Home Water Production
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After reading this article you may also want to read my post on Blue Gold: Water Filtration, Purification, Flocculation, Sedimentation, Distillation, Condensation and more
Water seems cheap for now right? City water at only a penny per gallon in some of the cheapest locations. But have you seen the price of bottled water? More expensive than gasoline and about the same cost as any soft drink? Of course people are paying for convenience. I will look up some stats sometime and update this article as to how much fresh water we have on earth and salt water. Are we running out of water? We are running out of cheaper sources for quality fresh water at an alarming rate. Our fresh water is replenished all the time though. Remember that the earth is a large distillation plant. We always have about the same amount of fresh water resupplied annually by precipitation. The problem is that we have more people than ever to share this water with and more every day. And this precipitation has fewer areas to collect which are not polluted year after year. Obtaining clean unpolluted fresh water could become a problem. It is a problem for some, especially those in 3rd world countries. However this is not the greatest reason in America for producing or reusing your own water. The greatest reason is that it is for those who do not have access to city water or who don’t want city water.
You may want to read as a prerequisite Green? my blog post on the green building trend and green living. You may also want to read my post Home Sewage Treatment where I talk about grey water. One of filtered (sand filter) grey water’s greatest reuses might be as toilet water. Why should you use city water or home produced water for toilet water if you don’t have to? We are talking about filtered grey water here. The trick might be setting this up so that when you don’t have the grey water other water is supplemented. This might be achieved by having grey water diverted to a tank which would then be diverted into the toilet tank. This intermediate tank would have a float valve so that if its level dropped to a minimum amount other water sources would add to it until it reached a given level. This might add just enough water to flush a few times for example.
For those who produce their own water, they may need to use power in the pumping, filtering and purification. For this reason alone a green home should produce and reuse as much water as it can. The reason is for power conservation.
- Drilled Water Well
- Hand Dug Well
- Hand Drilled Well
- Sand Driven Point Well
- Water Jet Water Drilled well
- Rain Cistern
- Rain Barrel
- Swale (swamp, ditch)
- Artesian wells.
- City Water
- Filtered Grey Water
Water wells can be drilled for around $8K to $12K at the time of this writing in Arkansas. This depends on the depth of course. I’d like to give digging a well by hand a go sometime. I’d make it 5 foot wide if I could. Explosives would be nice for this. But a good Air powered jack hammer or air hammer might be just as good. I guess in many locations 50 feet would be a good depth for a hand dug well. I’ve seen some that were shallower. My grandmother talks of a hand dug well near where I grew up in Yell county Arkansas, where the diggers had to quit because of gas seeping into the bottom while they were trying to dig. They were almost unable to breathe. In fact near where that well was dug a drilled well had been made. You could hear gas bubbling from the water in that well and if you struck a match above the hole it would flare up due to natural gas rising from the well.
In some locations a person might find mud, clay or sand near the top which would cave in if not stabilized with some kind of retaining wall. If it were me I’d use small diameter rebar. I’d make spikes to be hammered into the wall which would attach to rebar rings and verticals. This would make a mesh along side the cylindrical walls. Might attach chicken wire to this. Then plaster it. At the time of this writing this might cost you between $2 and $4 per square foot. And as an example 10 foot of wall area in a 5 foot diameter well would be 314 square feet. Might need tubing for weep holes here and there so that ground water can drain down into the well. Though only the weak areas would need this plaster wall. Once you hit shale or rock this would not be necessary. Personally I’d use rock climbing gear for getting in and out of the well hole. Though rope ladders can be easily made, or cable ladders. I would suggest an industrial full body harness and good rope with someone at the top belaying the climber. Any kind of sturdy ring can be used for belaying. Nylon rope is best, but no reason that fiber ropes couldn’t be used. Two lanyards with clips would work well. Just move one side or the other up the ladder as you go.
As an example lets say you have a well that is 5 foot in diameter and it has 10 foot of water in the bottom, this is around 5000 gallons. If you could widen that 10 foot depth at the bottom to 10 foot of diameter it would then contain around 23,000 gallons. Of course water will fill it as you draw water from it. In drier seasons it might not fill as fast as you draw it. Other times it could fill as fast as you draw water from it. The point being the potential water storage vs usage. For example a typical non conserving family in the city might use 10,000 gallons of water per month. This does not include water for garden irrigation or barnyard animals. It might include water for pets and lawns and shrubs.
