style, not the milk jug style).  The other two are recent thrift buys because the system is better with a spare or two.

At the end of a day, if there is a partial gallon and I'm not short on drinking water, I empty the partial into a sun tea style glass jar with a spigot at the bottom.  I have a one gallon one inside the camper at the sink for hand washing and whatever.  A 2 gallon model is on the old library desk that serves as an outdoor kitchen area.  It is over a 5 gallon bucket so the drain water can be reused.

Which leads to the 5 gallon buckets...so many uses.  In the water system they are my drains and my irrigators.  Often one serving both purposes.  If there is nothing greasy or soapy in the drain bucket water (and I try to keep both out of there), it can go on the garden or compost pile.  If it's greasy or soapy it goes either down a gopher hole as gopher harassment, or into the bucket-trap for mice.

I also use buckets, these a bit smaller than 5 gallon, to haul water from the creek to the holding tank buy the garden bed.  We'll get to the tank in a moment.  The haul buckets are smaller because 1) I had them on hand and 2) easier to carry 3 gallons on each hand than 5 gallons on each hand.  They are 3 gallon buckets from the recycling center's free-bucket bin.  If people have used buckets or rubber tubs or whatever, they put them in the bin and anyone can take them and use them.  I have another bucket at the creek. I walk down to the creek, not far, yards rather than miles, use the creek bucket to fill the haul buckets.  Then up the bank and pour into the holding tank.

So...the holding tank.  This is a LARGE plastic tub I got at....the recycling center free bucket bin.  Lots of things go in there.  It holds about 10 haul buckets worth of water. It would technically hold more but the wall strength isn't there.  It's starting to break so I keep the level down.  I do haul two final buckets from the creek and just leave the water in the buckets.  For a hot week, I haul twice a week or so.  On a not-hot week, once a week will be enough for the raised bed and all the containers to stay watered.  The holding tank isn't totally necessary, but really helpful.  For one, it allows the sediment to settle out.  For another, the water warms through the day and I tend to water in the evening when the shade hits the garden.  This way the water soaks in and the plants have time to take it in before it evaporates in the morning.  The warmer water won't shock the roots.

There is another portion of the water system...warm water.  A few elements contribute to this.

Solar shower.  I have one.  It's 2 years old and I left it lying outside all winter.  Still good.  15$.  Worth it.  It says it will hold 5 gallons but then I'd have to lift 5 gallons over my head and tie it up.  That's a great deal of weight and water.  I usually have 1-2 gallons in it.  On a sunny day it heats up nicely.  On a not so sunny day I can add a tea kettle of boiling water and it's good enough.

Tea kettle...for heating water for everything including showers, tea, coffee, and dish washing...on cloudy days.

Clear 3 gallon jugs are another key element in the warm water system.  These look like the jugs one sees in office water coolers, but smaller.  I have 2 3 gallons and also have 4 of the large 5 gallon versions.  All but one of these is from the free bucket bin.  The other is from next to a dumpster at a state park.  I cleaned them with borax followed by vinegar.  The new, shiny, clean ones are drinking water storage.  The questionable ones are the warm water system.  Just fill and leave in the sun.  It gets plenty warm enough to do dishes, wash hair, fill the gap when I forgot to ready the solar show in time to heat it up.  The 3 gallon size is manageable.  the 5 gallon size is heavy and awkward which is why they ended up as long term storage rather than active use.

That's about it for the water system. It works well and other than buying gallons of water initially, often at the dollar store, to get the gallon jugs, it's free.

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