The Humble Side of Water Harvesting

I love my work.  I didn't set out to do glorious work.  I just wanted to figure this water harvesting thing out so I could show other people how to do it.   I faced the challenges of minutia early on when I spent hours in front of the anchor hardware at Home Depot trying to figure out the best way to get a screw to stick into stucco, or when I grunted and sweated trying to figure out how to make certain angles work with pipes, or when I found myself on top of a tank or under a house trying to figure out what parts I needed to make a certain trick work.  

This tank collects rainwater from pipes that drain from the roof, go underground and come back up into the tank, without a pump.  That doesn't necessarily seem intuitive, but it works!  

This tank collects rainwater from pipes that drain from the roof, go underground and come back up into the tank, without a pump.  That doesn't necessarily seem intuitive, but it works!  

It turns out putting in rainwater tanks and greywater systems is pretty glorious.   When the water starts running and the pipes start draining where they are supposed to and the landscape sees its first shower water, or the tank starts filling…  WOW!  It's hugely empowering and inspiring to know that we are all contributing to a real solution in our community.  It's not rocket science.  Anyone can do it.  Even me!   Even you!

This type of hose doesn't clamp onto a barb well.  You need a rubber end.

This type of hose doesn't clamp onto a barb well.  You need a rubber end.

But for every moment of glory there are the more humbling moments.  After 5 years I've learned a lot of tricks and feel pretty confident about each job we sign up for.  The other day we put in a laundry greywater system.  We overcame certain challenges only to have the homeowner call us the following week and tell us that the hose was leaking where it connected to the valve.  What I thought was going to be a routine hose replacement turned into a hose saga.

I spent a couple hours trying to figure out how to replace the hose on the washing machine.  I had expected to resolve the issue in 20 minutes.  I tried removing it from the barb inside the washing machine that I found and could only do it by cutting it off with a stanley knife (cutting myself in the process).  I thought I had successfully jury-rigged the hose only to run a load and see that it was leaking within the washing machine.   I called my plumber to get some tips or see if he could come help me, but he said he didn't do appliances.  Ironically, he told me appliances have weird fittings which he doesn't understand.  An appliance repair person would be appropriate for this job.

This is what a $30 hose assembly looks like.  

This is what a $30 hose assembly looks like.  

When I gave up for the day, feeling deflated, I left knowing that my clients would be without the use of their washing machine for several days because of my schedule.  This weighed heavily on my conscience.  I went home and researched this particular washing machine and hose and found a 6 minute YouTube video that showed me exactly how to disassemble the entire machine so that I could replace the hose!  What kind of nonsense is this?  Not only that but the hose assembly costs $30 and is not available at the local hardware store!  I was so disheartened and toyed with the idea of paying an appliance repairperson to resolve the issue for me.  

Washing Machine skeleton.  It's a little scary getting to this stage and wondering if everything will go back together right.

Washing Machine skeleton.  It's a little scary getting to this stage and wondering if everything will go back together right.

In the end I needed to figure this out myself so I can better understand what is needed next time.  I resolved to spend a couple of hours applying myself and taking my time following the steps.  I knew it was going to be tedious but not impossible.  I watched the YouTube video in the laundry room of my clients house and followed the steps to take apart that washing machine.  I removed the hose that I had destroyed and replaced it with a new hose that has a rubber end which easily clamped onto the barb on my three-way valve, giving the system the seal it needed to create pressure to move 2 feet above the washing machine and then 40+ feet outside to the fruit trees.

I am grateful to all my clients who trust me to experiment and learn so that I can be a better resource for our community.  I am grateful for these more humbling moments to remind myself to slow down and remember that there is always more to learn, more to know, more to understand.  I don't claim to be an expert, but I will share every single one of my lessons with my community.  And I hope that you will share your lessons with me!  There's no reason for all of us to reinvent the wheel.  The more we share the more we can accomplish!