Friday, January 18, 2013

Absinthia Returns, Part 4

A home rainwater cistern in Mississippi  (photo by Jeffrey Reed)

This is part of a continuing series of email letters exchanged with my Swedish friend, Absinthia. To see the whole series, start with  Living a Simple Life.

Dear Absinthia,
I am very interested in how to provide our own water. Many people here have wells--some for watering the yard only, and some with reverse-osmosis filters for drinking. Deep wells here at the coast have a lot of salt in the water.  The ocean affects everything, including our groundwater.
Where do you get your water? From a community water system, a well, or collected rainwater? Do you do anything special with your wastewater?
- amanda

Hello again :-)
We do have our own well on the back of the house. Before this village was joined to the regional water supply, the previous owner took all his water from that drilled well. Nowadays and for the last 30-35 years or so, this village has been connected to the regional water and sewerage. We have been thinking about reopening our own well, but before we start drinking from it, we have to order proper testing of the water so it is all ok. We are very close to the Gulf of Bothnia, and there have been some rather scary reports about the level of toxins in the fish out here. So, first some testing: “better safe than sorry” is my motto on such matters.
We save rainwater for watering plants.
As for wastewater, our water from washing dishes, washing clothes, toilet, and shower all goes into the regional sewer system. When we dye yarn, we pour the waste (barch, onion skin, and such) into our compost pile. We don´t use any toxins when we dye.  That is a strong rule in our house.
Composting toilets are quite common here, out in the summer houses mostly. The summer houses often are out in the countryside far away from the regular electricity and sewage systems, so you have to find ways to handle things like this. To have a regular old “outhouse” you have to get lots of approvals, but it is much easier to get a composting toilet approved. However, if you want to add the toilet compost to your regular compost, then you have to get it approved. Otherwise you just add it to your kitchenkompost-bag, which goes into the regional garbage handling system.
A Swedish lady recently got an award for a very smart invention. You take whatever water you have, well water or rainwater, and pour it in the bottle and put it in the sun. There is a solar panel cleaning system inside. The water gets heated, and as soon as it’s clean and drinkable, a sign shows up.  This little portable water purification system is called Solvatten  :-)
- Absinthia

Dear Absinthia,
With the oil spill that happened in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago, I wouldn’t dream of eating or drinking anything out of the ocean here. The chemicals that were applied were probably worse than the oil, which was a tragedy in itself. 
Rainwater collection is probably a better way for us to get water. It’s very trendy in some parts of the US, like Austin, but setting up a rainwater system for drinking water is very expensive. There must be a home-made way to do it.

- amanda
The conversation is continued here:
Absinthia Returns, Part 5

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