This is a continuation of my essay "Liberty Starts At Home- Secure People Make Secure Communities" which I am publishing serially on this board. The first part described the overall characteristics and components of Secure Community. This part covers challenges to community water supplies and how to overcome them.
Water is critical to human life. Humans can survive for weeks without food, but only a few days without water. Clean water is also essential. Many people die each year from water contaminated with human waste, animal waste or parasites. A reliable water supply is critical to most human operations, including cooking, washing, growing food and manufacturing.
Many communities have access to municipal water supplies. Often, this water is neither clean nor reliable. In the town where I grew up, everyone had to use bottled water during the summer since the pipes running under the river would become contaminated with algea. Even the soda in restaurants had an odor of dirty sneakers. Cities often attempt to compensate by heavily chlorinating the water which may simply exchange one health threat with another. In many urban areas, the municipal water supply is simply stretched beyond capacity. Unchecked urban growth increases demand, adds no new reservoirs and reduces the watershed of existing reservoirs.
Bottled water may be no better than the tap water it replaces and in fact may be drawn from the very same tap itself. Dasani water, bottled by Coca-Cola and advertised as "ultra purified", recently had to be recalled from UK shelves because it failed public health standards for bottled water (although it was just within the limits allowed for tap water). The contaminants cited were added by the purification process. The poorer class of society, with limited money and limited transportation may not be able to afford safe bottled water or may have none available for sale nearby.
There are additional problems on the other end of the process. Many communities in the U.S. and more worldwide, still do not have adequate treatment facilities for their sewage. Untreated or undertreated sewage contaminates water courses which are then used for swimming, fishing, or irrigation. Health codes in most areas forbid crops grown in septic system leech fields from being used for human consumption, but there are often no requirements that running water courses be tested for contamination.
So, how can a community take control of its water supply? One of the most important steps is to push town boards to tie new development to water system capacity. Some counties (Cheetham County, Tennessee among them) now charge "impact fees" for new development to cover the additional load on public services and keep development within manageable limits. This is a good trend and should be encouraged, as long as the money collected goes to its purported purpose.
At the family or neighborhood level, people can take steps to supplement their own water supplies as well as recycle some of their own waste. One of the easiest is simply to collect the water which falls on them. Rainwater from rooftops can be directed into a rain barrel or cistern. This water can then be used for watering lawns and gardens during the summer when water is more scarce. It can also be filtered and/or treated in emergencies for washing, cooking, and drinking. Rainwater collection and simple sand/charcoal filtration systems have been used to supply water to farmsteads for centuries.
Even if not collecting your own water, having the means to filter or treat your tapwater is also sensible. Home-based filter systems of varying degrees of sophistication are now commonly available and much cheaper than buying bottled water on a regular basis. Solar stills, consisting of black plastic, a pane of glass and some plastic tubing, can be used to distill pure water at very little cost from even the worst sources.
Community education on how to collect and treat water is critical. In North Carolina a couple of years ago, flooding caused hog farm waste ponds to overflow and contaminate reservoirs, making half the state's water supply undrinkable. As volunteers mobilized to ship bottled water by the truckload to the disaster zone, it struck me that we were moving water by the ton to a flood zone. How different would the situation have been if a sizable number of homes had been collecting their own rain water and had filtration or distillation equipment available? How much easier would it have been to move treatement equipment to the site instead of water? With governement concerns looming over the security of our water supply, it should be noted that it is much easier to poison one reservoir than thousands of individual cisterns.
On the side of waste disposal, grey water systems allow a home to reclaim much of the organic matter in the outgoing water and a good bit of the water itself for watering gardens or crops. Grey water is water from sinks and showers which is not contaminated with human waste. This water, instead of going out to the sewer, can be run through a garden or greenhouse. The plants filter the outgoing water, reclaiming nutrients and reducing impact on the local treatment facilities. Water from toilets continues to go to a sewer or septic system. Black water, or water containing sewage, cannot safely be used to fertilize plants for human consumption, and thus, one must be careful what one grows in the leech field of a sceptic system. It is quite permissible, however, to grow feed for non-food animals or to grow a crop which can be cut, dried, and composted to fertilize other areas. This is normally cheaper than a sophisticated composting toilet system and fits within typical building codes.
Urban communities, by and large, can do very little to reclaim their sewage. There is simply no room for sceptic systems in the typical city lot or apartment and major replumbing is likewise not practical. It is usually possible, however, even in mobile homes or small flats, to collect grey water from one or more fixtures, say, the kitchen sink, with minimal fuss and bother.
To be continued ...
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