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On water

October 17, 2007


My own version of the Pompidou Centre; the plumbers were pretty happy when I told them how much I loved their fine conduit/pipe work and that it reminded me of that (in)famous building in Paris. The galvanized water tank is an Australian icon and here we have tanks that can hold 4000 litres of rainwater under our front stairs.

It rained for the first time in ages last week and Charles called me outside, to listen to the last drops of water echo as they dripped into the tanks. A plinky splash, letting us know that some water had been ‘harvested’ but that the tanks still had room for filling.

I’ve been thinking alot about water lately, especially as I’ve started to water the vegetables again.  How to use and re-use it wisely…..lots of low cost, low tech ideas for dealing with grey water and water efficiency are spinning around in my head. Must implement. The drought has certainly been a motivator, as has the 90% reduction project but also starting to read Maude Barlow’s book Blue Gold; which deals with global water inequality, the stupidity (my value judgment) of how the developed world uses water resources and the global privatisation of water resources. Think of the desalination plant in Sydney – it may not ever be used but for 20 years the consortium building it, will be paid an annual fee of at least several million dollars regardless!!

Check out this site for more info about Maude Barlow and global water issues –


5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2007 8:45 am

    I LOVED my tanks at The Treehouse. 44,000 litres of watery gold. I used to listen to the water drip into the tanks too, and nothing made me happier than to see water coming out of the overflow (although I wanted to catch that as well).

    Nothing made me sadder, nor more aware of how precious the water is, than the summer where it didn’t rain, and the tanks dropped to about 12k litres. Still plenty, but sobering nonetheless.

    Not only that, but the water tasted fantastic – all we got up there was the rains from the west, untainted by any city crap. The worst we had to contend with was the odd red dust storm condensing down into the rain…

  2. October 22, 2007 2:20 am

    Oh I love the water tanks. Love them! I just wish it would rain. Hot. Dry. Brittle. Cicada chorus pulsing like a migraine. No sign of relief.

  3. October 23, 2007 5:44 pm

    I keep thinking about your water tanks, Nada. Here, lots of old farms have underground concrete cisterns that would take water from the house or barn gutters and store it underground. It’d be used in emergency if your well went out, or it could also be used for the farm animals.

    Our house doesn’t have one, though. We do have a couple high gutters (they stop about waist height) off one of the outbuildings and it took me a while to realize they used to drain into barrels. So it’s on my list, putting in a couple rain barrels for the gardens.

    We don’t have water shortages in rainy Michigan, though, especially since we’re a mile from a huge freshwater great lake. That doesn’t get us off the hook, though! I understand how hard it is to have a separate graywater piping system in your house (and I have done some for clients) but every time I think that the same drinking water I use out of a sink is also going into the toilets and the showers and the washer, well, it makes me a little crazy.

    When our well went out last month, though, I thought alot about Australia and the American southeast, and your extensive droughts. I think it’s actually sinking in, at least in some circles, that water is a huge political issue. At least your country is willing to give you guys some money to put in your beautiful tanks. Cheers.

  4. October 24, 2007 10:55 am


    As I type, it is raining and filling our tanks. When they are full, I’m going to wash my hair with that rainwater; my concession to vanity! I think the garden can spare a little for me.

    I find the flushing toilet perhaps the most ludicrous of modern ‘conveniences’. I know sanitation is essential but you only have to look at the different ways human waste was treated in Ancient Rome; flush away and then import clean water versus Old Tokyo (Edo) – where they composted their human waste and didn’t pollute their water supply. How little we learn!

    It’s interesting that your wells are ground water sourced. Does that mean your water is very hard? In Australia, water from bore holes often is very hard and sometimes salty. Also,does it rain enough to replenish the aquifers?

    But back to the rainwater; the garden thrives on rainwater in a way that no municipal supply can replicate.

  5. October 24, 2007 12:30 pm

    Hi Nada

    Yeah our water is pretty hard; little bits of iron in it. The aquifer is really just the shores of Lake Michigan: it goes under ground, too. Our well was 80′ deep, which is about right (eighty feet above the level of the lake). Luckily, no salt. We do have a water softener for the “used” water (toilets, showers, washer) that uses salt to get the iron bits out. We have another line that gets filtered (before softening) for drinking. I think it tastes pretty good!

    But when I was in NYC last week, the new trend is for your restaurant server to ask what kind of water you’d like: bottled, fizzy or tap. The municipal water in New York is fabulous, and people are actually coming around to the idea of drinking it (!!).

    Washing your hair in rainwater is the best. Then I start worrying about heavy metals in the rain (acid rain) from all the coal-fired power plants to the west of us: we can’t eat the fish in the rivers or lakes, so why would I use the rainwater? But yes, the plants love it so much more than the water from the hose from our well.

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