500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

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


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.

Water in all the wrong places


So… last night the rain started.  Why, when it has been dry and sunny for months on end, does the bad weather start as soon work on our roof begins.

We’re still without water – the pump went back to the shop (an hour drive away), but the owner of the shop is on holiday until next week – and back next Tuesday. They found the fault with the pump, but can’t replace it without the say so of the shop owner. Can I just clarify – this is a brand new pump, which was faulty when we bought it, and under Czech law the business owner can take their sweet time fixing the problem.  Leaving us without water yet again. So… we now have a team of 6+ roofers on premises, with no supply of clean water.

Last night we managed to feed our 5 guests – and find an extra bed. The accommodation is basic: two rooms with two beds, two chairs & two lamps, but we also have a sofa bed in the kitchen and one further upstairs room. Everyone ate. We coped with washing up afterwards. Given the water situation, things are okay.  We thought that they would be here during the week and travelling back home at weekends, but they are working through the weekends for the next few weeks.

This morning they started work at 5.30 because the van arrived with the scaffolding. I wonder what hours they’ll work? It’s now 7.30 am and I’ve already been out taking some last minute ‘before’ photos of the roof.

Waterless weekend – but nearly not


water trench borehole spring

Sell photos on photrade | By EveryDayEnglish


We had envisaged a celebration of water on Saturday – in true catalogue style – happy smiling people running through sprinklers in the sunshine.  By 10.30pm – with the house in darkness, we stopped work. We’d achieved a hole, a tap and a pipe, and with friends and family had grafted all day…  with not a drop of a shower to show for it, let alone a sprinkle, or a shower.

We were so close to having water…  but the pump is faulty, therefore we spend 8 hours trying to figure out what the problem was – ruling out anything other than a faulty pump.  This will be returned to the shop, who may or may not make us wait 30 days for a repair (yes, on something that is newly purchased and faulty, and essential to our water supply – compared with the UK, the Czech customer is always wrong.).

It’s been such a long time the house has been dry… it’s been so limiting.

water trench borehole spring

Sell photos on photrade | By EveryDayEnglish

posted under 2008, June, Summer, Water | No Comments »

Solar collector to be…


Today we chose the windows which will go in the south slope of the roof.  I would have liked to use Genersys Solar panels – they are made in Slovakia (the former partner of the Czech Republic) however I had the following problems:

  1. The local supplier has not written back (to an email written in Czech by a fluent friend)
  2. The cost
  3. Time (we need an affordable solution now)
  4. Materials (reuse is best as far as I’m concerned)

Instead we will install standard roof windows on the south side of the property, and under these place old radiators, painted black. Water coming into the house is at a constant 10°c.  In summer this is far below the ambient temperature. In the six months that the temperature here is above 10°c we will send water up to the roof to travel through a set of old radiators placed under the windows. This will raise the water temperature to 25°+ for much of the summer, even without heat from the sun.

The windows will provide a massive amount of light  in the attic – and we had planned to put windows in the roof anyway, and having all the windows in a south facing row will make the job of the roofers much easier. We are planning to add insulation under the attic floor & will monitor summer temperatures. We can always add a reflective film to the windows to cut down the amount of heat entering, or annex & ventilate that part of the roof if it really is too warm… but any additional heat in the winter will be very welcome.

In the winter, we will drain the system as soon as the temperature in the attic falls below 10°c. The reduced hours of light in winter months also means that any type of collectors would be less effective during this time. Happily this coincides with when our wood burning heating system will kick in. We are planning a range cooker in the kitchen with a back boiler to heat water & this will be on the go once temperatures fall in the autumn & winter months.

As well as fitting with the mantra of ‘reuse, recycle’ instead of always buying shiny, new things, our radiator solar collectors have the advantage of being elegant – ie completely hidden from view, as well as very easily accessible for maintenance. The radiators are to be located under 8 Roto windows (wooden frames inside, WITHOUT any special E glass) with dimensions of 740×1400 mm – which will cost the same amount as a single solar water heating panel.

15 months later… we have permission for water


I heard last night that our speedy project manager (8 months) has managed to get our permit to pump water sorted.  We were told it would take a month.  Recently I have been phoning him every day, and though he has never taken the call, this seems to have done the trick.

Unhinged bureaucracy has left us waterless since we bought Novy Mlyn over 2 years ago.  And the fact that the neighbour laid claim to the well supplying the property originally, and denied us access.  Our lawyer said it would be easy (and cheap) to put in a new well. It has been neither.  In short, dealing with the permit office, and various other service providers (such as the people who put a bore hole down 26 metres when there was water 8 metres down), the project manager who would never answer the phone,  the survey company who refused to help us with forms, but insisted we needed a survey (untrue) etc. has totally convinced me that it would be a nightmare to run a company in the Czech Republic. We are living in the wild west – honest business people are a real find – the general attitude is that cheating strangers out of money is what business is all about.  I hope that attitudes are changing, but this immature form of capitalism, with such short term vision, damages the economy from the grass roots up.

posted under 2008, June, Summer, Water | No Comments »

Rock Bog – how to make an effective low flush female friendly urinal


Make your own Rock Bog, it will save loads of water and is really simple, and best of all free.

Convert one of your toilets into a Rock Bog by putting one or two large stones in the bottom of the pan, then reducing the amount of water in the flush with stones or bricks so that you have just a 1 or 2 litre flush.

Why? You’ll have a super efficient liquid only loo which can be used by men AND women (no not so mellow yellow splash back for the ladies). You will save water and money AND it will look nice (a Zen garden in your loo!).

A free idea for you from Bog – the accessible eco bathroom Read the rest of this entry »

Village council


A committee of people are at this point standing in the garden, looking down the hole, attempting to connect the various bits of system we have together.  What can we do with a host of different sized pipes, a water filter and a garden pump?  I read the instructions and was unable to fathom how it could work, but maybe they can.  Apparently, though the hole is 28 metres deep, there is water at 8 metres down, so quite obviously this is the same water supply as our neighbours. I hope that this does not cause problems with other people’s water supply. This aside, we may soon be at the end of the dry days at Novy Mlyn.

Progressing well


Paperchase: for the well permit we needed a project plan, we needed the project plan to send to Eon in order to get a letter from them about any cables in the vicinity of the well. We had a meeting with a hydrological company in Tábor this week who we’d been told could do a project plan for us. They can, but only after we have made the bore hole. Totally pointless.

Instead, plan b has been to simply turn up at the offices of Eon with all the paperwork I have and see what happens. To achieve this, I caught the 6.03 bus from outside Novy Mlyn this morning, which goes directly to the main town in South Bohemia, and was there by 7.45 am. After visiting various offices, fingers crossed the letter will be sent to us soon. We may be on our way to having water!!!

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