Category Archives: Rainwater Catchment

When Outdoor Water Is Your Only Source

The Thirst-day product from Amazon is one of the Sawyer water filters described in the embedded video below about how to purify water while hiking.

Here’s a doomsday scenario that might motivate you to action. If the money went bad in your nation, a portable filter and outdoor source might be the only safe water when your stored supply is used up.

In that case, unpaid government workers will have something better to do with their time than trying to cater to your needs–they’ll be scavenging food and stuff for their own families. You might have an extended time trying to secure water, power, waste removal of all types, and groceries with your worthless currency. Clean air, shelter from excess heat or cold, and drinking water are your most urgent needs to survive.

Good luck if you live in a desert environment like much of Southern Nevada, USA. Maybe you’d have to drill a well by hand and manually pump from an underground aquifer. That takes some tools and skills beyond most people. Right now, you might want to investigate rainwater catchment and more storage capacity if you have room on your land, while you still have some purchasing power.

Perhaps the easy water for strapped desert dwellers without a functioning market would be squeezing fluid from wild plants. That’s something I’ll look into for a future post.

For now, I’m assuming you have a natural water source within a reasonable travel distance. Of course, fuel is another commodity that would get scarce and water is heavy. No money, more problems. “You won’t be on welfare and heck, there’s no health care.” Maybe getting safe water when there’s no doctor doesn’t seem like such a frivolous activity with the proper paranoia. Here’s a recent YouTube video from Outdoor Adventures titled, “Beginner Backpacking Part 6 – Water Treatment and Storage.”

Buckets of Life of Death

A Modern Honey Bucket.
I heard about food grade storage buckets and alcohol fermentation and distillation in buckets on The Survival Podcast, and got to thinking about The Bucket List after a recent memorial service.

You can kick the can down the road and achieve eternal youth, but not if you mistakenly kick the bucket.

Then I thought about how many of life’s needs can be met by the use of buckets until the final kick-off, including personal waste as reported in this Anchorage Daily News story, “Honey buckets remain a sanitation concern in Bethel.”

I found that story from Bethel, Alaska by chance. One resident, Tim Meyers, grows fresh vegetables in the permafrost there, and according to Mark Dowie, using heat from composting in a greenhouse. More info is linked from my post at PermaKent, “Better Than The Best Idea.”

The Meyers Farm website tells the story and has a link to an audio interview on the Press page.

Rainwater can be captured in buckets, and plants grown in them when full of soil and allowing for drainage.

There are even “bucketponics” combinations of fish and plants able to feed the fish and the fish in return able to feed and fertilize the plants. Only sun and water agitation and filtration might be needed to keep the system going. And perhaps some added compost as fish and plants are consumed.

Buckets might catch the wind or serve as part of a water wheel generator. A bucket brigade can deliver a steady amount of water if no hose or pressure is available to fight a fire.

Other writers on the web have explored the multiple uses of the typical 5-gallon bucket, including Wikipedia, “Buckets–Types and Uses.”

Other uses include as a musical instrument, seat, and trash can.

Why Permaculture?

Got this from Paul Wheaton’s email list with the title “podcast: replacing irrigation with permaculture.” But I concur with Paul’s suggestion that this be shared with those wanting to know the benefit of permaculture in general.

For me, permaculture designs are best when they require the least labor AND the least petroleum.

Quoting Paul Wheaton:

“If you like podcasts with lots of technical information in permaculture, this podcast might be your ultimate fantasy.

I talk about hugelkultur, Sepp Holzer, Willie Smits, Geoff Lawton, desertification, reversing desertification, tomatoes that are able to survive without our help, polyculture, tap roots, edge, terracing, starting from seeds instead of transplanting, Alan Savory …

I’ve had people tell me that they have listened to all of my podcasts at least twice, and the podcasts with Helen Atthowe four times.  I suspect that this would be the one that rates eight times.

This one podcast, might, I think, convey more about “what is the real benefit of permaculture” than any other podcast.

This is the podcast that you can send to others to help them understand your passion about “permaculture”.

Rainwater Rescued from Regulation

Wasatch Community Gardens
Wasatch Community Gardens
Good news from Good online in a story titled, “As Water Crises Intensify, Cities Turn to Rainwater Harvesting.”

