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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Off grid water and sewer is part of self reliance

Off grid water and sewer used to be the norm, and in some places it still is. The Groundwater Foundation says that about 17 million homes in the United States get their water from wells…off the water system grid. Off grid sewer has several options, too, from the septic system in the backyard to grey water systems in concert with fairly high tech composting toilets….or, you could build your own .Human power runs this Unesco water well pump…by Augapfel on Flickr

A well is not a complex thing. Anymore, it’s a heavily regulated thing, but it is still just essentially a hole in the ground that reaches below your local water table. Water gathers or is continuously present at the bottom of the hole, and the well user employs some method to draw the water up, like this hand pump pictured here. If you have any reason to believe that your water table is relatively near the surface, you could look putting in a driven well yourself. There are other approaches, too, but the specific tool might cost a little bit more. Such a well would be just fine for agricultural purposes such as watering your garden or your livestock, but do have it tested before you drink any. I’d personally have it tested before I watered my animals with it or even my vegetable garden; water that looks and smells just fine can still have issues.

Sewers are also not terribly complex, if you are only talking about one household, particularly if that household is cognizant of the results of the choices they make and how those choices may affect their personal sewer system. Generally speaking, detergents and grease are bad for a septic system; so is bleach. The function of a septic system, like a composting toilet, is dependent upon creatures that break down the waste. If you kill the creatures, your sewer disposal system stops working. Likewise, if you send things to the sewer system that it is not capable of digesting, like grease, feminine hygiene products and cigarette butts it will eventually clog up. The companies that you would have to call to come out and fix that charge a pretty penny, and if you took a good look at what they were doing you’d gladly pay it! Best to treat your septic system properly and never have to know.

Living some place where turning on a faucet results in hot or cold running water, and pushing a silver handle on the side of a ceramic tank or pulling a plug in a sink or tub magically whisks away things you choose not to invest very much thought into is just not the norm across the world. Dependence upon a huge grid for something as essential as water can be worrisome, and proper disposal of wastes is essential to your health, the health of your immediate environment and the health of people down stream from you. Self reliance definitely includes educating one’s self about water and waste management, with an eye towards getting off the water and sewer grid.

Are you on a well or city water? Do you have a septic system or are you connected to a city sewer system? Have you ever lived with a composting toilet, or even visited someone who did and used theirs? What would you do if the water stopped coming out of the tap at your house?


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