Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More about my visit with The Marine, using rain barrels to flush your toilets

I forgot one of the most important reasons for visiting The Marine. He showed me his model for running a toilet on rainwater from a simple rainbarrel.

It is a simple system, using a few moving parts and valves and what not. There is a demand-on water pump with a hammer-reducer thingy downwind to keep the vibration down in the water line. The rainwater line runs to a T where the normal water comes in to the toilet and has simple on/off valves on both lines so you can switch over from rain to drinking water. There is a backflow device on the drinking water line to insure no rainwater goes back into the service as well.

Not that he or I would ever do such a thing, it being so difficult to permit in this city. Nor am I advocating everyone in Portland Oregon doing such a simple and cheap fix to using perfectly good DRINKING WATER to flush your offal to the treatment plant. That would be disruptive, and drop everyone's sewer bills dramatically since the sewer bill is calculated on your winter water usage. That would be... horribly reasonable and economical. Can't have that.

You see, the thing with rainbarrels is you need to find a use for the water in the winter, when it's getting filled up every single day. In the dead of summer, when you want water for your garden or lawn, there isn't rain around here. Back East that would be a different story, but here in the Pacific N.W. the summers are quite dry. So, either you install an enormous cistern to store winter water into the summer, or you use more discrete rain barrels and find ways to utilize the water when it is abundant. Like flushing your toilets. Apparently (hypothetically, of course) one rainbarrel will easily run a toilet for 2-3 people all winter.

I'm excited about the prospect of doing this type of greywater system in my house. Not that I AM mind you, just love the idea. And will be getting the materials probably this summer. And finally relenting to learning some plumbing.

That's the worst part actually, learning some plumbing. I've prided myself on my lack of plumbing knowledge. It's something I was planning to pay for for the rest of my life. I have worked on almost every other aspect of a house, from framing to finish to electrical to roofing, and have learned that once you know something, you are expected to DO that thing. I don't want to do plumbing, so I've avoided knowing it. But for this project, I'm willing to learn.

That is, so I can produce a prototype and mount it on a board or something to show other people how it COULD be done. I of course would never ACTUALLY do it -- with the prohibitive greywater laws and all. *cough*

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