Film series: introduction and water security

Sun, Aug 28, 2011


In an earlier series of posts, I identified the four primary attributes necessary to thriving during the post-carbon era (or, for that matter, today): water security, food security, body temperature, and human community. The series was introduced with an essay filled with assumptions and caveats and followed with an essay about individual options and, much later, an image-filled essay detailing the structures here at the mud hut.

I’m adding to the previous essays with a series of video clips. The usual caveats apply, primarily including the one about relevance to a specific region. The first two video clips, posted below, provide (1) a brief introduction and (2) an overview of how we secure water at the mud hut.

Word-light essays with embedded video clips will be posted every couple days until we cover the essential elements. We will return to our usual programming in a couple weeks.

Acknowledgments: Karen Sliwa performed real work on the property while Mike Sliwa shot and edited these videos. You can follow the work of Mike and Karen here.


This post is combined with the following one and permalinked at Energy Bulletin.

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18 Responses to “Film series: introduction and water security”

  1. AE Says:

    Just a note: I worked with the polyline for several years in the Moab desert and saw the plastic lines deteriorate surprisingly fast. They break down if left in the sun. We solved this by just burying them six or so inches below the surface and ran smaller gauge tubing off the mainline with an emitter to each tree. Your mileage may vary.

  2. Juan Wilson Says:

    I am setting up a similar water gathering system in Hanapepe Valley, on Kauai, Hawaii. I would trust gathering water off a corrugated roof but not a tar backed shingle roof. Isn’t there some hydro-carbon chemical leaching?

    We do not have the pipe freezing problems you might have but winter wetness can corrode and damage the equipment in your shed to pressurize water.

    We are installing a solar pump and hand pump in the same well as you are already doing. Our plan is to buy three 300 gallon plastic garden ponds from Home depot and cascade water from one to another from our well with final overflow trickling to our small taro field. We hope to grow talapia in this system.

    Our roof water will be stored in a 500 gallon cistern. It will be used for cleaning and possible used a potable water if we can find a way to make it safe.

    There is reverse-osmosis, micro-filter pumps, condensation collection and other approaches.

    What would you advise to turn stored rainwater potable that will last through a transition period (and beyond?).

    Keep up your good work.

    Ea O Ka Aina.
    The spirit of the land.

  3. Privileged Says:

    These look great!

  4. Eric Gooch Says:

    Great videos, thanks! What are the winter temps where you live?

  5. Guy McPherson Says:

    AE, thanks for your insight. I’ll be burying the lines soon, thanks to your comment.

    Juan Wilson, it’s relatively easy to pasteurize water, thereby making it safe for human consumption. Just put the water into a clear glass jar on a dark surface for an hour or two.

    Privileged, they look great because of considerable work behind the scenes.

    Eric Gooch, winter temperatures routinely fall below 0 F here, with at least a month of sub-freezing weather.

  6. The REAL Dr. House Says:

    Excellent videos! Would love to see this in person, but this is the next best thing. Thanks for sharing!

  7. DJD Says:

    Thank you Guy. First time comment here but have been reading the posts (and comments) for about a year. The irrigation system I am building consists of 6- 55 gal poly barrels, tied in to each other behind my garage. Luckily, they are about 3 ft above the back yard, where next spring the garden will be. All gravity fed and SIMPLE. Did not consider the sediment trap which is much simpler than the sieve type setup I have planned. Have been thinking alot about retaining the water available to us and how I could filter it for consumption. Wisconsin winters are not very forgiving…Melted snow through a slow sand filter? Hmm… Complete reliance on the city well has me a bit on edge these days. Looking forward to this series of vids!

  8. the virgin terry Says:

    ditto dr. house. excellent production.

  9. Kathy Says:

    Good vid Guy – easy to follow and very informative. These types of set up should give folks extra time, but of course if civilization totally collapses at some point replacement parts will not be available. Still having some remnant of technology may help to ease the return to even simpler ways of living.