“Rainwater harvesting was illegal in Utah until 2010 and in Colorado until 2009. Colorado now allows harvesting only when landowners already own a well or have the right to use one on their property.”

Salt Lake City got the memo and citizens can learn rainwater harvesting at places like Wasatch Community Gardens.

“Rainwater collection that is used for gardening purposes is finally legal in Salt Lake. So we can finally have our Rainwater Harvesting workshop again!”

Unfortunately, sane people in the arid zone of Arizona were unsuccessful in a recent attempt to allow private rainwater collection, even though the downstream residents the law was designed to protect will have most of the uncollected rainwater evaporate before it reaches them. So it’s a loss for everyone.

Perhaps toilet-to-tap recycling like in Big Spring, Texas will solve Arizona’s drinking water shortage.

Call me strange, but I’d prefer the rainwater.

Texas Town Recycles Urine Like NASA

Island 3 O’Neill Cylinders
Earth Inspires Space Habitat
A Slashdot post, “Drought Stricken Texas Town Taps Urine For Water” links to a Discovery News story about the ironically named Big Spring, Texas project, “Texas Town To Recycle Urine.”

The Discovery News subtitle is “The drought-stricken town is taking a page from NASA, which developed a urine recycling program for astronauts.”

The Slashdot poster explains:

“After being run through microfilters and undergoing reverse osmosis, slimy sewage is cleansed with peroxide and ultraviolet light. This intense process ensures that any pharmaceuticals and carcinogens are removed, and that the H2O stands up to drinking water regulations.”

Coming to a water district near you? The Discovery News article interviews a big city DWP honcho considering a similar scheme and reports that 41% of America is abnormally dry.

In 2009, Pop Sci ran a story about a report from Finland, “Better Tomatoes Via a Fertilizer of…Human Urine?.”

“Plants fertilized with a mixture of stored human urine and wood ash produced 4.2 times more fruit than plants without the pee, the study found. The urine-fertilized tomatoes had more beta-carotene than unfertilized ones, and much more protein than traditionally fertilized plants.”

Speaking of NASA, click image of the view of Earth from Apollo 8 over Rama’s interior to see a list of O’Neill cylinders and other space habitats.

The Story of Stuff, an entertaining “consumption run amok” video presentation, illustrates the limitations of conventional recycling. For every barrel you recycle, 70 barrels of waste were required in manufacturing the item. And just 1% of the things people buy are kept six months later, the rest is trash. (Makes my iPod seem not quite as bad as Greenpeace made out in 2008).

“The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.”–Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

Speaking of cradles, the book Cradle To Cradle: Remaking The Way We Make Things calls for true recycling as might be needed offworld in a self-contained habitat, according to Amazon:

In Cradle to Cradle, the authors present a manifesto calling for a new industrial revolution, one that would render both traditional manufacturing and traditional environmentalism obsolete. Recycling, for instance, is actually “downcycling,” creating hybrids of biological and technical “nutrients” which are then unrecoverable and unusable. The authors, an architect and a chemist, want to eliminate the concept of waste altogether, while preserving commerce and allowing for human nature.

In a completely unrelated story found on Google, reported “Ice cream truck driver from Trenton is found with urine bottles in freezer after DWI charge.”


AP video about Big Springs, Texas:

Who’ll Stop the Rain, Legally?

Rain Barrel at Amazon
A story about states claiming that collecting rainwater on private property is a violation of the state’s water rights is circulating again. You may ask if it’s just another unfounded conspiracy theory or does the story. . .hold water? (Sorry).

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Some states outlaw saving rainwater. It’s also an international issue.

A good description of the situation and in my opinion, the best case for allowing private rain collection is at the Rainwater Observer, Is Rainwater Collecting Really Illegal in Some States?

First there are unintended consequences. Because much of the rain doesn’t reach natural waters like lakes or rivers, “. . .this legislation can result in a waste of valuable water resources in states where water is often a scarcity.”

The article affirms the Resilient Freedom thesis that public purposes will also be served efficiently when people are allowed to meet their own needs, “. . .allowing residents to collect rainwater that falls on their properties would reduce reliance on standard water supplies, alleviating the economic burden on public utilities budgets.”

Here’s a news feature from KSL TV in Salt Lake City, Utah about such a situation:

Video Courtesy of