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Need help with ideas for fresh water and waste water  RSS feed

 
Sarah Milcetic
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Location: Shepherdstown, WV
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I hope this is posted in the right place. My questions are about fresh, grey and black water while boondocking/dry camping. We purchased an old RV so we can stay on our new land without making any permanent changes until we've had more time there to observe and figure out where to put a well, wetland, house etc.

My initial thoughts were:
1. Buy a plastic potable water approved cistern and import fresh water
2. Let the grey water hose run out on to the land (or figure out a way to reuse it with a temporary filter/tank?)
3. Add a freestanding composting toilet instead of using the toilet connected to the black water tank and don't use the bathroom sink

When I asked a friend who just completed a PDC her thoughts, she suggested looking into skipping the cistern and using multiple rain barrels chained together for fresh water since they will be easier to relocate to different parts of the land and use for rain catchment (I thought this was brilliant!). Has anyone done something like this? Is it safe for drinking water? We have a very good filter that can connect to the faucet. Could we use rain water straight from the barrels to the sinks and shower? Or would we still need to import potable water?

My friend also suggested looking into an anaerobic biodigester for blackwater so that we can use the built in toilet and have the drain hose go into the biodigester. I can't find any information on anything like this. Any help out there?

Forgive me if I'm missing it but I can't find anything on the forums!
 
Su Ba
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The problem that I'd be concerned with in using trashcans to store drinking water is chemical leeching. Using a food grade liner could solve that problem, if you can get your hands on a few. Or use food grade plastic barrels instead of trashcans. In my area, empty food grade barrels can sometimes be purchased from some of the food production businesses. They often held syrups and donut fillings.

As long as you're not downwind from a chemical spewing factory/electrical plant, your rainwater will most likely be pretty safe. You could use it "as is" right away. But if you store it, then you may need to treat it to prevent bacterial growth. I use baking soda to adjust the pH as needed (my rainwater tends to be acidic) and bleach to control microbe growth. I also keep mosquitos out so that I'm not breeding mosquitos in the area.

Unless you live in an area with lots of rain, using water to flush a toilet may not be a good option. Between showers and the toilet, your water will quickly disappear.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Sarah Milcetic wrote:
2. Let the grey water hose run out on to the land (or figure out a way to reuse it with a temporary filter/tank?)


Greywater stored in a tank for even a short period becomes black water.  It's best to run it directly to a mulch pit and grow a tree with it.

http://oasisdesign.net/greywater/

I agree with Su that trash cans are not a safe place to store drinking water.  A purpose-made poly tank is the best in my experience.  The black opaque tanks keep the water fresh indefinitely though it should be filtered or boiled before drinking to be sure no parasites, protozoans or harmful bacteria are present.

twotanks.jpg
[Thumbnail for twotanks.jpg]
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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I would suggest going with the composting toilet, capturing rain water, and running greywater into mulchpits  directly. It's important to keep the gray water covered/not exposed to the open air.

On the rain water capture front - "Chaining rain barrels together" is kind of a mixed bag. If you actually daisy chain the plumbing, then they are not really mobile, but if they are not linked together then you don't have enough holding capacity. Personally, I would go with a large potable water cistern near the RV. IF water was needed at other locations around the property, then I might consider getting a food grade barrel or an IBC tote for the other location(s) and setting up a catchment to fill them.

My biggest concern with capturing rain water is actually the surface it's coming from and some effective first flush diverter so the random crud that collects on the roof doesn't wind up in your water tank. A good screen to keep insects from getting in is strongly advisable.
 
Rebecca Norman
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I agree with the above posters.

A composting toilet is a great solution to eliminate the problem of obtaining a large amount of water, and the problem of disposing of sewage. There are many different systems, from the Humanure Handbook's simple bucket and compost heap system, to commercially available units that are more self contained and require less maintenance, but expensive.

Running greywater out to a mulch pit is also unproblematic, and the information on the Oasis link above is great. If you're interested in greywater, the book by the same folks is excellent.

