Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami, volcano eruption…and you ask how my trip was!

As you know, I’ve been gone for the last week and a half.  My trip was supposed to be part fun vacation and part learning new skills and experiences.  Boy was it!  I was in Hawaii. 

I spent time learning about the fauna and flora of the islands.   The weather in most parts of the state runs between 60 and 85 for the highs and lows year round.  Hawaii would be a good place to be for self sufficiency.  Anywhere one moves to you need to prepare for the worst conditions. I got to experience the good and the bad, sort of…I escaped before I had to deal with any real incidents, I just got to watch people prepare, sort of.

I met several people who lived in homes without electricity or “running” water.  Actually the water system was really impressive and something that I now plan on doing here, possibly instead of rather than in addition to putting solar on the well.  I’ll get back to that after I tell the rest of the story about the trip. 

Honolulu is a large city and we stayed in Waikiki.  The beach was great but the city was very noisy.  My brother-in-law said that it was as noisy there during the night as in New York City.  At my house the only nighttime noise is coyotes howling and dogs barking to keep the coyotes away.  I was in Oahu when they had a windstorm that knocked out the power to much of the island.  The electric company workers were on strike so it took several days before the outlying areas had power returned. 

We toured Oahu and I spoke with many people who lived pretty self sufficiently – caching their water and eating many of the wild things that grew or trapping some of the thousands of wild chickens.  Then it was on to the big island right when the fissure cracked and the lava started spewing.  We stayed in the town of Volcano.  This was, as you would expect, right next to the erupting volcano (there are five on the island, Kilauea is the active one).  We completely circled the island, except where the lava is going into the ocean, of course. 

Then it was back to Honolulu for the flight back to the mainland.  When I got on the plane for the 45 minute flight from Hilo to Honolulu all was well in the world.  When I got off the plane, the earthquake and tsunami had both occurred in Japan.  The televisions were all reporting it and the tsunami sirens started blaring in Honolulu. I left Honolulu at 11:50 last night, just two hours before the tsunami hit that city.  I made it back to the mainland about 5 minutes before the tsunami hit the west coast. 

So much for the vacation.  How about the water system?  We make such a big deal here about having 55 gallon rain barrels or storing water in 55 gallon barrels.  Not there.  Unless you live in one of the main cities, or off the Kona coast where ocean water is transformed into drinking water, you are responsible for your own water supply.  So what, so am I.  I’m on a well.  But the well depends on electricity or solar to pump the water.  In Hawaii, most people are on a catchment system.  The place I stayed at had a 14,000 gallon tank in the backyard.  Most homes had tanks that size in that area.  In areas of more rain they had smaller tanks. 

The house had rain gutters running along the fascia.  The rain gutters ended up bringing the water into a three inch pipe that went below ground about a foot then came back up the side of the tank.  The force of the rainwater coming through the pipe pushed the water back up the pipe to the top of the tank and into the tank.  There was an overflow pipe at the top in case the tank filled up. 

The house water then came from their 14,000 gallons of stored water.  The water in that area is acidic (think acid rain) due to the volcanic activity.  The owner said that they had three filters plus an ultraviolet light that purified the water.  They also had a pump that automatically went on each time water was turned on in the house.  This provided more pressure than if the water was coming directly from the tank without the pump.  I would have thought that there would be enough pressure coming from the 14,000 gallons that a pump wouldn’t have been needed, but that was the way they did it.  When I went to the USGS office they also had a catchment system.  They just filtered their rainwater through a sand filtering system.  It seems much simpler.

On a post a while ago I wrote about how much water can be cached.  For every 1000 square feet of ground space being covered you get 600 gallons for each inch of rain.  For an area with 50 inches of rain, a 2000 square foot structure (think house and garage) can catch 60,000 gallons of water in a year.  That’s almost 200 gallons of water per day.  I don’t get 50 inches of rain per year.  We get 11 or 12.  But between my two barns, the house, and garage I can catch water from over 6,000 square feet! 3,600 gallons for each inch of rain or about 40,000 gallons!  That’s over 100 gallons per day that would be available. 

I’m not going to have a 40,000 gallon tank.  I may get a 10,000 gallon tank.  I would have more water available during the winter because the tank would be refilling after I use the water but it would have to be full at the end of March and would have to extend until October when it rains again.  Realistically I’d have about 50 gallons of water available per day. 

The family who I stayed with pointed out that in most places in the world, catchment is the way people get their water.  We are just so modernized that we forget how simple water storage can be. 


  1. What a fun trip! Glad you came back safely, and with a wealth of new information. I saw one of those catchment tanks in a House Hunters episode-the homebuyer actually hated the rain barrels, thought they were ugly. I think they are a great way to store water. It'll be great when you have yours.

  2. Good thoughts. At the last farm show I talked to a rep for a storage tank company. I got some info and we're thinking of storing water for watering plants in a better way than the 55 gallon clear barrels we have now. The water gets green after a bit with algae. Drinking water would be next.