Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Potable Water Emergency!

Recently Central Texas experienced a 50-year rain event, but because the previous weeks were also unusually rainy the ground was already saturated which resulted in a 100-year flood event. (Bad times for a lot of people but tough to feel too sorry for those that chose to build or purchase million dollar places perched right on the shores of Lake Travis only feet above minor flood stage. . .)

The silt in the flood waters has overwhelmed Austin's water-treatment system, which draws from Lake Travis, the lowest reservoir lake in a chain of lakes along the Colorado River, and the entire city was put on a boil-notice at 0300 Monday morning.

We are perched high above any threat of flood and are way beyond the water system of anybody, let alone Austin, but watching people (on the news) struggling with boiling water or tracking down almost non-existent supplies of bottled water,  potentially for another week to come (the remnants of Hurricane Willa are hitting the area today. If the worst of the rain is to the east of I-35 no big deal, if west of I-35 then additional flooding, and silt, is expected) simply reinforces my belief that every household should have, among a few other "preparedness tools", a gravity feed water purifier on hand. (can't always count on electricity in bad times)

Not a water filter like under your sink which is useless against pathogens, but a full-blown water purifier.

I had to stand way back and use the zoom to avoid getting a
clear reflection of myself in this photo of our stainless steel Berkey purifier.

In our case it's a modest-sized Berkey with two of the black purification elements in it. 

Pour questionable water in the top and draw purified water out of the bottom. Yep, that's all. No pots, no hot burners, no timers, no cooling down, no decanting into containers, just purified water with the flick of a thumb-lever.

Our setup is not fancy, the unit sits out in the barn on a handy shelf near the refrigerator, but it is simple and functional and I use it for all of my drinking water. (The Wife is a little more selective than I am and insists on "real" bottled water if available.) And since water is all I drink, during the summer that can easily run to a couple gallons a day.

It takes several hours, sometimes as many as 12 if I haven't cleaned the filters for a while (in this case a while is usually the better part of a year)  for a gallon of water to work down through the purifiers so I keep an eye on the sight-glass and as soon as it gets down to where the lower tank can take an additional gallon, I dump a jug into the top tank. 

In my case I'm using rainwater collected, rather crudely, in a bucket tucked under a drippy corner of one of our buildings. (I thought it was rather high-tech when The Wife suggested that I set a splatter-guard over the top of the bucket to filter
out the worst of the leaves and stuff!)

I know I could do better, but that would take money and time and this works so why waste resources?!

The bucket is dumped into a 35 gallon tank The Wife used to tow behind the lawn-mower as mobile watering-can back when we had a house on an acre of land in town. (sold the house, kept the tank)

From there I decant water into heavy-duty one-gallon jugs (One gallon is light enough for even this old man to lift up and pour into the Berkey) through a course cloth filter to catch the worst of any algae that might be growing in the tank. The jugs are stored in a dark box until needed which cuts down on any re-growth of algae which can really slow the purification process down.

Once a year or so, when the purification process has slowed to the point of being painful, I remove the black elements from the tank and give them a light scrubbing with a clean green ScotchBright.

The elements aren't cheap but they are rated for up to 3000 gallons each so, in my case, will last for over a decade at an average of one gallon per day. I have about 5 years on them at this point, years during which I have been drinking this water without a single incident of gastro-distress.


  1. What a neat device. You are taking recycling water to the fullest. Good for you.

    1. Relief organizations use Berkeys when going into places with no, or less than optimal, potable water availability, dipping water from wherever they can get it and running it through the purifiers, so I figure it's good enough for me too.

      If I had my druthers I'd be using collected rainwater and a solar-powered pump for all our water needs, but The Wife is having none of that nonsense. . .