|Our water storage tanks|
Before moving to Hawaii, we never gave our water much thought. You just turn on the faucet, and presto...water! I've lived where water was supplied by the town. It came via an unseen pipe in the ground and had enough pressure to blow you away. I've also lived where we had our own well and pump, where the pressure wasn't as strong but still could run a lawn sprinkler with no hassle. Now I live where we catch rainwater off our house roof for general use and haul drinking water in from the county tap for drinking and cooking. And the water pressure is barely passable. Big differences!
Ok now, why do we have catchment? When we arrived here from the mainland, it wasn't our first choice. What, catchment? No way, we said. Dirty rainwater? No way. Well folks, we eventually changed our tune, but it took while. We live a mile from the nearest county water supply. That would mean running a mile of our own pipe. Digging and building a county approved trench for the pipe would have bankrupted us. Top that off with the fact that the county is not issuing permits for water hook ups for the past several years, it made our choice of looking into catchment water a suitable option.
The only two water options we had were catchment or water delivery. With water delivery, the water is county water, thus safe to drink as long as the homeowner takes care to protect the water. With catchment, the water needs to be treated with a fairly expensive water treatment system that needs to be maintained. Of course, water delivery costs money while catchment water is supplied by Mother Nature.
We had to look at our water usage and determine just how much "safe" water we needed. Turned out that it really wasn't much. That meant that if we went with safe delivered water, almost all of it would be used to flush the toilet, take showers, mop floors, wash clothes, water livestock, etc. Very little would go for drinking and cooking. Add to these facts that the county water tap was only a five minute drive away and that we passed by it normally ten times a week, picking up our drinking water would not be all that much of an inconvenience.
The cost of a catchment water system is mostly upfront-- putting in the holding tank and running the gutters to collect rain. For around $3000 we put in a decent system for household use. No fancy water treatment system at the moment. Maybe in the future, though I doubt it.
Going with catchment water fits nicely into our vision of self-reliancy. Oh, there's maintenance involved, but it isn't costly and we do the work ourselves. Monthly I check the chlorine level, adding chlorine as needed. I also check the pH level and adjust if needed. Rain gutters are hosed out to remove debris and that water is diverted away from the tank. About once a year we siphon water off the bottom of the catchment tank to remove volcanic ash that slowly collects. By keeping the tank well covered we don't have a problem with mosquitos.
What about our drinking water, you say? I have a dozen glass gallon jugs that I store drinking water in. It is kept in the kitchen in a dark closet. It's handy, easy to use. I thought about making an overhead storage tank so that the water could be gravity fed through a dedicated faucet, but I never carried through on the idea. The glass jugs just worked out fine. If they become a nuisense in the future, then maybe I'll come up with a better solution.