Posts Tagged ‘drinking water’

A Cast-Iron Garden Hand-Pump

handpumpAnother nice resilient piece of equipment. Assuming you’ve got some local water storage – hopefully big rainwater tanks – you need to be able to get to the water in case of long power shortages, where mains water is likely to be unavailable and power cannot be spared for electric water pumps.

Here’s what you need, a nice traditional Cast-iron hand pump. It’s only £35 and should last a lifetime. If you’re not planning on getting little kids to do all the pumping for you there is a matching stand available for another £35 which brings it up to a reasonable height.

Another one to add to the shopping list!

Shopping List – latest update

Steadily firming up the shopping list for our new house – here’s the latest list, with links. 


Dining Room

  • Expandable table


  • Instant-heat to stand in front of (Gas?)


  • Wood-fired stove
  • Central Pendant light in diffusing shade – 12v CFL?
  • Two Standard/Reading Lamps – 12v CFL?


  • Kitchen Scraps Compost: Black Soldier Fly Composter / Worm Farm 
  • Firewood store, and at least 12m³ of wood
  • Greenhouse with Aquaponics system

Heating & Hot Water

Power & Light


Rainwater tanks

grafcarat6500lAs promised in my previous post about drinking water, here are my thoughts on our rainwater storage.  In our current home town of Brisbane, Australia, the dams that supply our drinking water recently bottomed out at around 14% capacity. The severe water restrictions that we’ve had for years have meant that even in our inner-city suburb about half the houses have rainwater tanks, as without them you are effectively not allowed to water your garden. These aren’t your British-style 200 litre water-butt either. Hardly any would be less than 3000 litres, most would be 5000 litres, and quite a few have 10,000 litres. We’ve currently got two 3000 litre tanks, plumbed into to an underground weeper hose that runs through all the garden beds, controlled by a programmable timer that runs the two watering circuits on alternate days. This has ensured that we have kept our lush tropical garden alive through a seven year drought.

What it doesn’t do is supply any water to the inside of the house. For a while we did use it for our washing machine (a separate tap that we connected the cold water hose to) but as this required a manual changeover it only happened rarely.

To peak-oil-proof our water supply I want our UK system to be fully plumbed in to the house and able to supply our basic, emergency  requirements, and ideally all our requirements. I’m going to try to do this relatively scientifically – based on the Tank Size Calculator from RainWater Harvesting. Manchester provides a very different scenario to our Brisbane rainfall – there’s 400mm less a year for a start, and it is more evenly spread thoughout the year, minimising the need for a huge tank to cope with peaks and troughs.

With our roof area (about 100m2) and Manchester’s annual rainfall (806mm) we can expect to collect around 64,500 litres/year (at 80% efficiency). That sounds like a huge amount, but when you consider that our current water consumption is around 250 litres a day, we currently use 91,250 litres/year! So to be self sufficient in water with our current roof size we’ll need to reduce our in-home water consumption by around 30% – that looks like the subject of another post!

So what size tank do we need to make sure that we collect as much water as we can, without wasting any? I concocted my own monthly water use chart, based on meeting a target of 170 litres/day (then found out that there’s a very good one in the RanWater Harvesting spreadsheet!).  From looking at this (below) I’ll have a shortfall of 3000 litres in the first year – so in this table I’ve pre-filled the tanks with 3000 litres to ensure that they don’t drop below zero. In reality this “top up” would happen in stages during the year depending on our actual daily consumption to give us the chance to be extra-economical as the levels drop. 

  Rainfall /mm Water Collected /litres Available Litres
Water Used
(170 l/day)
Storage at Start   & End of      Month
Jan 71.5    5,720 184.5     5,270 450  3,000     3,450
Feb 51.8    4,144 148.0     4,760 -616  3,450     2,834
Mar 64    5,120 165.2     5,270 -150  2,834     2,684
Apr 49.1    3,928 130.9     5,100 -1172  2,684     1,512
May 53.8    4,304 138.8     5,270 -966  1,512       546
Jun 66.8    5,344 178.1     5,100 244     546       790
Jul 59.5    4,760 153.5     5,270 -510     790       280
Aug 70.9    5,672 183.0     5,270 402     280       682
Sep 69.9    5,592 147.2     5,100 492     682     1,174
Oct 86    6,880 221.9     5,270    1,610  1,174     2,784
Nov 81.9    6,552 211.4     5,100    1,452  2,784     4,236
Dec 81.4    6,512 210.1     5,270    1,242  4,236     5,478
Year 806.6  64,528 176.8   62,050   2,478    

In this our water storage peaks at around 5,500 litres, so unless we manage to keep at or below our tight 170l/day target for several years there is limited benefit to installing a tank any larger than 6,000 litres

Tank Suppliers


How are you coping with the snow?

