500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

How to live without running water – lessons from 15 dry months

July11

I thought that we’d have a big celebration when we got water… so many of my sentences began with ‘when we have water, I’ll…’. But, to my own surprise, it doesn’t feel like such a big deal. And why? because we learned to live without it.

The water supply to Nový Mlýn was cut off (we think that when our neighbour built his house, he simply disconnected the supply from Nový Mlýn and diverted it to his new home).  Our lawyer told us that it was a cheap and simple task to get a new well put in, so we went ahead with the purchase anyway. It took us 15 months to get the necessary paperwork to install a new well from our local council. The bore hole cost a bomb. Luckily, we had a lot of help with the necessary manual work (such as the metre deep trench to take water to the house).

So, now we have a tap installed on the outside of Nový Mlýn. With clean and plentifully available water. No more filling up the barrel and transporting it from town. No more plastic bottles. No more dependence on rainwater – which inconveniently freezes in the winter.

According to a UN report in 2000, half of the World’s population live without access to clean water.  Our experience over the last 15 months has given us a little insight into how the other half live.   Those who have water on tap in the west use it wantonly. It is not a precious resource & because it is provided at a flat cost for most people, no penalty for leaving the tap on while you brush your teeth or flushing drinking water literally down the pan.

So, here’s what we learned:

  1. Rainwater is really useful: flushing toilets, pre cleaning dishes, for all household cleaning tasks. If you’re not going to lick it, then does it need to be drinking water quality?
  2. We used drinking water for washing, drinking & rinsing dishes.
  3. Heat. A can of water is kept by the kitchen sink for washing dishes. You don’t need to heat water to wash dishes most of the time, the problem is that when it comes out of the cold tap it is normally as cold as the ground – ie about 10 degrees C. Raise this to room temperature and it’s good to go.  Try it. As a result for our future hot water supply we will divert the water supply into the attic to preheat it before it goes into the boiler. That’ll save us a good 15 degrees heating costs in the summer (when the back boilers aren’t functioning).
  4. We have a composting toilet outside as well as a liquid only loo inside. We reduced the quantity of water needed to flush the toilet by putting rocks in the bowl. This also served as a visual reminder for visitors.  Two litres instead of five makes a huge difference if you have to go fill up buckets with rainwater to flush. I’m really not keen on the idea of ‘mellow yellow’ – it’s not so mellow when you’re female. You have to flush it away before you go so you don’t get splashback. We will hook up the toilets to a rainwater tank in the attic when we get the guttering replaced.
  5. In the bathroom we had the following: baby wipes (which were washed out and used for domestic cleaning & insulation at a later date) , an alcohol hand gel (for more paranoid visitors), liquid soap and a mister (a water spray with a pump to add pressure). The mister allows you to rinse soap from your hands very easily with a very small amount of water which you can turn on and off.
  6. Solar water heating – those inexpensive 20 litre bags, with the shower attachment are surprisingly effective.  I don’t know why solar water heaters are so expensive. We are putting double glazed windows in the south side of our roof & will use this light to heat water before it goes into the boiler.

Our next step will be to get the water inside… then we will be working on the first new bathroom – the accessible shower room.

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