For self drilling wells I have seen 3 point hitch PTO or hydraulic driven devices. There are also hand drilling equipment available. Mother Earth News list some in their advertisements. I have seen some at www.lemans.com. Some are driven into mud, sand, small gravel, clay and possibly shale in the same way that you might hand drive steel fence post. It wouldn’t be hard to make a pile driver for this purpose if you encountered something which was a bit to difficult and need a little extra power. Even by hand you could rig up a tripod with a pulley at the top, rope could lift a pile (heavy metal or wooden cylinder) to then be dropped onto the pipe being driven. It wouldn’t even be difficult to setup a mechanical lifting device, just look on youtube at a thing called “power hammer’ used in blacksmithing. Same thing could be used in pile driving.
You will also see some on YouTube drills that use water pressure pumped into the bits and drilling device which also push material back up. I suppose these hand type drills are good for 50 foot in softer earth. I can’t see them working in any stone or rock. Pressure sprayers or jet sprayers might also make this system more efficient by boosting the water pressure from normal water faucet pressure of around 50 psi to 100’s or 1000’s of psi. The point is that there are many options for making wells of different sizes and depths.
I showed you above an illustration of a hand operated water pump. I now give you an illustration of a torpedo bucket. This bucket is smaller in diameter than a well casing. For example lets say you have a 6″ diameter well then your bucket is 5″ in diameter. If it were 1 foot tall or long it would contain approximately one gallon of water. 2 feet 2 gallons etc. This bucket is a perfect cylinder shape and has a check valve in the bottom so that when it hits the water and as it sinks it fills up with water. When you lift it by pulling up on the rope, the weight of the check valve and force of water will push the check valve down and close it. A T-handle is attached to the shaft of the check valve so that once it is drawn back up above the well opening all that is needed for it to be dumped is to lift that check valve by its handle at the bottom. The water then flows out the bottom of the torpedo bucket into another container or trough.
A “swale” is a ditch or swamp or marsh type of water storage. This is mainly an easy way to prevent runoff water from either running off or to slow it down. If a person were cleaver they could build a tank, fill it with gravel and let it collect water like a pond, then pump from it as if pumping from a water well. What advantage might this have? Well in areas where rain water collection is prohibited this wouldn’t exactly be illegal, especially if no one knows its really an underground tank. Technically its not an underground tank. Also water stored this way won’t evaporate like open ponds. Plants just above the water storage area can drop roots down into it. Hugelkultur is a type of swale where rotting wood is used to store water like a sponge. I’m sure we can think of other good advantages and uses if we try.
Rain barrels. In any building of which the entire roof is not used for collection gutters might direct water into rain barrels which simply overflow when full. This water can easily be used then for watering yard plants or garden plants which are nearby the barrel. A cistern is a bit larger. One cubic foot is a little over 7 gallons of water. A cistern that is 10 feet by 10 feet by 12 feet deep would hold near 10,000 gallons of water. If I were going to look into cistern making I’d look into pool making as a source of information on how to construct them properly. For pool construction a person might look for books on gunite and shot crete, which are forms of sprayed concrete. You would even want a nice pool ladder maybe going down into the cistern for maintenance. A cistern where light is kept from it of course would not grow algae. If I made one I’d want to put pool lights in the bottom of it so that I could turn them on for inspection of the water. I have yet to find good books in regards to pool construction. If any reader knows of any please leave a comment. For collection you need to remember that a 1000 square foot area will collect about 600 gallons in a 1 inch rain. In Arkansas we get about 50 inches a year of rain. So we could collect on that 1000 feet almost 30,000 gallons in one year. The math is not difficult.
For collected drinking and food prep water one might consider a “first flush” system, where the first few gallons that wash bird poo off the roof is simply discarded. However I’d say it would be better redirected to a barrel where it could be used for watering lawn plants.
Another good idea would be to put the cistern inside the house at or above floor level for use as extra thermal mass. Of course if the cistern is not full then it is functioning only partly for thermal mass purpose. And when fresh water enters the cistern this would affect the temperature of the house.