    Question, Guy – is any of your solar setup vulnerable to solar storms or EMP attacks. Our replacement fencer (replacing the fencer that got fried a few months ago) got hit by a recent lightening strike. We had totally disconnected it from the fence and had used a cut of switch to disconnect it from the power source. At least this time it was just the fuse not the whole fencer. Not sure if something came through the electric line anyway or it jumped from the wires that connect to the fence which I left a couple inches from the fencer or if the lightening just hit the fencer itself.

    Our neighbor has a solar water pump that can run on regular electricity or solar. He just lost it. My understanding was that it got fried when our fencer did. My husband thought it had something to do with sediment. So I am checking. If lightening can fry a solar powered pump that is of concern. I will let you know what I find out.

    Our storms seem to be getting more intense in regards to lightening. The one last year that got the fencer didn’t even give us any rain. Meanwhile we remain in moderate drought and need 8 inches to pull us out of drought. But no rain forecast for a week and then only 30% chance.

  10. pamela Says:

    hey Guy, Lookin’ gooood! Great videos!
    I’m on my laptop and am having trouble hearing you though. I’ll have to go watch again on the desktop so I can turn the sound up.
    I see you have a little earth oven! I built one one year and just loved it!
    keep up the good work Guy.


  11. Guy McPherson Says:

    Kathy, you’re exactly correct: we’re transitioning off fossil fuels. Our goal is to make the transition smoothly and gradually, rather than abruptly and without warning (as will occur with most people in the U.S.). The inability to obtain replacement parts is compounded by the fact that the storage associated with wind and solar power will become worthless within a decade or so. And, as nearly as I can determine, no electrical systems are protected from sufficiently strong electromagnetic pulses … a solar storm or EMP attack brings down our PV solar systems, including the solar pumps. I’d still rather mitigate than not, though.

  12. Jb Says:

    Fantastic although I’m really jealous. Rather than you coming to us, we get to see your place. I saw more than a few cords of wood in the background. I hope that will be part of the ‘heating and cooking’ video. Thanks Guy!

  13. Frank Mezek Says:


    When did you first realize that you were a sex symbol ??

    Double D

  14. Kathy Says:

    Guy, yep transitioning is both wise and in fact the only thing we can do at this point. It is good for one to know the limits of your transition though so you can at least be mentally prepared for the need for further transitioning when your current technology runs out of parts.

    My neighbor had a Grundfros solar water pump
    He is pretty sure it was the lightening strike that got it.

    Good that you have a hand pump and water catchment system to back up the solar system.

  15. Kathy Says:

    For those who have drilled wells with conventional pumps in them and don’t have the money to put into a hand pump or solar pump perhaps $45 will give you at least drinking water – I bought one of these some time back. Haven’t tried it but it should work.
    The Living Water Well Bucket offers a simple, effective and economical way to get water out of your drilled well. Well buckets are one of the least expensive backups for your water system, providing you a ready source of water during power outages or pump failures. These well buckets are made of sturdy PVC with all stainless steel hardwear, so you never have to worry about any part rusting or corroding. Simply attach a rope to the eye hook at the top of the well bucket, and lower it into your well. The valve at the bottom of the bucket automatically opens, and the bucket is filled with water. Raise the bucket to the surface, place it in a 5 gal. bucket or other water container, and the valve will open and release the water. Fits any 5 inch or larger drilled well. Holds about 1 1/4 gals

    not sure if it is trademarked. I don’t see any indication that it is. It would probably cost quite a bit less to make it yourself – anyone wants a picture of the “valve” at the bottom send Guy an e-mail and I will send it to him to forward on.

  16. Ed Says:

    Smoothly and gradually, but at some point all of us know you have to ramp it up. What’s the sign, that you have 12 months to get all the saw blades or lids for your ball jars, or if you have extra money, some more PVs and batteries?

