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Here in California we've been faced with drought from time to time. Sometimes it has resulted in mandatory conservation. It looks like we will be faced with this irritating situation again come this summer. For those of you outside California who may not be familiar with what "mandatory conservation" means, let me explain.

Depending on where you live, it can mean that the water company will look at your usage within a given period of time the prior year, and expect you to cut it by half. If you go over that amount, they will charge you an exorbitant fee for any water used over your allotted amount, and may add a fine.

In some locations, people will only be allowed to water outdoor plants on x days in a week.

Some places will make it illegal to water landscaping. In others, they will make it illegal to wash vehicles in your driveway (cars, boats, trucks, etc). You can be fined for hosing down your sidewalk or using a pressure washer to clean the exterior of your home.

Some people have resorted to installing modern day cisterns to catch and retain rainwater for use at a future time. Others collect "greywater" and reuse it for other purposes such as flushing toilets or irrigation.

Already, Sacramento has begun to lower water pressure to homes and raise rates in order to offset the economic pinch that they are feeling. I think we can expect more water districts and municipal utilities to engage in this type of behavior. Video courtesy of CBS13.

Now the issue is what can you do about it to insulate yourself as much as possible from the vagaries of Mother Nature, economic and political conditions?

You can install a rainwater harvesting system as this guy did. Video courtesy of CBS13.

As you can see, this can get expensive. For him, about $10K. If you're into scrounging, you can go buy everything you need on secondary markets and do it for less. I suspect he also paid someone to do the work for him which added to the cost.

If you're interested in getting an idea of tank styles, and the prices of new equipment, this is a good site: The Tank Depot. They also sell rainwater harvesting kits which will give you an idea of what to look for if you're going scrounging.

Similarly, a greywater collection system can be constructed. This is much easier if you have a home that sits on a foundation. If you have a home built on a slab (like mine) you're basically screwed unless you want to do some serious rework. However, some methods such as re-routing your clothes washer's output is easily done. Second floor sinks and bath and shower drains can be similarly re-routed. First floor is pretty much relegated to using a bucket.

Oasis Design has excerpts form a book "Create An Oasis With Greywater" available on line. The book is also available for purchase through them. The excerpts are enough to get a reasonably intelligent person started in constructing their own system.

So, now you have all this rainwater and greywater. What happens if there is a situation that develops that cuts off your access to treated city water?

Build a solar still. Small units can be built using nothing more than a couple of two liter soda bottles and a piece of plastic or rubber tubing. Larger units can be built using PVC pipe and a solar powered electric pump.

A unit, such as the one above, can be easily constructed from salvage materials. Complete details may be viewed at this site. These distillers can be set in an array to increase the amount of clean water being generated.

Dennis Daniels said...
February 5, 2009 at 9:25 AM  

Very interesting! Thanks for the detailed and informative post!

Anonymous said...
February 5, 2009 at 9:48 AM  

Great article and info. I went to the TankDepot.com link listed.. what a selection! Within that site I found RainTankDepot.com , which has all of the rainwater catchment supplies listed together, but more importantly a TON of informational resources to help plan your system.
Many Thanks!!!!

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