Whether you’re out building snowmen or huddling around a radiator, now is a good time to reflect on how prepared you are for these type of events. If you can’t get your car out, then consider how much food you have stored. How long can you stay at home without getting hungry? There are a range of things that we can and should be preparing for. luckily the Government has taken a lot of the hard thinking out of it by preparing the National Risk Register which shows how likely and how severe events can be. They have a great section on the Considerations for Families in a range of emergency situations. Even more interestingly, there are  Community Risk Registers  developed for every area of the UK – use Google to find your closest one. Ours is GM Resilience for Greater Manchester, and I’m hoping that the website isn’t an indication of how prepared Manchester is – half the links don’t work and the latest Community Risk Register is 2006/7!  

Actually I’m wrong – the link says 2006-7 but when you download the register (here) it is from Sept 2008. It has quite a comprehensive list of events, all ranked with their likelihood and severity.  The one that particularly stood out for me looked at fuel shortages, and has a 5% chance of happening within 5 years :

Significant or perceived constraint on the supply of fuel. E.g. industrial action by contract drivers for fuel.

  • Filling stations, depending on their locations, would start to run dry between 24 – 48 hours.
  • Panic buying would exacerbate the situation.
  • Replenishment of sites would take between 3 – 10 days dependant on the location.

They have also rated the chances of  a loss of water for three days (0.5% chance) or for a week (0.5%); loss of power across the whole region for a day (0.5%), or for three days – causing civil unrest! (0.05%)

I think it’s interesting to look at these from a personal preparedness point-of-view, and also to view them with peak-oil-tinted-spectacles. What happens when these things start to become regular, or prolonged occurrences? What happens when they all start to converge and occur at once? If they are planning for Civil Unrest as a result of losing water for three days, what do they think will happen if we all have no fuel, power or water for a week?

Resilience: Coping with the energy crisis at home (2)

This is the second post in my series looking at our personal resilience, and what plans we need to put in place to make sure that we are in a position to help our local community through any deep potholes on our otherwise Gentle Descent. These posts are not designed to provide long-term solutions, rather they’re looking at short, sharp, shocks to the system: the impacts of extreme weather & flooding, rolling blackouts, fuel shortages and the like.

In making your own plans it’s important to consider each end of the spectrum, from extreme heat to extreme cold, and drought to flooding. Remember, nobody seems to be giving a consistent 10-year weather forecast for the UK in a changing climate, other than to say “weather will be more extreme, more variable”. The lessons from recent incidents in the UK and overseas is that if you really want to minimise your impact on local emergency services, and be in a position to help, then you need to be able to look after yourselves for at least ten days. Here are our initial preparations:

Location, Location, Location

Are there any specific risks in the areas where you live, work, and play? Regular major floods? Hurricanes, threat of Earthquakes etc? If there are – and you can – MOVE. Life is tough enough without having to cope with all that extra worry! If you can’t move, then make sure your preparations also include thing to offset those risks – e.g. buy a boat! I won’t be going into too many of these specific risks as we’re going to make pretty sure we’re moving to an area without them. Check out your flood risk at the Environment Agency Flood Maps, and if flooding is a problem they have some great resources on preparing for floods. As a curiosity you can also look at your risk from rising sea levels.

Come up with a Plan (or several)

All the cool gadgets in the world aren’t going to save you if you panic, and don’t know what to do – so make sure you have some sort of plan, and share it with your friends. There is a pretty thorough discussion of this over at DailyKos – it’s a little alarming and serious, but worth a good look.


More than anything else, clean water is our most vulnerable necessity. A small failure in any number of things can result in a failure of the water supply and treatment systems. How will we cope if the taps suddenly stopped delivering clean water? This is exactly what happened to 350,000 people after the 2007 UK floods, and it took 16 days to get the water back on. You need to make sure that your water supply system is able to cope with extreme cold, and potential contamination from low-level floods. If you need to make sure your water is clean, look at this post on providing clean drinking water post-peak-oil, and I’ll have a post shortly on rainwater storage and collection, to make sure you actually have some water to clean up!

More to follow . . .

That’s enough for today, the preparations I’ll look at in the next posts are: Sewage, Food, Medical Supplies, Communications, Clothing, Light, Heat / Cooling
Cooking, Tools, Fuel, Maps, Entertainment, Knowledge & Skills. Just a few more things to think about!

Resilience: Clean drinking water post-Peak-Oil

The number one item on my domestic resilience list is maintaining access to clean, safe, drinking water.

Coming from Brisbane, where the dams that supply our drinking water recently bottomed out at around 14% capacity, I am keenly aware of the importance of available water.  With increasingly unpredictable weather in the UK, and water treatment works subject to flooding and blackouts this is one area I don’t want to take chances on.

I am already planning significant rainwater storage (I’ll detail this in a separate post), but I need to make sure that water will be safe for us to drink. The best way to do this for moderate amounts seems to be a countertop water filter. The best one I’ve found so far seems to be a British Berkefeld (Berkey) Water Filter. It’s gravity fed, so no power is required, and it can produce up to 80 litres a day – easily enough for our drinking needs. Cost – around 90 quid. Even better – it’s made in the UK, so you’re also supporting local manufacturing when you buy one!

%d bloggers like this: