Everyone knows the vital importance of water, prepper or not. Many people have already started, without even knowing what prepping is, to make sure they have a quality source of water. Mankind has been found to have running water since the beginning of times, and this will continue being so until the end.
Not just because of its capability to provide safe drinking water and food; it can be used as well to generate energy. In the past not too long away, hydraulic energy was used as we all know, to move sawmills and flour mills. Recently, we use them for small hydro turbines and get electricity, but that is material for some other article.
Unfortunately, in my place in the mountains, flat terrain is unlikely to be found. Just small pockets occur naturally, and these are filled up with rocks and thick brush. Working by hand under this conditions is exhausting, and getting a payloader all the way up there is quite expensive.
I have identified this as a good business opportunity, indeed.
A small machine for small works, in the future. In the rainy season, those lands are quite fertile because the humidity is constant. Even in the dry season, unless this is merciless and cruel, chances are most of the healthy trees can survive with a good water provision from a reservoir.
And this, dear readers, is the main reason why you need a pond.
1. To keep crops alive
This is the most logical reason. In my case, there are some technical difficulties I will have to sort out. The annual median temperature is between 25° and 30°C, and rain average over 1500 mm. Being the tropics, I can tell you, it is usually not your kind, sweet, rain like those in the romantic movies where the main characters look one another to the eye. You could hardly see anything, to begin with.
Unbalance is the norm in those lands. Some years worse than other ones, to be honest. But a moderate year is one to be remembered. Crops (mostly grains: red beans, black beans, and all kinds of beans) grow like there is no tomorrow, and everything becomes covered in an exuberant green and misty in the morning.
Then it becomes brown and toasted in the dry season, with the high risk of wildfires. But more about that later. Our place is not that big. It´s less than 2000 square meters, with a 70 Sqm little house that will have soon two stories. Good thing is, our soil layer good for crops is over 30 years old, and it has been nurtured first with native weeds that have become manure, and afterwards with thick brush that has been cut and left there to rot, in order to generate good soil.
Problem is, we still have plenty of rocks but this is small change, after all, we´ve been going through. I´d prefer to be preparing my soil by hand in Venezuela than continuing to expose myself to contagion in Lima.
But let´s keep on topic. This soil has been in need of oxygen incorporation. Haven´t done any test run yet (have some good friends specialized in soil chemistry) but lack of nitrogen here is common. As far as my research has gone, those crops used to fixed nitrogen in soils need some water. With such a high dry season, between 4 to 6 months, water is as precious as gold.
We have a subterranean stream, but it´s not in our property but in public land, and it is mineral water. So pure that you don´t need even filtering. This will be destined for drinking, as it has been already tested as safe years ago.
Good thing is, very few people know about it, just those who have lived around there, like me. And I know neighbors won´t allow using this water for other means, even though when my family has planted more long life trees than any of them. Oh, well…To overcome this and use as little water as possible for crops, some other methods can be used. My favorites are using a compost toilet, and grey shower water, using a non-aggressive “green” soap we can find naturally and it has been the Venezuelan soap for decades (blue soap) and so natural that it is recommended by doctors to clean up surgery wounds at home.
Shampoo water will be disposed of in some other way. This will require, though, a little change in the way we shower but in the long term, water savings will be so much that it will be entirely worthy. Just disposing of the shampoo water (being shampoo one of the few luxuries I plan on keeping for me and kiddo) in a different container to be treated to eliminate harmful chemicals, will not be a huge change in our habits, and keep the contaminants in our patch to a minimum.
We know that greywater with that soap can be used without any problems. I have seen farmers draining their showers straight into their orchids and plantings at the backyard, shampoo chemicals and all, and their papayas, mangos, corns, and all kind of grains growing like crazy. But I’m picky and prefer to avoid chemicals. The other method to save water is using hydrogel wisely, drop irrigation, and maybe a shading system for some delicate plants like tomatoes.
This has to be carefully used: some of these cheap gels are manufactured using Sodium instead of Potassium (check the periodic table, they´re very close but are NOT the same in this case nor will work equally). This results in a strong increase in the salinity of the soils that are very likely to be harmful. It has a long life, and it allows to keep longer periods between subsequent irrigations
Of course it has some disadvantages too, being the high price one of these. But after I have it in my hands and start trying, will be able to write based on real facts.
2. To provide for home uses.
Not too much to write about. But I do can indeed inform you how to maximize the use of water. I´ve planned on washing our hair and collecting the remaining water in a small plastic tub, over a shelf at chest height, in the shower. We have some seeds (have to research a little bit about their tropical version) able to absorb chemicals, in a natural way. Other means could be distillation, but that will require gas from the biodigestor and a suited equipment that is not exactly a priority right now.
But very likely, I will end by using natural filters, permaculture style, based on plants. I’ve seen this method working in nature, and I consider this is one of the best methods. People in the region have been doing dishes and showering for centuries with collected rainwater and their only problem seems to be the lack of skin allergies.
Maybe the occasional cup of bleach or lime to a huge tank but that will be mostly for bacteria. This water will be safe enough to clean the livestock after skinning and gutting, vegetables, and usual chores at home. Once I can setup the arrangement, you will be amazed at what can be done within a budget. Don’t worry that much if you’re broke.
