I’ve spent the past few weeks seriously looking into how we’re going to get this house off-grid: Producing our own electricity, finding a different heating source besides natural gas, and disconnecting ourselves from the water system. It’s exciting and overwhelming all at the same time! Let’s just talk about water:
The average American uses about 100 gallons a day (in Cincinnati we use about 85 gallons per day). So, for a house of 4 people, that’s a total of 400 gallons of water used! And less than 1 gallon is for drinking water. How is that possible? Who uses that much water?
I spent the better part of a year up in northern Maine and our source of water was a well equipped with a hand pump. No way anybody pumped 100 gallons of water out of that thing a day! You wouldn’t have anywhere to put it. The most I ever pumped out at one time was to fill a 5-gallon bucket for doing my laundry. Twenty more five gallon buckets? Get outta here.
It turns out that most of that 100 gallons gets used up while we’re taking a shower. Most shower heads use about 3 – 4 gallons of water per minute. If you take a 10 or 15 minute shower, that’s anywhere from 30 – 60 gallons of water. It adds up fast, huh? While up in Maine, we’d go swimming in the river.
Purifying water from the Ohio River is an energy-intensive process: Pumping the water. Adding chemicals to coagulate the sediments. Adjusting the pH. And adding chlorine and fluoride. Cincinnati is also fortunate to have an extra process which most other cities don’t: using a giant activated carbon filter which helps to remove organics. It’s essentially a massive Brita filter. Why do we have one? Because the Ohio River is so damn dirty. The Greater Cincinnati Water Works also maintains 2 treatment plants, 24 pump stations, 33 storage tanks, and 3100 miles of water mains. Lastly, they test the drinking water 600 times a day (which is way more than bottled water).
It’s all great that they do these things but I’m not into all of the coal and oil that is used for filtering water and maintaining the infrastructure. I want to minimize my water footprint first and then eventually install our own water catchment and purification system.
Currently, here’s the things I’ve been doing to save water:
- Now that it’s winter, I’m not as sweaty and can reduce the number of showers that I take.
- Also, taking shorter showers.
- I installed a 55 rain barrel for all of my gardening needs. It has never even come close to running out of water and I love watering my plants.
- I keep a bucket in the shower to catch gray water to flush the toilet with.
- And just always being kind of “on”. Being aware of my water usage. Being present and in the moment. I mean, as best as I can do being’s I’m such a space cadet sometimes…
I’d say that none of the things that I’m currently doing has diminished my quality of life either. I’m still clean and living the same life I have been with a few minor tweaks. Everything’s great! That’s all for now. Next time I’m going to write about biosand and activated charcoal. SWEET.