The California Drought

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User Bp wrote:

some of them can be problems, in general if you are going to use household waste water for the gardens it is a good idea to switch to products which can be biodegraded (often via what is called a reed bed) in some manner before it gets to the gardens. some things are toxic above small amounts so should not be used.

the idea was that the soil should filter and clean the remaining water coming from it, but they are discovering that the soil does not clean it as much as expected so effluent plumes are getting into the rivers and lakes. in the end mixing human waste with water makes the problem much worse than needed because then the human waste has to be taken back out of the water anyways. why not just keep it from the water to begin with? so until people realize that the initial design is horribly flawed we'll be stuck with this rotten and pollution encouraging mess instead of doing things in a much smarter way.

with cheap energy much becomes possible, but if you design a smarter system that doesn't pollute water to begin with you can avoid a lot of problems (and expenses).
songbird
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On 29/11/2015 7:50 AM, songbird wrote: it

Prince Charles has a reed bed sewage treatment set up installed at his home, Highgrove.
BTW, for those people who enjoy gardening books, the book on his garden is called "The garden at Highgrove". This is not a cheap book and I debated long and hard with myself as to whether I should bother to pay the money for a book on the garden of a rich royal whose lifestyle is nothing like mine or even in the same country or in the same gardneing conditions. I'm so glad that I did eventually buy it as it's real eye candy and his attitude to his garden resonates with me. He even ignored advice given to him by that guru Sir Roy Strong because it didn't fit into what he wanted to do.
I keep pulling it off the shelves when I need a bit of inspiration. Wonderful book, even more wonderful garden (this is about another book by him but there are good pics here of his garden): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2605972/Secrets-Prince-Charles-gorgeous-Highgrove-garden-revealed-new-book.html
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Fran Farmer wrote:

i would hope it isn't sewage and that you mean gray water instead...

i'll have to check if i can get it via the library.
songbird
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On 30/11/2015 3:33 AM, songbird wrote:

No, it's a reedbed sewage system.
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Fran Farmer wrote:

ah, i'll have to check it out then.
songbird
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On Saturday, November 28, 2015 at 1:41:45 PM UTC-8, Fran Farmer wrote:

Thanks for that wonderful Chanukah gift. I could almost smell the flowers in those marvelous pictures. Again, many thanks.
(Wonder what kind of king he would have made. Any thoughts?)
HB
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On 7/12/2015 1:41 PM, Hypatia Nachshon wrote:

You're welcome.
I could almost smell the flowers in those marvelous pictures. Again, many thanks.

I don't think he will ever be king. Sadly. I've always been a Charles fan even when he was being pilloried by the press due to the expert manipulations of Dianna. He always seems to be very thoughtful and to reach conclusions which I've never thought to be at all controversial. His mother will be a very hard act to follow given how well she has done since the early 1950s. I suspect William will see the end of the Monarchy. He is a very different kettle of fish. Despite the nice exterior, I'm not convinced that he will be a good King.
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the water? Borax is obviously out of the question, bleaches will have to be h2o2 based, but I think they're available.

Composting toilets are a good option in low-density environments, but would they work in higher density places, say 10ksf lots, 3bd/2ba houses? What about apartments?

Most of the developed world uses single-stream sewage collection and already makes at least a token effort to clean up the wastewater. With a little more effort and energy the water could be cleaned up enough to go back in the supply. From what I gather, solar energy in Germany has fallen to zero cost for portions of the day. The same is apt to happen here if wind and solar investments continue. Reverse osmosis plants can stop and start relatively quickly, that seems like a good use for the excess energy.
Here's a link that some might find interesting on the subject of reverse osmosis and its efficiency:
http://urila.tripod.com/Seawater.htm
The article focuses on seawater desalination but the discussion makes it very clear that domestic wastewater is much more efficient to recover, especially if the degree of desalination is modest.
Hope this is of interest,
bob prohaska
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wrote:

Household grey water including human waste is only problematic depending on concentration. There are two humans here living on 16 acres using a septic system... very conservatively there's a thousand times more wild critter waste, probably that much just from song birds, not counting water fowl, and mammals... and then there are reptiles, probably more poop from bullfrogs just in my streams than in my sceptic system. I have my own private well, it's tested yearly, passes with flying colors every time. Global warming is a red herring, used to cover up the real problem, over population... California especially has way too high a concentation of humans, mostly unproductive subhuman imbeciles that are in dire need of expiration (conservatively 60% gotta go). If CA got rid of all those fast food dives there'd be plenty of water, lots less pollution, and far lower medical costs from not eating that mystery meat poop. And of course bacon and other cured meats need to be outlawed, bacon pollutes far more than laundry detergent (nitrates/nitrites pollute), can always pick out the bacon addicts, they all weigh over 300 pounds.
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User Bp wrote:

dunno as i'm still stuck with septic system and hate it. i'm not in the kind of setup that i need perfectly white clothes that often nor do i worry if some stain isn't completely removed. i don't dribble on my clothes much anyways... more often it's just dirt that needs to come out and BO which washes out with a little soap. sunshine and fresh air take care of sterilizing and freshening enough for me.

