Off the Grid

Living without mains electricity, water and sewage has its rewards and challenges. Be warned! It is not for the faint hearted. Most of us are used to the simple life of switching on a light, turning on a tap, or pulling a lever to flush the toilet. But can you imagine what it is like to be the power station, the water company and the sewage works all in one, albeit on a household scale?

Take our water supply for instance. We depend entirely on the rain for our domestic water which is collected from the zinc sheeting on the house roof, stored in large stainless steel tanks (1500 gals each) and pumped up to tanks in the attic area by a small pump needing electricity. The overflow from the tanks is collected in a third 160 gal plastic tank and pumped onto the first floor veranda to gravity-feed irrigation water into the garden below. That means yet another small pump needing electricity and pumps and pipelines need constant maintenance.

In the seasonally dry tropics water conservation is a top priority. The average water use in the suburbs of the USA is about 100 gals per person per day. In Britain it is about 60 gals. We use at most 15 gals each which includes everything.

Here are some tips on how to conserve water:

  1. Use the same water as many times as possible. For instance washing up water can irrigate pot plants.
  2. Shower as an alternative to bathing as it uses a fraction of the resource, much less even than bathing with a partner.
  3. Don’t leave taps running for longer than necessary to do the job.
  4. Fix leaks and dripping taps immediately.
  5. Cover swimming pools to reduce evaporation.
  6. Water gardens in the evening rather than in the morning or during the day.
  7. Give the garden a good dose of water every few days instead of small more frequent daily amounts.
  8. Mulch garden beds thickly with plant residue to reduce loss of soil moisture.
  9. Be constantly on guard to ensure that unavoidable overflow from storage tanks is not wasted: direct to water-loving plants or ornamental ponds.
  10. Keep collection gutters on the house free of dead leaves, moss and bird’s nests.

In Belize frogs are a major problem around water storage facilities. The openings of all pipes and tanks have to be covered with fine mesh to keep the water supplies clean and the nights free of their booming chorus which is even louder when reverberating within drain pipes. Soon after we installed the rainwater guttering on the house along with their corresponding 4 inch rainwater pipes leading to the tanks, we flushed out 15 frogs from one pipe and ten from the other. Our nights were more peaceful thereafter.

If you want to know more or learn and experience life off the Grid come and visit us. We have a nice guest room for two.

— H.A.E.

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