Saturday, May 3, 2014

Drinking Water

Safe drinking water is not a given in many homes in Hawaii, at least on Big Island. County water infrastructure doesn't reach many housing areas, so residents are on their own. People without county water, or those whose water tap/meter is not on their property, either haul water in or catch rainwater...or both. 

We don't have county water on either of our farms. On the homestead we have three catchment tanks set up to harvest rainwater. If I could get approval for a water meter, it would be installed 0.9 miles from my house. It would be my obligation to run water lines from that meter. Projected cost-- $9,000 to $10,000, perhaps more. And that's if I do the landscaping along the roadside afterwards myself rather than paying someone to do it for me. Yes, I'd have to level the ground, add topsoil cap, and grass seed/fertilizer. 

On the seed farm, we have nothing at the moment. I haul water in. Eventually we will install a catchment tank there for storage of water that we catch, haul in, or buy from a neighbor by sharing a pre-existing line. Running our own water line doesn't seem to be an option since at the moment the county isn't allowing anymore meters in the area. Yes, the government can deny the residents access to the water system here. But running a water line would cost $8000 or more, if we could get permission.

Thus many people are on catchment, and since they are not financially well off, they do not have UV systems for sanitizing the water. The best they can do is add bleach to their tanks and run the water through a filter to eliminate the coarse particles. Some people use that water, others opt to find safer water to use. A local church provides a safe water station for people without street legal cars (cannot haul water from water stations). Happily that community recently got its own water well, making safe water more easily available to its residents.

Using catchment water is fine with us. But we don't have a system that makes the water safe for drinking. Although the bleach we use may be adequate, I'm not certain. That's the case for many people. So the county has water taps where residents can pick up safe water. 
This is the option we choose. This one station pictured above with two taps used to be the sole service for my area, meaning there were often long waits for your turn at a tap. About a year ago the county finally addressed the problem, which people had been complaining about for years. A new water station with five taps was installed at another location, meaning often no waiting lines. By the way, this water is the best tasting water, in my opinion. Really good and worth the effort. 

I happen to pass the water taps five days a week. So I pick up a couple gallons if I pass by and see the station unoccupied. I use plastic milk jugs to get the water to bring home (safer than chancing breaking a glass bottle, which I've manage to do in the past). But at home I transfer it into glass gallon jugs for storage. 
My concern is that chemicals may leach out of the plastic into the water, since the jugs are being reused over and over again. I just feel better storing water in glass. 
For easy use of the water at home, I have a water cooler in the kitchen and a smaller one in the bathroom. Yes, they are plastic, dang! I have my eye out for something glass that I can convert to a water fountain. But until then, I don't put much water into the cooler at a filling so that it doesn't stand there for long periods of time. But using a cooler is safer than pouring water from the glass jugs because we both have "slippery" fingers. We've dropped too many jugs! 

The gallon glass jugs are stored mostly in my kitchen. A keep 4-5 under a shelf for easy access. The rest are stored in the dark. Plus under the house, wrapped in black trash bags, are dozens more glass jugs of "emergency water'. That water has had a bit extra bleach added to it before the jugs were sealed shut. Hopefully I'll never need that water, but you never know. 


  1. I think you might find some BPA-free durable water storage containers online, but the price and shipping could be a barrier. We had metered water to our Maui home, but there were three separate water bills, for pumping, etc. Very spendy stuff, but no open tap areas nearby there. Now we have well water of decent quality, but it goes through an ultraviolet unit, with a pair of expensive UV lamps that have to be replaced after a year or a bit longer. I'm saving up for a possible secondary system (complicated and expensive approval process), but I think a Big Berkey filter might be an option. And yes, we store several gallons of water as well. Last back-up system is a couple of Lifestraws!

    1. The UV lamp is an issue for us because we are only a small solar electric system. The UV lamp, I have been told, should be left on 24 hours a day. That's the issue for us. So rather than go that route, I just pick up drinking water because it is so easy for me to do.

  2. It sad to think some people don’t have access to drinkable water, or have a UV systems for sanitizing some in their homes. But it’s a good thing that most households are still able to get some through water stations. Anyway, it seems that you have other means of getting water for utility and such, although it might be best to get your drinking water from the watering station, just to be safe. That being said, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter.

    Verna Griffin @ AXEON Water Technologies