they detect human strains of e.coli, nutrients too but some are digested in the tank, but once through the tank to the groundwater leachfield most have little more happen to them. this is why agricultural pollutants in wells are being detected (blue baby syndrome), if the ground was capable of actually digesting this stuff it would be done... so it isn't and the price will be paid by future generations in one way or another... if you want something digested it has to be brought in contact with the right bacteria/fungi/organisms which most do not live down deep enough and are not active enough to take care of it all. wetlands will do a lot of cleanup and are a good alternative to agricultural and also grey water, but best of all is to make sure toxins aren't getting there to begin with.

it takes a chamber to collect it and then someone to move it after the chamber gets full. in a single house you can design the chambers to the right size so that they don't get emptied until the compost process is complete (instead you just change which chamber things go to when one gets full). that ways you only have to move composted waste. worms and soil will take care of it. leave it in a covered pile for a year or two and there's no remaining issues with bacteria or smell. needs to be covered though to keep rain from leaching stuff away. prime garden/soil material when done. if you're worried about bacteria after a year or two you can bury it below the plants and use topsoil to cover it and then nothing gets splashed on plant leaves or produce.
for apartments the easiest system is gravity fed chute to a chamber and then the chamber gets emptied when it gets full and the waste is then composted in some other location. they have trucks, sucker hoses, etc. for doing things like this. just has to be be done and going and then the biogas can be collected too for burning as it's better to be done than letting it escape unburned.

unfortunately, it really doesn't work that well for certain drugs, and mixing industrial pollution and other waste water with human waste and clean water being used as transport system is really poor design. we have done it in the past because water was cheap and rivers acted like wastewater treatment plants, but now they're finding out that it doesn't work and the rivers smell like sewage all the time and the animals are being affected by the drugs, metals, cleaners, etc... so no, it's not really a good system and it's going to only get worse with the water being reduced (already they are having problems in CA because the systems were designed to have so much water in them and with the drought people aren't using enough water... oops...).

water can be cleaned up, but you ignore the other side of the equation, the rejected part of the water is even more concentrated and unsuitable in many cases for uses in gardens or agriculture.

they've been doing various projects around the world in this vein for years. the resulting water is often pumped into the the ground at some location or sent through a wetland to make it acceptable at the other end for it to be withdrawn and then used again (after being treated yet again). it's a trick used to get people to accept it, but it is horribly inefficient and expensive when compared to an alternative system. the problem is that it is the embedded system so it is hard to get people to change or to see why the change is needed.
now if you can see the difference in how much those pipes, pumps, water treatment plants, maintenance, etc. all cost in comparison to what a dry composting system would cost and what the maintenance would be. there's just not enough money in it for the politicians to get excited about it. not as much room for rewarding cronies, not consumptive enough, doesn't generate enough taxes, etc. and of course, people freak out about even thinking of human waste, so much gets hidden in the waste stream along with it. a convenient slight of hand for many...
songbird
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On 11/29/2015 8:22 AM, songbird wrote:

Where I live, sewage (not merely gray water) is treated at a plant that is mostly gravity fed. The input is from both residential and commercial sources. At the plant, liquids are separated from solids.
Liquids are "tertiary" treated and then pumped back uphill to irrigate parks, school playfields, greenbelts, and two golf courses. So far, the use of such reclaimed water is not covered by drought-induced restrictions. Furthermore, the ability to use this on school playfields means it is biologically safe. However, the reclaimed water contains too much dissolved minerals for domestic use. Because of that, individual homeowners are not allowed to tap that source; there is a concern that amateur plumbers -- the homeowners -- might accidentally cross-connect a reclaimed water line with a potable domestic water line. This concern about contaminating potable water with reclaimed water also means that the mains carrying reclaimed water operate at a lower pressure than potable mains.
The solids are composted to the extent that they too are biologically safe. Dried, this compost is free to anyone who brings a container -- including a truck -- to the composting site. Again, the presence of dissolved minerals (possibly heavy metals from commercial sources of sewage) is a concern. Thus, users of the compost are advised to place only a small amount in beds containing edible plants such as vegetables and fruit trees. Larger amounts can be used on ornamental plants.
All this is a result of political pressure from homeowners downstream from the sewage plant in Malibu. They wanted to restrict the plant's operation because they feared they too would be required to abandon their septic tanks and instead connect to sewer lines, thus opening Malibu to increased development and population density. After the sewage plant succeeded in developing a market for reclaimed water, however, those same NIMBY homeowners changed their pressure to require some of the reclaimed water to flow down Malibu Creek to maintain riparian wildlife, including fish that had not been in the creek for decades.
The natural flow of water in Malibu Creek above the sewage plant is contaminated by wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Now, the Malibu homeowners have convinced California state authorities to mandate that the flow of water in the creek below the sewage plant to be cleaner than the natural flow above the plant.
I pay over $500 a year in sewage fees for only my wife and me. There is no winning, only different ways of losing.
--
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean, see
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David E. Ross wrote: ...

