Monday, July 1, 2013

What If We Did Not Have Access to a Municipal Water Supply?

For the third installment of the What If.... Series I will be focusing on access to water. Specifically, what if we did not have access to a municipal water supply?

Even though having access to an adequate supply of clean water is a luxury for many people worldwide, it really isn't seen as an issue in this part of the country. There are many people living without access to a municipal water supply, and doing just fine. In fact, our neighbor only recently hooked up to the water supply. I grew up in a house without municipal water, although my parents were able to get hooked up a few years ago when it was first offered in their area.

Like many households in this region, I grew up in a house supplied with water from a well on the property. When I was a small child, we did have to conserve water, as the well would run dry in the summer if too much was used in one day. My aunt, who lives, literally, across the road from my parents, on the other hand, had a well that provided so much water that they were told they could use as much as they wanted without ever fearing it would run dry. My dad eventually solved the problem with our well by installing a 1,000 gallon tank in the basement, which was filled slowly from the well. This meant that regardless of how much water we used in a single day, the draw from the well was always consistent and at a low enough rate that it never ran dry. Having to install a tank in the basement was certainly better than having to use a filter due to high sulfur content in the water, like my grandmother who lived a few hundred feet down the road had to do.

My point is, that while relying groundwater can certainly be done, there are inconveniences and risks that go along with it. Having access to a municipal water supply takes away many of those risks, although it does introduce new ones, such as the impacts of a burst water main, or contamination that results in a boil water advisory. In fact, we purchased our drinking water for several months after first moving in due to some issues with the water supply, and even today use a filter for any water we are going to drink.

Because I have lived without access to municipal water it is not hard to imagine what life would be like without it. Not only can I easily imagine what it might be like, but we plan to migrate away from the municipal water supply once we build our house. We've already began the transition, when it comes to the garden. I have installed a couple rain barrels, with more planned, which capture water for the garden. When we build a house I would like to capture and store enough rainwater to supply all of our needs. The rainwater catchment system, along with using greywater for the plants should allow us to be disconnected entirely from the municipal water system without issue. With a bit of filtering for our drinking water, I believe I'll feel more confident in the quality of water as well. We've already experienced issues with seedlings not growing as well when watered with municipal water as when watered with rain water, which makes one wonder about the long term health effects to people.

I do anticipate the need to conserve more water when we disconnect from the municipal supply, but that isn't a bad thing. I'm certain that we could use less water than we do today, without it feeling like a major sacrifice. Even though it isn't idea, we will always have the option of buying drinking water if we have to. Even with those minor inconveniences, I envision life without being connected to the municipal water supply to be good.

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