Tuesday, February 10, 2009

EntropyPawsed Water Use

Water Use: How to get by on less than 10 gallons a day

At Entropy Pawsed, we use less than 10 gallons of water a day. We know this because we hand pump it from our well.

We are blessed to live in a location where water is abundant. The Appalachian Mountains in our region have many springs and streams, and potable deep well water is still easy to find. So why concern ourselves with conserving water?

Energy conservation is an important principle of Permaculture. Water use requires energy input. In cities, this energy input is in the form of water purification, water distribution infrastructure, and pumping systems. In our case, the initial input was in the form of the fossil fuels needed to build and operate the equipment to drill the well. Permaculture accepts the use of fossil fuels as a means to create systems that will minimize or eliminate future fossil fuel use. Certainly, fossils fuels were used to make the hand water pump. And, with proper maintenance, the pump will last for many generations, with energy savings exceeding the manufacturing energy input.

When we installed our well in 2003, the hand pump was three times more expensive than the electric pump (~$1,200 vs. $400); however, we are off grid and thought the benefits warranted the additional expense. We chose a hand pump partly because we have a small solar power system (see module …..), and did not want to use our limited electricity on an electric well pump. We also wanted to avoid the expense and energy input of the infrastructure necessary for running water. Indoor plumbing would have either necessitated a different heating system in our cabin (see module...) or prevented us from leaving home during the colder times of the year. We did not want to be so constrained by something that only a few generations ago was considered a luxury, not a necessity.

Usually once a day (depending on our usage and the weather) we pump water from the well into gallon water jugs we bring inside. Our primary water uses are for drinking, cooking, and washing dishes, using two to three gallons daily for these purposes. We provide drinking water for our chickens, about two gallons twice a week. We put down water bowls for our cat and dog, although usually they drink out of the nearby stream.

In most American homes, the toilet consumes the most water – 4 to 6 gallons per flush on older models, 1.5 gallons for newer models which, in our experience, frequently need to be flushed twice to completely empty. We use the Humanure system (add link?) to recycle our solid body waste. This requires no water at all. For convenience for urination at night, we have a five gallon bucket under a wooden frame with a toilet seat in the dressing room of our cabin. We dilute the urine 4:1 with water, and recycle it to the soil. This takes less than a gallon a day.

According to the EPA, the average 5 minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons of water. We shower once or twice a week (more on the health benefits of this in a future module) using less than 3 gallons per shower. We have two systems for showering. In cold weather we shower in the tiled “greenhouse” space inside our home, using a cylinder camping shower which we heat on our stovetop. During the warm months, we collect rainwater and use a gravity shower system at a separate structure we call our Wash House. (We will describe details of our rainwater collection and Humanure systems and the Wash House in a future module.)

We have not yet developed a low energy home system for clothes washing. Once every two or three weeks we take the laundry along with us when we go to town and do it in the laundromat. We have left the laundromat water use numbers out of our equations. From one perspective, shared appliances can lead to a significant reduction in our personal energy footprint.

To paraphrase an old Appalachian joke, “We don't have runnin' water, we got walkin' water – we walk out to the well to get it.”

Visit our website, http://entropypawsed.org

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