Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Water

Water is a huge issue for us on this property.  We don't have town water.  We use water tanks.  We have one main dam that we pump from, and two small ones that give us extra water in a good year.  In a bad year, the smaller ones are dry.

The dam is for watering our animals and our vegetables. 

Then we need water for the house.  Unfortunately our house is about as unsustainable as they get.  We built on stumps (no thermal mass to keep the house warm or cool) and chose to have a 'cute' little upstairs bedroom.

I didn't realise at the time that we were reducing the amount of rain water we could collect by having a tiny roof space!  What we should do now is to build a shed and collect more water from the roof of that, but time and money always seem to be scarce.  It's on The List!
Our toilet is connected to our good drinking water.  I would love a composting toilet.  I wouldn't even care if it were an outdoor one!  I was asking hubby to make me one for my birthday but he hasn't had time.  At this time of year he is very busy reducing fuel around the house in case of bushfires.  The home- made toilet has gone on The List!
My friendly water delivery man.  I wish I saw less of him no matter how nice he is!
We had to buy water a couple of weeks ago and I've been thinking I should keep a record of how often we need to buy it.  I hate ordering town water.  It costs us a fortune!  $180 for about 15 000 litres.  I don't know how that compares to living in a town or city though.
And put the cost aside, town water is revolting!  Pumpkin brought her glass of water to me to check because she thought the water had gone off.  A few days later, she asked me if it was okay to give 'town water' to the dogs.  When I asked her why, she said, "I thought it might make them sick."  Obviously to a child raised on rainwater, the town water is horrible!  And it smells in the shower - such a strong smell of chlorine!

We try to be careful with water in the house but with five people to keep clean and wash clothes and dishes for, we use a fair bit.  I know I should do a water audit but it sounds so fiddly to chase the children around the house calculating how much each person uses when they brush their teeth, or when they're having a shower.  If it were just the two of us it would be easier to work out.  For now, the audit has also gone on The List.

I am quite careful with water.  If I'm not going anywhere, I don't care if I go a couple of days without a shower.  If I'm out in public though, I feel the need for a daily shower.  I play games with this to extend it out.  If I shower in the morning, then the next day I can shower at night.  Then I figure I'm clean for the next day so I'll shower the following morning.  It's almost a daily shower still but I've saved water.  I also often pee outside rather than waste water.  And I encourage the kids to do the same!

We have a couple of ideas on how to sort out our water until we finally get our shed up.  Hopefully we'll get to them soon and I'll tell you all about it!

And my final story about water........  I love country living!   A few years ago I bought a fountain statue that I loved.  I want a little pond in our yard to enhance our little eco-system.  She was up and running for a little while but then the pump stopped.  She's been out of action for a long time.  Well!  The other day the meter man came and commented on how beautiful she was.  I told him about her sad plight.  He bent down, whipped the pump apart, pulled out a piece of dirt and.... hey presto!!!
She's working again!  I don't reckon a meter man in Melbourne would fix your pump when he came to read the electricity meter!

If we can't provide our own water from our own property, then I need to face facts.  The way we are living is not sustainable.  This needs addressing and I will keep you up to date.

17 comments:

purplepear said...

I'm in total agreeance and we are facing that realisation ourselves.

Linn said...

Living in suburbia you forget how fortunate we are to have water on tap. This is also the main problem - we are not as conscious of how much we use and need to be more accountable. It would do all of us 'city dwellers' a lot of good to have to go without so that we all become more thoughtful about sustainability!

Energiser Bunny said...

I hear you too. Normally we are fine as we have two bigs tanks plus the garage tank, but with the dry spell we've had since July in Brissie, we had to buy a tanker as well ($130 for 13,000). The definition of living sustainably with water use will have to be measured regularly now with the dramatic weather changes we are all seeing. And of course, with four super storm cells that came over last weekend, all out tanks are now overflowing. You almost want to cry! But I do agree with your daughter - town water tastes funny once you're used to gorgeous rain water

Energiser Bunny said...

I hear you too. Normally we are fine as we have two bigs tanks plus the garage tank, but with the dry spell we've had since July in Brissie, we had to buy a tanker as well ($130 for 13,000). The definition of living sustainably with water use will have to be measured regularly now with the dramatic weather changes we are all seeing. And of course, with four super storm cells that came over last weekend, all out tanks are now overflowing. You almost want to cry! But I do agree with your daughter - town water tastes funny once you're used to gorgeous rain water

Busy mum of 3 said...

So funny (odd) I just posted about our frugal/eco friendly attempt to gather water for the kids summer pool. We are on town water, but I couldn't bring myself to use it when there was an alternative. (We did put in a foot of town water to weigh the pool down and give it support, but the rest was rain water) We are lucky in our region even in the driest season, the Northern Rivers always gets some sort of rainfall. Funny how us bloggers often post about similar issues at similar times.

Crystal said...

