Saturday, August 08, 2009

Rainwater Catchment

Preparedness need not be expensive or difficult. Consider this simple rainwater catchment system.

Rainwater catchment is common in rural Hawaii and many other locales. In rural Hawaii, rainwater catchment isn't a backup supply of fresh water--it is the only source of household water, period.

But as knowledgeable reader Morris P. notes, any source of water which depends on electricity and pumps is prone to disruption or failure for any number of reasons. (Here in California, a serious earthquake would break water mains and disrupt electrical power.) Morris was kind enough to share his simple, effective rainwater catchment system which provides a backup water supply for any emergency.

As a kid growing up in rural Oklahoma we relied upon well water which was drawn from a 200-300 foot well by an electric pump. Often times we would lose electrical power for various reasons but it was only a minor inconvenience except for the fact we lost our drinking water supply! The electric water pump of course ceased operating when the power went out.

To offset the loss of their water supply people out there kept rainwater barrels strategically placed around their houses, barns and outbuildings to catch rain water running off the roofs. We had to use water from those barrels quite often. As a result, even today I have a catch-water system of four barrels. More people need to be storing water for emergencies.

The barrels I use are obtained from the Habitat For Humanity Restore Store for $20. I connect the barrels with PVC pipe. See photos attached. Very simple system that could come in real handy. These barrels are collecting water from my workshop which is 24x16 feet. I could easily have 20 of these positioned around the shop and store up to 1,000 gallons of water.

Collecting rainwater is even more important in dry climates, and fortunately there are resources to help desert-dwellers, such as the Phoenix Permaculture Guild.

Here's the thing about modern infrastructure systems like municipal waterworks: they are extremely vulnerable to disruption. Any system which has poor/no redundancy is more vulnerable than a system with redundancy. Any system with chokepoints is more vulnerable than systems without chokepoints.

Thus the Internet is more robust than most systems because traffic can be rerouted around overloaded nodes. But even the Internet is vulnerable to disruption or failure at key trans-ocean nodes where the fiber optic cables come ashore.

If a water main breaks somewhere in town, you may well lose your water pressure. There usually isn't another water main which can be activated to replace the broken one.

We have been lulled into complacency by the seeming robustness of our infrastructure. But all our major systems: energy, electricity, water and transport--are in reality quite vulnerable due to chokepoints, long, fragile supply lines, lack of redundancy, and so on.

I store about 100 gallons of water in recycled one-gallon milk containers but I am pondering where I can add a rain catchment barrel inobtrusively. Maybe you should, too, if you don't already.

Thankyou, Morris, for sharing an excellent preparedness idea.

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