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Local Pioneer: Jody's Home-Made Water

by Doug Pushard

Jody's houseEver thought about living off the grid and enjoying a totally self sufficient lifestyle in a house you helped build. Jody Drew did and is. Years of dreaming and a ton of hard work came to reality in 2003. She harvests both rainwater and solar energy to live simply and more sustainably.

Jody’s house was planned and built to be almost totally self-sufficient in the off-the-grid community of Lamy. But where most of the houses have a well, Jody choose to go with a rainwater harvesting system. Her dream house began in 2001 as just that - a dream. Previously, she resided in Seattle and really, really wanted to become more self-sufficient.

Her favorite catalog was the Real Goods catalog, with which she would dream of all the things she would do if only she could. He dream started to become a reality when she moved to the Santa Fe area in 2001. She seized on the change as an opportunity to turn her long sought after vision into a reality.

She bought a lot in Lamy, a small rural community, outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. She started planning in late 2001 and early 2002 and was assisted by local solar house designer Karen Terry. She began construction in 2002 and completed it in 2003. She knew water was going to be a problem in the arid southwest. Living off the grid meant the water system needed to be extremely energy efficient and she wanted no chemicals used to purify the water.

Key Components
  • 1,187 square foot (110 sq. meter) metal roof for catching the rain
  • 2 - 6,000 (22,740 liter ) gallon polyproprene storage tanksall
  • • Low-water use clothes washer
  • 1.6 gallon (6 liter) toiletl
  • No dishwasher
  • Submerged pump house
  • DC-powered Flowlight pump (model #2910-24)
  • 40 gallon pressure tank
  • 10 micron filter
  • Ceramic filter
  • UV lamp (Coastal Filtration UV 4)
  • Greywater irrigation system
  • Septic system for black water

She designed and assisted in building her rain water system and it proved to be one of the most difficult aspects of the project. She found little information published on designing a total end-to-end small household water system.

To add to her dilemma, the plumber had never seen one of these systems and had no idea how the components worked together to create a home water system, so Jody did most of the work herself.

Good Water Company of Santa Fe helped her with the filtration system. "Most prepackaged systems were too expensive and too big for her needs, so buying and assembling components was the only way possible to achieve Jody's objectives," according to Troy Cucchiara of Good Water Company.

Today, Jody uses rainwater for all her needs. Rain falls on her metal roof and is silently conveyed to her above ground storage tanks by beautiful metal gutters. Before water enters the pressure tank it is filtered with a 10 micron filter to remove the large particulates. It waits in the pressure tank until a household spigot is turned on and then flows through the pipes just as in a normal household.

In the kitchen, Jody with the assistance of Good Water Company installed under the sink a ceramic filter and a UV sterilization lamp. This combination filter and UV lamp purifies the water Jody uses for drinking. She uses “straight rainwater” for cooking and dish cleaning. The UV lamp is only capable of effectively sterilizing 1.1 gallon (4 liter) of water a minute, which is far less than what comes out of a typical household faucet (i.e. 5 gallons or about 18 liters a minute at the typical 20-30 psi). So she stores filtered water in a jar next to the sink for large projects. This whole setup costs less than $500 and keeps her stocked with fresh, clean drinking water.

Jody has access to well water from a local neighbor and has used it a few times since moving into her house due to the local drought. But over the last few years her primary supply has been rainwater for all her water needs. She uses FREE rain water for everything – drinking, bathing, and toilets.

She loves her new lifestyle and offers this advice to others:

  • Talk to as many folks as you can about your ideas and plans. You never know who is going to give you a great nugget of wisdom
  • Think about the natural flow of water on your land. Use gravity to help harvest the rain, feed your tanks and then drain to your garden or septic system.
  • Keep all your documentation!

Other aspects of Jody’s totally green home include: passive solar heating with 10” thick Trombe walls, outside walls are made of E-Crete block with an R value of 24, wood stove, Reflectex in ceiling to prevent energy loss in the cold winter months and twelve (12) 75Watt solar panels. Cooking and hot water heating are performed with propane. Additionally, she recycles the all the water, except from the toilet, for use in her garden and to top it off she drives a 1979 Mercedes Benz that runs on used kitchen grease!

Jody clearly leads a more self-reliant and sustainable life than most. She believes in doing as many little things as possible to conserve and make the world a better place for others. Her next project is to build a Charter School 37 and a Community Center in the village of Galisteo Preserve, which is being developed by the Commonwealth Conservancy. Both, of course, will be fully sustainable.

Jody is a true Local Pioneer and we thank her for her personal commitment to have less of an impact on the environment and for helping others do the same.

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