“Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1834
We are currently (as of this writing – August 2017) scouting for small and medium scale plots of land to support anarchist (Heathian) communities – and our intention is to focus on those that contain their own natural sources of water (spring and aquifer).
Some larger parcel sizes – 50 acres or greater – might have spring fed ponds or even streams. When it comes to natural streams or other flowing water over your potential property purchase, you MUST research local laws/regulations governing this. As anarchists, we reject government intrusion, but as practical survivors we should do what we can to avoid situations of conflict with government agencies. Since much of the water in most regions is regulated in some way, it is important to look at these regulations.
When looking for properties, it is ideal to find locations with natural off-the-grid sources of water. Rural communities near the Appalachian Mountains (like those we’re looking at in Ohio) often have ample supply of spring/aquifer based water.
You will need to test these water sources, determine if there is contamination. You will want to track consumption within your community, voluntarily, not to keep track of “family use”, but rather to forecast and manage draw-down and to understand replenishment. Water from springs and aquifers are not coming from “magical places” – they are water sources that collect from hydrological cycles. These various cycles impact the amount of water available and the composition, minerals and toxins, of the water.
Rain Water Collection
Some regions are experiencing “political” (meaning: government) issues around the topic of rain water. It is hard to say what happens with this issue – many localities allow property owners to collect rain water. If you are researching a location for your community, you should look at this as well.
In the most basic scenario, rain water collection can involve “rain barrels”:
These rain barrels are typically arrayed to collect the run-off, from the roofs of various dwellings. Instead of using barrels, a community might simply direct the rain water towards shared cisterns or storage ponds. As with all water, you need to be aware of the possible contaminants, either from the atmosphere (acidity levels or other particulates in the water) or from the way the water is directed towards storage.
Streams, rivers, agricultural run-off ditches – these are sources of intermittent, sometimes constant, sources of water. These sources of water can be convenient and dangerous – if there is running water on your property, this also implies there can be, under certain conditions, flooding on your property.
With any source of running water, flood prevention and mitigation should be concerns.
Water Filtration, Desalinization and Health
No matter your source of off-the-grid (or on-the-grid) water, you should test for toxins and determine if the natural source (or grid source) is potable (consumable). It’s possible that your main source of water contains contaminants that are easy to remove – with reverse osmosis or other kinds of water purification. It is also possible that the region you are looking at makes solar distillation an option as well.
Water collected by rain barrels can easily be used for non-consumption (potable) scenarios.
Water collected from aquifers, springs, ponds, streams, must be tested to determine if there is ANY non-filtered use. Using water from an aquifer that contains heavy metal or other contaminants can do harm to farm land (assume the community in question is an organic farming co-op), and can, in a more insidious way, lead to the production of crops/livestock that have built up levels of toxins. Don’t assume because the source of the water is “natural” that it is clean.
Also – don’t assume because the on-the-grid source has a “government agency” monitoring it, that this water is clean as well. There are many stories of crumbling infrastructure, fraud, abuse, and corruption within local/state/federal agencies these days. Whether you’re an anarchist by temperament or not, PLEASE do not make the assumption that because “the government is involved” that the water is safe. The opposite might be true, was probably ALWAYS true – that the government is not a proper steward of any resource, let alone water.
Finally – turning salt water into fresh water. On one level, this is a simple process – evaporation and distillation. Problem with evaporation/distillation is that you need to set aside a fair amount of property, perhaps many acres to support a small community. The other issue is whether you are doing passive-distillation via architectures, or intensive energy-distillation using power/tech. It is possible to build large-scale distillation into a building design, utilizing lower tech (but more space intensive) methods.
(a home-made solar-thermal water distillation table, shown below)
Utilizing solar energy, vaporizing tables or pools, and distillation piping/collection, families and small communities can do a LOT on their own to produce distilled/clean water. Solar energy does not imply “high tech” – ancient people used passive-solar or design-solar (how they build and arranged their living spaces) to take advantage of the sun in heating during the winter and to avoid its impacts in the summer.
Cisterns and Storage
Ponds, barrels, cisterns, can all be used for storing excess run-off and water. The type of storage you use for bulk-water-storage will depend upon the lay of the land, and the quality/amount of water. It can be advantageous to allow water to set, for a while, so that sediments can drop out of the effluence – this implies that the sediments must periodically be collected, like a settling pond. Another issue with sediments is toxicity: the reason for “settling” the water is to ensure the removal of compounds from the water which might contain agricultural run-off, biologically active sediments, and other toxins.
Even the most rural parts of the world, the most isolated, struggle with the effects of “modernity” – one of which is the ubiquitous exposure of nature to chemicals produced by humans, compounds nature never had to manage until the last century or so. Therefore, we should never assume that just because we’re in a rural area the water is clean – even natural formations can produce toxins that will leach into your water supply. Arsenic, mercury, lead, bacteria, these are all materials/pollutants that can naturally end up in your water. Be aware, be careful with your water planning!