You will have to find the means to do things for yourself and there will be creative ways to do things, and that will be a valuable lesson itself. You could even assist to someone else in the future after setting your own system.
Just check this video. You may get a good couple of ideas about grey water treatment. The part catching the detergents and oily byproducts is called in Spanish a “grease trap”, and this has to be cleaned regularly, but the water at the end of the process is clear and can be used to water edible plants, according to the creators of the system.
3. To provide food – green edibles.
OK, this is one of the most interesting uses we can get out of our pond, obviously. After water, being food one of our more immediate necessities, and in my case with limited space and in a non-flat configuration, I will have to use all the available space in a creative way.
I have spoken already with my neighbors and they’re not willing to sell even a couple of square meters even though when they’ve never used it for anything. Talk about jealous. This said, my pond will have to be very deep, with a small opening on the ground. Good thing is, water will be cool in the bottom and maybe that is going to be good to keep diverse compatible species.
We have a couple of native fish around here, well suited to warm waters. The intention is not to cause overcrowding but keep both populations at decent levels, so ideally some method to count or see what is going on inside the pond would have to be developed. Water should be kept clear, and for this, as I mentioned in the previous article, a UV filter is going to be needed, in-line with the aerator pump. Fish is not the only food you can use your pond for. Ducks and some other native species can be introduced but these will affect the total process, especially the quality of water.
As you surely know they defecate all over the place. In my case, it would be a native rodent called the Chiguire, or carpincho. These rodents are used to living in the water. They look a little like beavers, and their paws are like the duck ones. I’ve tasted the meat, but so many years ago that I can’t remember. They can be grown in captivity, but require special permit, same as our native deers. These can be used like livestock too, but always with the required permits and can’t be hunted because of the abuse of the illegal hunters decade after decade.
Another species able to be kept, instead of rabbits is the Andinean “Cuy”, a smaller rodent, same size as a squirrel. It can be found here even in my restaurant next corner, but haven’t tried it because being a foreigner and not in the know, I was suggested not to do it until I could tell the difference between this and other major rodents.
Locals know better. This cuy can be raised same as rabbits, and they are an interesting option. In my area, beef is the meet for excellence. Centuries of having raised cattle have made people not to look some other source of proteins, and has get inhabitants used to the grilled beef tradition, which has become more of a social meeting than anything else
In our culture, a baby was born in a hacienda, and a beef roast was prepared and invited every neighbor, friend, and family…It can be hard at the beginning, of course, but once people start to get used to the idea that a stew can be cooked with something else besides beef (lamb is quite scarce, people doesn’t seem to like the flavor too much, but for Arab community is a desired staple), then our gastronomy sphere will change for the better.
What I like about these kinds of meats is, their capabilities to be preserved for a long time without freezing. I’ve learned that Chiguire meat can be treated with salt, and it can last months if kept protected of moisture and flies, just like jerky.
Of course, there are as well vegetable species that can be grown in a pond as a means to complement our diet. I’m not by any means a specialist but a quick search will bring along results like lettuce, spinaches, peppermint (I love a good ice tea made with this one and works for homemade toothpaste too), bok choy, even tomatoes and several sprouts like garlic and carrots (the green portion that sticks out), in shallow water.
A special space in the edge of your pond dedicated to this will work, as these don’t need more than a few centimeters of water. For me, it’s such an interesting and innovative approach to produce food that I’m decided to try it. I’ve lived in big cities most of my life, and I feel the need to live again surrounded by nature before going back to that life once again if such a thing happens.
4. To provide some enjoyment, and as an emergency means to combat wildfires.
Life is to enjoy it. If you can get soak in your own tub at the end of the day, you can consider yourself a lucky person. Millions of people in the world don’t have access to water, and we have plenty. Enough to be able to immerse for a while. However, considerations have to be made. In the cities, strong chemicals have to be used to keep it clean. We went once to a beach club, and the sun burnings we develop were not normal. We used a 60 FPS sun blocker, and our hair indicated that the chlorine solution was so strong that the burnings could be partially chemical.
So we decided to spend the rest of the time in the beach, despite the water being much cold. Most of we latinos don’t like cold beaches by the way. This being said, I have been starting to play with the idea of having a separate reservoir with two main objectives. One, is to be used as a hot tub. I’m not getting any younger and after a day working here and there will need a good relaxing moment before going to my hammock. This should be large enough for 6 people, some friends and such. Therefore, a good 6000 liters should be enough. These will be connected to a pipe drain and a pump, and a setup of fire extinguishing sprinklers disposed along the fence with our neighbor, the most probable place where wildfire will come.
This is not too much work. It can be designed as an additional pond, so if the fire extinguishing system needs to be activated, the level on the main pond won’t be affected. This pipe doesn’t need to be buried over 30cms to be protected in case the fire is too aggressive. Keeping this tub will be a good manner of collecting rainwater; and a reservoir for the main pond, as well.
As every system, this will have to be designed with some good plumbing criteria, thinking always that overengineering is better than getting cheap and remaining short. And a proper maintenance routine should be written, so you can delegate this to people in the future: inspecting the sprayers, getting the system to work once a month, oiling the pump bearings, and such stuff.
This seems to be an interesting idea, though, for those with resources enough: a pool made with shipping containers.
I hope you have enjoyed as much reading this article, as I’ve done writing it.
Thanks for your reading, fellows, and I look forward for your comments!