Sunday, May 10, 2009


I mentioned the rule of three in my last post: you can only live 3 minutes without air, you can live 3 days without water, and you can live 3 weeks without food. Therefore I'm covering the first three needs in that order: Air, Water, and Food.

We are surrounded by water, most of our body is made of water, and most of what we eat is mostly water. Water, water everywhere.

But most of the water on this planet isn't drinkable. The majority of it is seawater. As Toolbox points out: "Only 2.5 percent of that water is fresh (non-salt) water. Of that fresh water, 69.5 percent is inaccessable for human use, locked in glaciers and permafrost." And many of our water supplies have become contaminated. While there has been significant clean-up of that pollution in the developed world, in developing countries manufacturing processes (moved 'overseas' from developed countries) have poisoned their waters--a case of simply shifting the problem.

But the biggest threat to water is the attempt by corporations to 'privatize' it. Yes, they want to claim they own the water so that they can sell our waters to us. This is already happening in third world countries.

What can we do? One first step is to not buy bottled water. Unless your local water supply is really polluted, drink tap water or well water.

And drink water, rather than soda--or even fruit juice.

Another thing you can do is collect rainwater. There are several sources (Toolbox, below, has a good section on it) that tell you how to set up rainbarrels. You can make your own or buy them. (My city just had a day where we could buy the barrels at a nice discount.) While most sources (including the company I just bought a barrel from) will tell you to just use them for gardening, Toolbox discusses possibilities of ways to use them to collect drinking and washing water.

Something else to look at for gardening, is using 'graywater'. Graywater (sometimes spelled 'greywater') is water that has been used for doing dishes, washing your hands, washing clothes, or bathing. Basically, it's any waste water other than from your toilet. (The waste water from your toilet is called 'blackwater'.) Instead of letting this water go into your sewers or septic systems, it can be used for gardening. The little bits of food and biodegradable soap are likely to nourish food, but if you are concerned with what is in the water you can create what are called 'Constructed Wetlands'--artificial streams and ponds that purify the water. More intensive Constructed Wetlands are being used for natural sewage treatment. John Todd (who used to be with the New Alchemy Institute) has created what he calls Eco-Machines (also known as Living Machines), constructed wetland systems that can purify wastewater from anything from a highway reststop to entire city.

Finally, an important thing to learn is where your drinking water comes from. Most of us live in the catchment/drainage area of a major river. Learning what that is, where your water comes from, and where the water goes to is what Peter Warshall refers to as 'Watershed Consciousness'. Just as it is important to know that food comes from the soil (see my next post) before it goes to your supermarket, it's also important to realize that water doesn't just come from a tap.

Todd Hemenway, Gaia's Garden--Includes a chapter on Catching, Conserving, and Using Water that has information on Water-Harvesting, Using Greywater, and Creating a Backyard Wetland
Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew, Toolbox for Sustainable City Living--Has a chapter on Water that includes Rainwater Collection and Water Purification; they also have a section on Wastewater Recycling in their chapter on Waste that includes an overview of Constructed Wetlands
Kevin Kelly, "The Big Here Quiz"--This is taken from Peter Warshall's work and includes all sorts of questions concerning Watershed Consciousness and Bioregional Awareness
Vandana Shiva, Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit--Good book on privitization of water and what she calls 'Water Democracy'. She lists Nine Principles of Water Democracy which include "Water is essential to life" and "Life is interconnected through water". There are online excerpts from the book.
Starhawk, The Earth Path--Contains a chapter on Water with information on Water Cycles, water conservation, and water privitization. Starhawk's website has information on the Cochabamba Declaration written by Bolivians who fought against Bechtel's attempt to privatize their water.
John Todd's Eco-Machines--gives an overview and some pictures of the systems
Peter Warshall, "Watershed Consciousness", in CoEvolution Quarterly, Winter 1976/77--
The original edition is out of print, but you can buy an 'eBook' PDF version for $2 from the Whole Earth Magazine website
Wikipedia articles on Constructed Wetlands and Living Machines--which includes the locations of some of these Living Machines/Ecomachines

Quote of the Day: "Watersheds are our energy mediators. They are our life support. They provide for ecosystem support." - Robert Curry


SoapBoxTech said...

With a bit more carefully designed setup, blackwater can be used for gardening as well. Urine is actually a great additive to compost piles as well.

On the privatization front I agree but, sadly, state ownership of freshwater is getting to be as bad a predicament as corporate ownership. I am often fearful of the day when the County tells us our farm`s well is not ours to control. It`s definitely one area in which I am very torn.

MoonRaven said...

Great insights, SBT.

I agree about blackwater but will have more to say about urine and 'humanure' when I get to my post on Waste.

I also agree that state ownership isn't the solution either. I believe in community control of resources--but there is always a balancing act between the needs of the community and the needs of the individual. I hope that you don't have a problem with the County about your well.