Water Works- Part 4, by JSP

Other Projects, A Future Project, and “War Game” Potential Problems

In this final section addressing survival related water systems, I will outline a few projects we have completed, talk about a future project, and “war game” potential problems that could arise.

Our personal outlook is that, when things crash, people who are previously identified will be coming to our place of retreat, and we also have to be open to the fact that the Holy Spirit may direct people to us who we don’t currently know. Our main residence has a standard septic tank and drain field, two bathrooms, and one shower. With a capacity of only 500 gallons, our main house septic tank system could become overwhelmed in short order when used by a crowd. If you are on a septic tank, do not overlook having it pumped regularly. Depending on the size and use, pumping every four to five years is common advice. I would argue that for people with outlooks like ours, if you can afford it, have it pumped more often. I know of a family who “forgot” to have their septic tank pumped and are not sure but think it may have been eight or ten years since the last time it was pumped. Wouldn’t you know it, the day before this last Thanksgiving, with company in town and a house full of people expected for a “turkey day” feast, both of their bathtubs backed up with raw sewage!

Consequently, the following three projects were designed to a) reduce pressure on the main house septic system, b) allow for more people to access sanitation appliances,such as flush toilets, sinks, and showers, and c) have fun building and problem solving. Prepping is our hobby!

The Outdoor Bathroom

In the summer time, at your local big box hardware store, they sell eight-foot sections of pre-built cedar fencing with some fancy lattice work on the top. Using some of these panels, I created an outdoor bathroom attached to the back (south facing) side of our house. It has a “toilet” stall that is a urinal only (male and female), a shower stall, and a double basin sink. This facility has no roof and is open air, so it’s a three season facility at best. The shower is an EZ Tankless model 101. The “drain” goes into a rudimentary four-inch perforated drainage tile set in gravel that ultimately daylights into a creek bottom 100 yards away. On a nice day, it’s a great place to take a shower with a view that is 100 miles or more.

The Outdoor Kitchen

The main home has a 12’x36′ screened-in back patio. In winter time, the bottom portion is closed in with T-111 type siding, and the top with clear view panels. https://www.farmtek.com/farm/supplies/prod1;ft_canopies_tents-ft_weathershield_commercial_canopies;pg105670.html Two-thirds of this space (12’x24′) is an outdoor kitchen, which can be used for canning, bulk food handling, and game or livestock that has been harvested. I won’t go into all the details of this facility, but I want to focus on the water aspect of it. Bear in mind that canning and processing butchered things, such as chickens, takes a lot of water.

The two water systems in this space are a sink and a wood cook stove with a Range Boiler. The sink is a commercial, three-basin, deep well, stainless steel model. We built a wood base for it that has storage and is on wheels. Attached to the side of the unit is an EZ Tankless model 202 on demand water heater. Remember that unit is fired on batteries so there is no electricity to these systems. The drain water for this sink goes out the wall and can be captured in a 5-gallon bucket or allowed to spill out on the ground to water the lawn. The point is that even if you run a lot of water through it, you’re not taxing your drain field. Furthermore, you should avoid putting bleach and harsh chemicals down a drain that makes it way into the septic tank, as that will kill the natural bacteria that breaks down solids. So this is an ideal sink to use when bleaching things for sanitation, et cetera.

Near the sink is the Ashland Delux wood stove, and between the stove and sink is the 40-gallon Range Boiler. I plumbed this Range Boiler to function as either a “closed loop” or “open loop system”. Closed loop means it is only supplied with water and only delivers water to the patio sink. Open loop means is works just like the other stove/boiler and delivers hot water to the cold water inlet of the main home water heater.

We live in a location within the Inland Northwest that gets pretty cold in winter and pretty hot in summer. “Back in the day”, when people only cooked with wood and if you just had an indoor wood cook stove, things could get brutally hot inside the house in summer with no air conditioning. So, if money allowed it, you had a second “summer stove” on a screened-in patio near the kitchen. Or some people who couldn’t afford two stoves would move their stove onto the patio for summer and back inside for winter. That is what the Ashland stove is for, summer use.