If you are concerned about the safety of your rainwater or your roof materials or collection barrels, using rainwater for sinks and showers is still surely fine, and would leave you with only drinking water to bring in.

These would leave you with no need for a cistern, septic tank, soak pit, etc.

Ana Edey on Martha's Vineyard made a very nice aerobic (not anaerobic) treatment for toilet flushing, using nothing but a large box of wood chips and composting worms, draining down to buried perforated pipes that irrigate trees. But a composting toilet is even simpler, if the users don't mind it.
 
Daniel Schmidt
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I'm not sure where others got the 'trash can' notion from, but I believe the OP was referring to 55 gallon drums when they mentioned 'barrels'. They do have food grade plastic barrels which can be used for rain water collection. I have 3 chained together. They were given to me that way by a neighbor and I will likely move them down to my land sometime this year. I will have to cut the pipe and get new couplers if I want to put them back together, but that isn't a big deal. You could always get pipe unions that are specifically made to couple pipes together in places where the pipes are not free to move around. This would allow you to daisy chain as many barrels together as needed. IBC totes are another option. They should be relatively easy for two people to move around empty and I have seen numerous permaculture and aquaponics vieos on YouTube with them chained together.

As someone who does not like to put 'all of my eggs in one basket', I would recommend you keep your drinking water and washing water separate, even if they come from the same source. Currently at my house in civilization, I have a makeshift version of the Berkey water filter system and several gallon glass jugs that I store my water in and go through a rotation. If another hurricane blows in like it did in October, I have gallons of water stored and can filter water from my rain barrels if I run low. I wouldn't go without the separate water storage, because if a storm sent debris into my barrels or piping and spilled all of my water storage out then I would have no water. Having at least a couple gallons per person in reserve can save you from making a run back to civilization at an odd hour, and in an extreme case, be a life saver.
 
Sarah Milcetic
Posts: 19
Location: Shepherdstown, WV
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Tyler Ludens wrote:A purpose-made poly tank is the best in my experience.


Any specific recommendations? How many gallons are the ones in the photo? I have no idea how to chose one from all the options I see online. I have never seen one in person.

Peter Ellis wrote:My biggest concern with capturing rain water is actually the surface it's coming from.


Me too! I'm thinking about building a temporary roof to protect the chickens from aerial predators until we can get some trees growing. Any suggestions what material to go with?

Daniel Schmidt wrote:I'm not sure where others got the 'trash can' notion from, but I believe the OP was referring to 55 gallon drums when they mentioned 'barrels'.


Whoops, I was actually thinking of oak barrels. We have one now but have only used it for the kids to play with the water (so I don't feel the need to tell them to turn off the hose and stop wasting water, LOL)

Daniel Schmidt wrote:As someone who does not like to put 'all of my eggs in one basket', I would recommend you keep your drinking water and washing water separate, even if they come from the same source. Currently at my house in civilization, I have a makeshift version of the Berkey water filter system and several gallon glass jugs that I store my water in and go through a rotation. If another hurricane blows in like it did in October, I have gallons of water stored and can filter water from my rain barrels if I run low.


Of course, redundancy! Thank you for the reminder.



Thank you all for your input! Here's what I'm thinking now:

Fresh water: 2 large tanks, one collecting rain water and the other trucked in? I checked our water history and we have been using anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 gallons per month. That seems like a LOT of water to me! I have no idea how much water we will use once we move to the RV but I will be doing laundry off site and my husband's daily shower will not be happening.

Drinking water redundancy plan: drive to a nearby spring and store it in 5 gal jugs

Greywater: The Oasis site is fantastic. I need to learn more but am really excited to reuse our greywater. I hope to plant lots of trees and other edibles so this will be really helpful.

Black water: Splurge for a commercial composting toilet!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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The larger of those tanks is 3000 gallons, the smaller is 2500.  Our neighbors have a 20,000 gallon tank which I think is metal with a flexible liner.  They use it for irrigating and go through that much very quickly.

 
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