Have you ever tried using your urine as a fertilizer? Just pee in a bucket, dilute it with about 10 times as much (dam) water and use on your plants. You can also use it on a compost heap as an accelerator. Just google it for in depth details. Good luck reducing your water usage.

Dani said...

Water is critical to life. We, too, have noticed a different smell to our farm water than our town water.

But that is a mighty fine rain water tank and looks like it can hold quite a number of litres :)

kali76ma said...

I don't have town water either, and have a 36000 litre tank but no dam. There are just three of us though. With the dry spell we have had in Brisbane I was getting quite concerned, and a couple of neighbours in my valley trucked in water a month ago. ($95 for some unit of volume). Luckily I still had a third of a tank left - but probably overflowing now from the weekend rain. My most useful tip? I never ever flush the toilet. I scoop out the kids' bathwater and leave it in buckets in the toilet.

Astra said...

Well i live in ireland so this is not an issue for me at the moment but i do totally understand, we lived on a tiny caribbean island called carriacou and water was so scarce/expensive that our house had had it's water tank concrete sealed shut to stop thieves! That ment we couldnt tell if we were full of nearly out... In the dry season We had so wash in the sea then use 2 cups of water to rinse the salt out of our hair, carry buckets of sea water upstairs to flush the toilet and use sea water for dish washing, hand washing our clothes etc. I was only 10 but the experience has never left me, I conserve water at every turn and it drives me crazy the way people here waste it, but they've never had to think about it.... Good luck with your water issues and i wish you rain! x

Linda said...

Sobering isn't it Kate!

You're right Linn. City folk can easily feel unaffected when water seems so easy!

Energiser Bunny, You sound like you have a good set-up. Still all the tanks in the world won't help if you don't have the ability to collect, as we are discovering.

Hi Busy Mum, I guess water becomes an issue at this time of year when we don't get much rain. You are lucky with your rainfall. We can often go a month or more without any sign of rain!

Hi Cystal, nice to have a new commenter! I have heard about urine as fertiliser but I've never tried it. My friend's would probably be horrified so I'll stick to comfrey tea. I love that it can be used like that though. Isn't nature amazing!

Yes Dani,it's so important. And I do love it when we are using rain water!

Hi Kali, that's one huge tank you've got! Yes those 'dry spells' are scary! When I was a teenager I used to get depressed when it rained for days on end. Now, when rain is scarce, I find the endless sunny days get me down.

Astra, Wow! What an experience! That's amazing to have to be careful to that degree. Maybe we all need to spend six months living like that. I must get more serious after hearing your story. Thanks for sharing!

Darren (Green Change) said...

From memory, when we lived in town the water and sewage cost us about $300/quarter.

Now that we're on rainwater tanks and septic, I reckon we're way ahead. Even if we had to buy water a few times a year (we haven't yet, in 3 years here!) and replace a pump or something, we still wouldn't spend $1200/year.

The kicker, of course, will come if/when we eventually have to replace the septic system. Needless to say, we're very careful about treating it well!

Kathryn Ray said...

I have a LIST as well. It includes a rain catchment system. When we lived in another state it was actually illegal to catch water, because the rights belonged to someone else.

Linda said...

Thanks for that information Darren. I guess if that's what water costs, most years we're much better off financially. In a bad drought year we probably come out even.

Kathryn, The List can be a source of worry. Have you noticed that it only grows, never shrinks! Fancy it being illegal to catch water from your own property. The thought actually scares me. Sounds like something from a bleak future scenario movie!

Kirsten said...

Living in suburbia we have water on tap of course, but I am very conscious that in some kind of crisis, we can live without electricity or gas - and we've made changes to our house over the past few years, like extra insulation and shading on the West side, to make it more energy efficient - but we can't live without water. We have a couple of very small tanks on our down pipes which we use for the garden, but they are not enough even for that purpose, and we have no potable tank water. It's on The List!

Also, we are doing a lot of container gardening this year as we rearrange things in our yard, which takes a lot more watering. I want to get bigger, better water tanks, but I also plan to build some more water efficient vegetable gardens, using techniques like hugelkultur.

Oh The List. You are right, it is scary how it grows and grows...

Linda said...

Hi Kirsten,it's a sobering thought alright! I feel I should run fewer, more effective gardens. Strawberries under the fruit trees etc. I don' really know about hugelkuktur. I thought they were just Swales created from branches and stuff. I don't get how they would be effective on a flat garden.

Anonymous said...

Coming from third world country and growing up, we each only has 2 buckets to have shower with ( using a plastic mug, no shower head. So the 1st bucket was to wash, the 2nd to rinse. It sure saved water.

A lot of tips about living self sufficient and sustainable in this model world, i have experienced with ny childhood.

Linda said...

Wow Anonymous! You would be able to teach us so much and probably wonder why we are so wasteful. We are used to having it pretty easy. It would be good for everyone to experience life like you have, just to learn how to think differently about our consumption.