Ok so there will be some amount of bird and squirrel shit in the water! Big deal.. For filtering and chlorination I’ll refer you to the “Solar Living Source book” and to my article on water processing, filtering, purification and storage. Have you thought about how in city water many municipalities take lake water which is full of fish shit, bird shit, small critter shit, dead animals and fish, possibly human waste, maybe gasoline and oil and other particulate matter. They put this in settling tanks, filter it, get the parts per million in particulate matter down to a level where you can’t see or smell anything. They add chlorine and fluoride. Then they pipe it too you. Also in the Solar Living Source Book you will see an advertisement for pond liners. These advertise to be rodent proof. You can get them up to 40 mil thick, which is about 7 times thicker than the thickest rolls of plastic you buy at the hardware store. It would be a good idea to make a bowl shaped pond near the roof of a shed, barn, house, whatever for collection and have the rainwater run off directly into this pond before touches dirt. Have the pond lined with the rubber liner and I’d suggest white limestone gravel as a cover over the pond liner. Have the gravel at least a few inches thick. Keep the livestock out of it and you could easily have 50,000 or 100,000 gallons of very pure rain water at hand. Wouldn’t be a bad idea for a swimming pond aye?
Of course this pond will get some leaf debris and other blown in debris in it. All ponds get fish in them because birds carry fish eggs on their feet from pond to pond. I would suggest planning some way to drain this pond easily with the turn of a valve. Or pump it out every now and then, clean it and let it refill with fresh rain water.
If you are lucky enough to have a good stream on your property by all means use it. Damming it may be a good idea. The book “Producing your own Power” shows how to make some log crib dams in its hydro power section. Springs and Artesian wells are a prise indeed. A spring might be made from drilling a horizontal bore hole into a hillside. I have never seen this done but it is an idea to consider.
If you have a grey water system in your house then you are filtering the grey water in a sand filter of some kind. This water can be reused inside on plants or outside for plants and animals if it is purified. Purification can be chlorination or exposing it to ultraviolet light. See the Solar Living Source book for more info on devises for this.
There are distillation units for the stove top which can be bought. Solar distillation units can be easily made. The “Earthship” books speaks of solar distillation and might have some plans for a unit. Ecoblue makes a dehumidifier which produces pure clean drinking water. Other types of dehumidifiers produce grey water which can be sent to the sand filter. In Arkansas we should be able to get all our drinking water from dehumidification as we have a very humid climate.
- Hand Pump
- Well Bucket
- Ram Pump
- Piston Pump
- Submersible Pump
- Wind Mill Pump
I have found source for the old fashioned hand pumps. LehMan’s .com sells some, along with repair kits containing leather and rubber parts needed to fix them. “Mother Earth News” may list some for sale. And I hear that “Tractor Supply” may sell them. If you search YouTube you may find many video’s on how to produce from hardware store parts your own piston style hand pumps using pvc pipes and simple parts. This is the same kind of pump that wind mill pumps use. They work in similar fashion as the old hand operated tire inner tube pumps which pump air not water. I intend to draw up some plans for a couple of different designs for hand operated water pumps and post the images here soon.
These hand pumps might be good on a hand dug well, a drilled well or for use in getting water from cisterns, at least as backup pumps to electric pumps. I will mention a ram pump which several of the books I recommend have talked about. A ram pump is where you use the force of water moving downhill to actually pump a small percentage, say 10% up hill and into a tank or pond. This works without any power at all other than the power of moving water and gravity. I do suspect very few people would happen to have a situation where they could take advantage of this. This kind of pump can be bought or even easily constructed. The book “Producing your own power” shows how to construct one. I saw something similar to a ram pump on a YouTube video which uses air bubbles to raise water to almost any level. Similarly to ram pumps this only pumps a percentage of the downward water flow upward.
I am sure wind mill pumps can be purchased. These are used widely in the USA. Search the web for windmill pumps.
- Roof Tops
- Pond Liners
For collection of rain water just about any roof will do. I do not like the idea of collecting rainwater from roofs that have tar or asphalt shingles for anything but garden use. However rubber roll roofing would be fine. Remember 1000 foot square means 600 gallons in a 1 inch rain. That’s nothing to sneeze at. In some cases if you just don’t have the roof space then string up a tarp. In other cases it would be a simple matter to cover an area of sloped ground with a pond liner and a bit of gravel over this to keep the sun from damaging the liner. This could be drained into a cistern or another pond. The pond liner would merely be to keep the water more pure.
The one thing I have not really talked about in this article is pressure tanks. These are well known and there is plenty of information on them. Consider this though for a makeshift pressure tank. Use a coil of plastic pipe. A percentage of the pipe would need to be air for this to work.
It might be nice to monitor water production with flow meters. Water Meters Here is one web site that sells some water meters. If any reader knows of any other good sources for economical home water meters both as gauges and as digital devices that can be read by computer please leave a comment.
Please read my article on Blue gold: water filtration purification flocculation sedimentation distillation condensation and more…