    Guy the life cycle of batteries is worrisome. We live in a cold climate and I keep trying to find the time to get my head around something like this:

    The water stores the energy, not a battery. There was this obscure article about a system like this on motherearth, but I could never find any follow up.

    Neighbour farmer hit me yesterday with the following. One of his commercial farming publications is saying that the price of food is going to double within the next 12 months. Big buyers like Wegmans in our area are already trying to lock farmers in to 2 year contracts instead of the standard 1. The magazine is just looking at this from a very micro perspective. How does this work with the 46 million on food stamps, SS recipients, and a family of 4 already paying 800 dollars per month for food.

    Lastly we strung some of our shade cloth under one of our white oaks over the weekend. The storm knocked some off. Sampled one raw, and it wasn’t that bad. Acorns can have a future in our food mix, I believe. You get a big acorn, and it’s pretty much all meat. So far we have found people that use instead of peanut butter, coffee, and in pesto.

  17. Kathy Says:

    Katrina in Vermont – James Howard Kunstler
    Full article at well worth the read. The Collapse of the complex global society is beginning.

    The same creeping nausea that followed the CNN ‘all clear’ sign in New Orleans six years ago happened again yesterday. Anderson Cooper seemed a little peeved that the lights didn’t go out in Manhattan, but then the remnants of Hurricane Irene stomped up the Hudson Valley and stalled a while and commenced to rip apart the Catskills, the eastern Adirondacks, the Mohawk and upper Hudson valleys, and then almost all of Vermont, not to mention New Hampshire and western Massachusetts, and I can’t even tell you much about whatever’s going on in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland this morning. Connecticut, Long Island, and Rhode Island are in there somewhere, and surely there’s more than a few things out of place in North Carolina.
    This is nowhere near Katrina’s death toll of over 1800 souls, but the damage to scores of towns, businesses, houses, and basic civic armature is going to be very impressive as the news filters in later this week and the disaster is still very much ongoing Monday, even with the sun shining bright. Towns all over Vermont and New Hampshire are still drowning. The Hudson River is still on the rise. The Mohawk River is at a 500-year flood stage and is about to wipe the old city center of Schenectady, New York, off the map. Bridges, dams, and roads are gone over a region at least as big as the Gulf Coast splatter-trail of Katrina.

  18. Wayne Tyson Says:

    Guy’s Bunch and pals:

    Looks like y’all are doing quite well; sorry I missed the chance to check up on you when last we zipped through Tucson–gawd, how the campus has changed! I got a raging attack of claustrourbanophobia, and got outa town.

    With respect to water, I must have missed the consumption/loss/efficiency/unit biomass/area figures. What’s the PET or ET? I’ve got some ideas about how to increase water-use efficiency.

    For what the’re worth, a couple comments on this. Shortly before I retired, I put in a huge amount of effort designing a passive urban flood/debris/contamination reduction runoff capture and subsurface storage treatment “facility” and sub-irrigation system for a watershed that drains from Mexico into the US, but got aced out by a well-heeled engineering outfit who wanted to construct detention basins, leaving the Mexican high and dry (and just as rapidly eroding). This was a very large-scale project, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be scaled down. In fact, it should be scaled down for demonstration/research purposes to fine-tune the design.

    With respect to aggression as a post-apocalypse survival strategy, I quite agree with you that hiding from the crazed hordes is the best option. Well, let’s say they find you anyway and take your stuff. As you say, “What then?” That goes for both the predator-types and the hiders. Everybody’s best option is to cooperate–they’re big, tough, and strong, but they don’t know shit about surviving long-term under extreme conditions. You’re too valuable to kill, because you’ve got the brains to survive that they lack. They’ve got very short-term survival “s-kills” and wouldn’t last long once they wiped out your stores. Then how many losses are they willing to take when the next jolly band comes a-shootin’ up the road? Where’re they gonna get the smokeless powder for all that hardware?

    Finally, I would like to see your efforts taken a step or two farther, like a system that has absolute zero dependence upon The System.

    I’m looking forward to more ideas.