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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Well well well

All the disaster specialists, preppers, and survivalists make a big deal about having plenty of water -as they should. Can't live very long without it.

I don't store any. One of the great things about the Great North Woods is a plentiful supply of good water. Here there are multiple options for getting water.

This time of year it's possible to scoop up a big kettle of snow and melt it on the stove. I've done it at the hunting camp and here at home when the water pump failed. It does take a fair amount of energy. If melting snow on a backpacking stove, you'd better have a lot of fuel with you. A big pot of snow only yields a couple inches of water -more for heavy wet snow, less for light dry snow. Melted snow tastes odd. The off taste can be reduced by constantly stirring the melting snow. Not sure why it works, but it does help. Running the snow melt through a water filter can eliminate the off taste.

There is a small lake just 350 feet from my house. Of course, to draw water from it this time of year requires the use of an ice auger or chisel. It's not unheard of for 4 - 6 feet of ice to build up on the lake. During especially cold winters, ice fishermen have had to add extensions to their ice augers to go all the way to the water.

My water comes from a well. The household usage used to be fairly high. That's how it is with three daughters. Water demand for showers and laundry was impressive. You can image the size of a well capable of handling such a draw -even during droughts. You may imagine a huge deep well, but you'd be wrong. My well is only about 5.5 feet deep. It overflows, year round. Water quality is excellent. It's hand dug and walled up with native stone. An excellent well doesn't have to be deep, but only if it's in the right spot.

If my water pump dies, which has happened a time or two, it's just a matter of going to the overflow pipe and filling 5 gallon jugs. Sounds easy? It's better than most people's options. Here's the rub. Water weighs 8.33 pound/gallon. It's heavy. Even though my well is less than a hundred feel away, it's down a very steep hill that's ice covered in winter. Conservation becomes important -at least to the guy doing all the water hauling.

My friends in town complain about high water bills, and they are right, they are high. They say I'm so lucky to have free water. There they are wrong -twice. Luck had nothing to do with it. I chose to live out here in the country. Also, my water isn't free.

I was the one who hand dug the well many years ago and my labor cost me plenty. When the pump failed and I was inside the well changing a bad pipe connection at -17 in the winter -water wasn't free. When my pressure tank failed -water wasn't free. When the pressure switch fell apart -water wasn't free. When the water line into the house froze in the middle of a cold snow less winter -water wasn't free.

Remember that little thing about the weight of water? (hint 8.33 lbs) It takes energy to lift that water to the house. One of the big reasons for putting in a solar electric system was so that the house wouldn't lose water during a power outage. If there's no power for the pump, there's no water. The 1/2 horse submersible pump is a big energy draw. The inverter had to big enough to handle the surge as the pump came on , a 2500 watt unit with a 7000 watt surge capability. Things like low flow toilets make sense, even though the water itself doesn't cost money. The energy needed to bring water into the house has to come from somewhere. It could come from the grid, or it could come from my expensive solar electric panels. When the grid goes down long enough, water conservation goes into effect, especially with the toilets. (if it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down.)

Water is life. Living out in the woods, it really pays to understand everything involved to get that glass of water in your hand.


1 comment:

  1. I was raised in the desert. Water takes on a life of it's own in the desert.