arg! precisely the problem which should be avoided. combined residential and commercial sewage... always a bad idea as it gives the businesses a free pass to let trace contaminants and odd chemicals off site without compensation to the treatment facility to manage the results and it then also contaminates all the wastes so that they can't be reused. which is why later on you mention that they can't be reused in veggie gardens without restrictions.

yeah, but once it's applied then it's basically spreading a contamination issue around. i wonder what percentage of it is actually used instead of being landfilled (or in some cases incinerated which can spread the heavy metals around even more).

if the water is there and the stream benefits why would this be bad? it returns a previously damaged river to some forms of life and gives fish habitat that they'd lost.

i wouldn't call it contamination but that's just me. animals poop/pee. just if it is safe or not for people to swim in it or fish it or ...

with modern wastewater treatment plants this is actually not uncommon at all. the troubles from treatment plants and sewage is often storm water overflows driven by combined waste and storm water drains. in many cities here they are gradually removing such combined systems to give the rivers a better chance of not being contaminated by sewage overflows. and it's working. things are gradually improving. but it's taking time and a lot of money. money which would not be required to be spent had the systems been dry compost forms instead. ah well...

that is water and sewage cost or just sewage/disposal cost?
even if we include the cost of the whole plumbing system here and septic field we could get it to around $300/yr but that's because we've been here almost 20 years now (wow how time has gone by!). it doesn't cost that much to have the tank pumped and taken to the sewage treatment plant. i still don't like it. a dry system would be much cheaper. sawdust can be had by the truckload here for not much, leaves and dirt are free. the gardens would be much happier too.
songbird
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On 11/30/2015 8:08 AM, songbird wrote:

No one want to pay the costs of duplicate sewage plants and sewer lines that would be required to treat residential and commercial sewage separately.

None of the compost is burned or transferred to landfills. It is free for the taking, and many landscape contractors take large amounts.

Much of the cost of treating reclaimed water is paid by the users -- the parks, golf courses, home-owner association greenbelts. The price of reclaimed water is about 75% of the cost of potable water, and there are no drought-imposed restrictions on how much a customer may use. During the current drought, the demand for reclaimed water approximately equals the supply. The demand to pour that water into Malibu Creek creates a shortfall in the supply.

In those terms, it is safe. That is why making the flow even cleaner downstream from the sewage plant than it is upstream is so outrageous.

Throughout southern California, storm drains and sewage mains are quite separate. However, the "gunk" rinsed by rain into storm drains can cause significant pollution at beaches after a major rain storm.

That $500+ is for sewage only. Twice each year, I pay half of it with my property tax bill; but it is a service charge and not a tax. I pay my water bill monthly. Water is also expensive. Almost half of my total utility costs -- water, electricity, phone, and natural gas -- is for my water bill.
--
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean, see
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David E. Ross wrote:

of course! but in the end it's much better to make incentives for businesses to clean up their processes so that things aren't contaminated to begin with.

interesting!

all of the water is then being used and is in some manner contributing to ground water recharging and stream flows so to me that's much better than just sending it out to sea.
i guess i'd rather have a stream flowing than not even if it means some costs are a little higher.

my guess is that they really can't release water from any point in the process earlier without causing an environmental problem. many of the more modern treatment plants have things in place to recapture the various chemicals/additives used and the very last part of the water treatment is an UV flash to kill off any remaining bacteria/virii. skipping that would be a bad idea, especially in a warm climate.

yep. cars are not designed to be clean. however, horses weren't all that good either...

ouch! but it makes sense to me that in an arid climate that water/sewage would be more expensive to treat. out there with the somewhat hilly terrian that isn't all that stable i think maintenance would also be higher.
songbird
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On 11/30/2015 12:03 PM, songbird wrote [in part]:

    [snipped]

In this area, ground water recharging is meaningless. The soils and subsoils are so mineralized that any springs or wells are unsuitable even for wildlife to drink and, in some cases, not even suitable for irrigation. Before my area was served by the California Water Project aqueduct, ranchers here would pump water into enameled basins and let it stand in the sun for several day just to get rid of the hydrogen sulfide.
Note that, while users of reclaimed water pay much of the cost of treating it, those of us who create sewage pay much more of the cost.

The residents downstream from the sewage plant are the problem. They want the plant not only to treat sewage almost to the quality of drinking water, but they also want the plant to treat the natural flow from upstream in Malibu Creek to the same standard.
    [snipped]
--
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean, see
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