Even though this space is closed-in for winter, it still freezes. The first winter I had this set up, I shut off the water and frankly did a pretty poor job of draining things, as I thought it wouldn’t freeze that hard. That cost me a brand new EZ Tankless heater and potential injury. We were having a Christmas (not holiday!) get together at our place and wanted to use the patio for a buffet line. So, I fired up the Ashland stove to heat the space, not realizing that the pipes connecting the stove with the Range Boiler had frozen water in them. I had used copper pipe, not the galvanized I spoke of earlier, and in no time enough pressure had built up in the pipes that it caused an explosion, and I mean “explosion” in every sense of the word. It shredded the pipe, and the patio filled completely full of steam.

The lessons learned were to use stronger pipe and, when implementing systems like this in a location that could freeze, everything needs to be fully and completely drained. In addition to opening drain valves in low locations, you need to open valves up higher to let air in to facilitate draining water in the lines.

The Outhouse

We were hosting a wedding last summer and instead of simply renting “port a potties” like anyone else would have, I decided to build an “outhouse”. So, I got to talking and planning about “how” and “where” with a friend, and one thing led to another and the project got pretty big. This is a stand alone “pole building” that is 8’x12′ and has a flush toilet, enclosed shower, and sink.

There is no electricity to this building by choice, so it’s not heated. However, it’s super insulated, so a small kerosene heater can make it toasty quickly, and we light it with battery-operated LED camping type lamps. The water supply system is unique, having learned my lessons about freezing and knowing that much of the winter it would not be heated. For the water source, I plumbed a frost-free hydrant inside the building, and everything is connected to that. The shower is run with another EZ Tankless 202 unit. (There is no hot water to the sink.) Everything has easy to access drains to avoid freezing. When everything is drained and shut down, you can still use the flush toilet, as all you do is open the frost-free hydrant to fill a 2-gallon bucket, pour that water in the toilet, and now you can flush.

This bathroom has its own dedicated 1500-gallon septic tank and drain field, so it shouldn’t need to be pumped in my lifetime. Finally, we plumbed it with some exterior valves that allow the shower and sink “gray water” to be diverted from the septic tank down to an orchard for irrigation.

No, we didn’t expect this project to become so elaborate or expensive; it just took on a life of its own. However, now it is a very useful tool to accommodate guests and reduce the pressure on the house systems.

Shallow Well

One project we have tried and not succeeded at is a shallow well. There are videos online showing how to auger these out and build them. We have all the parts and materials on hand but have tried digging three times in the most logical location for our property. Each time we have hit water at about eight feet (in summer) and hit serious rock at about nine feet.

Surface Water/Pond

What about surface water? We got a bid from an excavator to do the digging to build a good-sized pond. He estimated it would have held about a million gallons, and he wanted $10,000 to do the excavating. He had a good vision for the project and his work was probably worth that much, but when I priced everything out it seemed like it would have run $25,000 to $30,000 for that total project, which was more than we wanted to spend. It would have been nice, but you can’t just drink that water, like you can the water from a well.t

Anticipated Reader Questions

Lastly, I thought I would pose and answer some questions readers might have.

  • What happens if your generator dies? My neighbor (part of the group) has one just like it. Otherwise, we go to the slow pump and rain water collection options.
  • What if you run out of gas? Where we live, everyone has stored fuel on hand. I have a 300-gallon tank, and so does my neighbor. We use ours but never let it get below half full. We get premium unleaded delivered for about $2 per gallon. If you take the fuel consumption of the generator and the GPM output of the well and do the math, for every 100 gallons of fuel we get 138,000 gallons of water.
  • What if your solar systems get fried by an EMP or CME? We have back ups. Four 280 watt panels, an Outback Charge Controller, combiner box, and an Xantrax inverter are all in a Faraday cage.
  • What flaws do you see in your systems? The pump house has no electricity by design, but we need to run some kind of heat to keep it from freezing, possibly a heat lamp grid up and maybe kerosene draft lamp grid down. If that freezes, we would have a problem.
  • What if your main well pump is toast? We do have a 24-volt SHURflo pump on hand (also in Faraday cage) that was purchased for the shallow well; it has a 300-foot lift ability at 2GPM that we could conceivably put down the main well, if it came to that.
  • Are there any drawbacks to heating water with wood? There are only the same drawbacks of heating with wood in that the exhaust smoke could be an OPSEC problem. You are basically telling the watching world that you are alive, safe, and warm at a time you may not want to do so. Therefore, having propane or kerosene options might be wise.

I hope this information has been helpful to the SurvivalBlog community and that it spurs you on to taking your water preps to the next level.

In closing I would like to share one of my favorite quotes:

“You can ignore reality, but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” – Ayn Rand