Column: Setting up a water barrel could help if disaster hits
Continuing with our apocalyptic or “prepper” series, we’re going to consider water catchment in rain barrels for the home.
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Continuing with our apocalyptic or “prepper” series, we’re going to consider water catchment in rain barrels for the home. Not only is this useful for watering indoor and outdoor plants, but could be a reserve if a natural disaster knocks out the grid. (The Board of Water Supply can’t deliver water to your home if the power’s down.)
Even if you’re akamai enough to stock up on bottled water, you’ll need (according to the World Health Organization) a minimum of 40 liters (about 10.6 gallons) per day for drinking, cooking, hygiene and washing clothing. If there’s no running water, I can assure you, life is not going to be very comfortable.
Thus, unless you’ve got a well (or maybe a swimming pool), you’ll need plenty of water supply to keep your family going (and those toilets flushed).
What if you run out of potable water? Can’t you just drink rainwater?
Not necessarily a good idea. We don’t advocate drinking directly from a backyard water barrel. However, in an emergency you may not be able to visit Costco or Safeway. If bottled water isn’t available, properly treated/filtered rainwater will work fine. (In a past column my co-writer Rob Kay and I reviewed a high-end filter from Berkey.)
(There are a lot of hygienic and health issues connected with drinking rainwater, and to understand them we strongly suggest you read Rainwater Catchment Systems for Hawaii at 808ne.ws/2oGM440 by UH’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.)
So how do you get started? This is the part where our tax dollars pay off.
The City and County of Honolulu offers an occasional workshop (for $35) at the Halawa Xeriscape Garden where attendees can learn all about rain barrel water catchment. The cost of admission includes a pre-drilled, 55-gallon water catchment barrel with a spigot. You’ll still need to buy a diverter system. We suggest you get a kit from a company called Earth-Minded (for about $36 on Amazon) to link your rain gutter downspout to your barrel.
If you don’t attend the class, the city offers a $40 rebate to purchase a rain barrel at 808ne.ws/2n80dqr. That’s the good news. The bad news is that new barrels are hard to come by locally, and if you find one it will retail for at least $60. (You can order one online, and the $40 rebate can be used for that option as well.)
An alternative is to acquire a used food-grade barrel from Love’s Bakery or elsewhere. The Rain Barrel Water catchment page on the Board of Water Supply website at 808ne.ws/2nStFRT has some excellent tips on how to build a system and links to the rebates.
To understand what it takes to put a system together, Rob Kay set up a catchment system at his home in Kaimuki. He said it was easy to do — all you need is a hand drill, a tape measure and some other basic tools. He acquired a diverter kit but couldn’t find a new rain barrel locally, so he picked up a 55-gallon barrel from Love’s Bakery for $15. It had previously been filled with cooking oil and was a bit messy to bring home. It had to be cleaned inside and out (see YouTube recommendations), but once that was completed, he had a 110- gallon system.
He found that just one or two rainy days will quickly fill up the barrels.
You can find the next workshop by consulting boardofwatersupply.com/news-events/workshops.
You can register for a workshop by calling 748-5315 or or via email at email@example.com.
Mike Meyer is chief information officer for Honolulu Community College. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rob Kay is a freelance writer and can be reached at robert email@example.com.