Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Can you spare some water?"

Seems like a silly question, right? I mean, how hard is that? On the grid, you think of water as this unlimited commodity, like air. My house might have plumbing problems that limit me temporarily, but the guy next door will always have plenty. When I lived in the city, if I needed some water and my neighbor wasn't home I probably wouldn't think much about using his garden hose without permission.

Here, not so much. We just came off four solid days in which solar panels weren't much good. That has implications for more than lights and computers, because all water pumps are electric. So when you don't have electricity, the water you've got in your cistern is what you've got. Sure, most people have back-up generators. But they cost, too. Water isn't free.

This was much on my mind this morning, as I looked at my empty emergency bottles and wondered the best way to fill them. Nobody around is gonna have full cisterns except - ironically - Landlady, and her water system is turned right off to keep the freeze damage down. I'm down to two bottles, six gallons. Yesterday I melted snow in the sink so I'd have something to wash dishes with, then used the drained-off dishwater to flush my toilet. If I hadn't had the snow, I'd be almost OUT of water. You don't want to be out of water.

So I visited my neighbors J&H, with some trepidation because they've got a bunch of horses and go through a LOT of water. Granted they also have three cisterns for that reason, their electrical system isn't all that great either. I would never have dreamed of impolitely filling my bottles without permission. But J's kept on top of his situation and has lots. They had all sorts of problems with their water system last winter, and he spent the intervening months being very industrious about improvements as money permitted. So he greeted my request with cheerful generosity, and now at least all the bottles are full.

If we could get several sunny days to put water back in M's cistern, I'd be all right. It seems to fill faster than the bad check valve is bleeding back, but only when it's sunny. The weather report calls for a whole week of sun, but that's a big change from what it said last time I looked. We'll see.


Borepatch said...

Good luck with the weather. Merry Christmas, joel.

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen or heard the word cistern since I visited my great-grand parent's house in Huron, SD. They had at least one in the basement.

That was in 1946. I was eight years-old. It was bewildering. Why would anyone want to have a small swimming pool in their basement, if no one was allowed to swim in it?

Hand pumps next to the sinks was also a wonderment.

Their house wasn't out in the boonies, either. Just a developed neighborhood and city sized lots.

But long-term drought was still fresh in the memory of folks in that time.

og said...

If you have water in the well, you can almost always figure a way to get it out. A Bison pump will draw water up out of a 200 foot well. They're not cheap, at all. But they're an essential piece of kit where there's the potential for losing other methods of getting the water out.

A check valve at the cistern is a good idea, so is a "regular" valve, so that once the cistern is full, water cannot go back down the well, even if you have to shut it off manually. I'm kind of surprised that wasn't installed much earlier. Best of luck to you!

Back when I was "Living off the grid" we just called it "broke". I feel your pain, i do.

Anonymous said...

Can you not 'air gap' on the pump discharge? If the pump discharge is above the water level of the cistern, it can't drain the cistern back through the pump. Then replace the foot valve in warmer weather, or when it fails completely.
Just make sure your float controls don't short-cycle the pump from water splash.