Sustainable Drinking Water Sources

from pdphoto.org

Since I began trying to live sustainably, making sure I have sufficient water has been a significant challenge. I still mostly rely on municipal water (faucet water) from neighbors’ houses for my water needs, but that is soon to change.

Rain Water
Rainwater is an obvious solution for dish and clothes washing water, and bathing water. However, collecting it has been deceptively difficult. I tried to capture rainwater off my tent rain-proof tarp, but as the containers (currently two large plastic storage tubs) sometimes get in my way, I will move them if I think it’s not going to rain soon. Of course, I may be away from my tent for many hours and it does rain–or I set them up and it is dry for days. Still other times I have captured a small amount of water only to have it evaporate before I returned to cover the container. One day, I knew it would rain while I was away editing the film project, so I set up the rain water basin where I thought the water would collect off the tarp. But because I wasn’t there to watch it, I returned home, hopeful of excessive wash water, and… the tub was completely empty. My cup doth not overfloweth.

Even if I did have rain water, I would have a rough time trying to convert it to drinkable water. Of course, one can drink rainwater straight out of the bucket, though from the comments I have read about it, one should avoid the first batch of runoff because of the higher chemical content due to the droplets capturing more local contaminants in the air. Also, the first batch of rain water may be additionally dirty from the small debris picked up from the roof (or other surface).

Filtering Collected Water
But if you would still prefer filtered water to drinking rain water straight, you can build a natural filtration system out of a simple formula involving layering small materials. See the Rain Water Harvesting website for how to easily construct one yourself out of gravel, stones and sand. Unfortunately, filtering water only makes it physically cleaner–it does not, however, reduce or kill the microorganisms that might make you sick from drinking it.

Purified Water Acquisition
But apparently this problem can also be addressed sustainably! I have discovered several intriguing methods for acquiring drinking water from one’s environment. One comes from the The Ranger Digest.com. Simply tying a clear plastic bag tightly around a leafy branch in a sunny area can provide small amounts of drinking water via condensation of the tree’s inner moisture. Stuffing clean leafy branches into a plastic water bottle will also provide the same results, although the yield can be small: only 1/3 cup of drinking water per bottle.

Ground Condensation Set-ups
Another option for drinking water is to tap the moisture of the soil beneath your own feet! Simply dig a hole of any size in decent quality soil. Place a cup in the center of the hole. Cover over the hole with saran wrap or other clear plastic material (make sure it’s recycled!) Weigh down the saran wrap along the edges of the hole with stones. Then, place a small weight–a small stone, or perhaps a bottle cap–into the center of the saran wrap, over the cup. Usually the condensation occurs overnight. So tomorrow, check the cup for water!

I hope these tips are helpful in your efforts to move towards sustainable living. For more information and instruction on transforming your lifestyle into a sustainable one, visit www.sust-enable.com over the next few months for video episodes that will show you how.

  1. David Zetland

    Caroline: sustainability does not mean self-sufficient. One of the first projects of any sustainable group is establishing and maintaining a water supply.

    Keep drinking from the neighbor’s tap ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Caroline Savery

    David: sustainable *does* mean being sufficiently provided for within the limits of the ecosystem. There is nothing unsustainable about the ways I have discussed here.

    If I lived in a community of people attempting to live sustainably, I’m sure your comment would be more relevant. However, that is not the case. I am living as an individual, though I would love for others to join me!

  3. emmer

    this is my first time at this site, so what i am reading may be somewhat out of context.
    i agree with david that sustainable is not the same as self-sufficient. that would be because it is the community, not the individual, that is self-sufficient thru their interactions. if you do everything yourself, you will be isolated and exhausted.
    as an aside, those plastic tubs just can’t be sustainable.
    that said, i am always awed by the vigor, self-sacrifice, and passion that many people have in trying to live out their green convictions.

  4. Brian Cotgrove

    Many yaers ago I saw a device much like a pyramid, made form clear perspex/polycarbonate sheeting. It’s function was to distil extract clean drinking water from either harvested rain water and even brakish river water, possibly contaminated water. It uses the power of the sun to commence the distilation process. I should have taken more trouble in seeing what I was looking at if you get my meaning. Do you have any suggestions about such a device, plans, it would be a boon to the poorer peoples of this world like Africa where they only have dirty water to drink from streams that others use for everything, where cattle drink and defecate etc.

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