Life in the Slow Lane: WATER!

Okay, not quite. But in another hour or so, water will once again be flowing beneath my house to my pump house, then refilling the tank that I've learned over the last week has enough sediment that it shuts off the pumps at 1500 gallons. Let me just say that the last ten days have given me a taste of what it would be like to live in a world where water is rationed. I actually had to buy 2000 gallons of water. If I hadn't, well let's just say I wouldn't be too pleasant smelling at the moment.

Until now, I've lived my whole life, except for the few months that my first ex-husband and I rented a little cottage on a farm, in cities where the tap is turned and water comes out without any awareness of where that H2O might be coming from. Or, for that matter, what might be in that all-important liquid. Nor did I ever once consider how it got from where it started to my tap.

Not any more. This pump up/pump down week has been a true learning experience. First, I learned that I really don't mind crawling through spiderwebs. I do, however, mind spiders crawling on me. I made that discovery while cleaning the spring reservoir in front of the pump house. I'll admit to having a moment of wondering what I'd do if somehow the ladder disappeared and I was stuck in the depths until someone came along to find me. If someone came along.... That's the curse of being a novelist. There's always a story.

Next, I learned that a 5000 gallon tank isn't a 5000 gallon tank if it's filled with 1000 gallons of sediment and your pump stops pumping at 1500 gallons. For the record, the tank has an electrode that shuts off the pumps and pressure tanks when the water tank reaches just above 500 gallons, or so the writing on the wall (literally...it's written on the pump house wall--see the picture) says. That means when I thought I had 5000 gallons in storage, plus an additional 3000 in the back up tank, I really only had 3500 in the big tank. And, only 3000 of that was usable. So before the spring ditch shut down, I had calculated on 500 gallons per day house usage taking us all the way through the ten days. Bless them, all of the souls who now come and go from this place managed to maintain that usage.

What I didn't know is that even though the sand filters, which filter the water coming from the spring before it enters the storage tank, were shut down and no longer backwashing, both the arsenic filter and the charcoal filters were backwashing away. The day the tank went dry was the day I listened to the charcoal filter go on and watched it dump--I'm not kidding, I watched the sight glass--500 gallons of water. Now, that might not be its usual backwash, but I don't know because I haven't yet found the paperwork about the filter. Perhaps with the pressure dying, the floodgates opened and water poured out of it just because. Whatever. That is, however, when I knew I was in trouble, big time. With no clue who to call about water delivery, I went to my friend Google and made calls from Prescott to Flagstaff. To no avail. At the same time, I was calling pump repair people. That's because my sight glass showed 1500 gallons, not the 640 gallons that should have been the shutdown point. Hence, I thought something mechanical had failed.

By then, my life-saving neighbors had allowed me to stretch a line of hoses between one of their well-supplied spigots and the 3000 gallon back up tank. I was running water into the tank on an hour on/hour off schedule. So, when Nate from Northern Arizona Pump (thanks so much for coming out!) appeared in the pump house to check on why there was no pressure I was almost at the point of triggering that electrode and turning everything back on again. (Note to Nate: I found your screwdriver. It was outside the pump house. I'll drop it by someday.)

Then, come to find out, Northern Arizona Pump delivers water. Unfortunately, they couldn't get it to me for about 36 hours, so it was time to fill pots. And I did. I filled pots, stainless steel milk pails, turkey waterers, you name it, I filled it.

Before the truck arrived, they were concerned about getting to the tank and filling it. I just laughed and had them park their truck (wow, it didn't look like a tanker at all!) on Page Springs Road above the tank. I showed them the hole in the fence, but they figured out how to get their hose under the fence. Once it dropped into the big green tank, gravity did the rest. Because I have the valve open between them, the water finds its own level and fills both tanks.

And, despite that, I still didn't make it to the moment of spring water returning to The Farm on Oak Creek. Two hours ago, I ran out of water again as that &*#%$ charcoal filter began to dump a substance more precious than gold out the backside of the pump house. So, once more I dragged hoses into place. It didn't take long to fill the tank enough the charge the pressure tanks so I could fill the teapot. (Hey, there are priorities in life, right?)

So here's what I learned, and what needs to happen before next year's shut down. First, I need the big tank cleaned; the smaller tank is just a few years old still clean inside. I know, I looked. Then, I need to have the pump house seriously looked at with an eye to upgrading what needs to be upgraded and setting backwash times to the minimum necessary AND I need to know how much water is spilled in each process. After that, I need to buy another 3000 gallon tank. At least! If the ditch is going to be kept off for 10 days every spring, I need to know I have 1000 gallons a day in storage. If I want to grow anything during that period, then I need even more storage than that.

Lastly, I need to have the piping torn out between the far side of my pump house to the southern edge of my property. It's too small and degrading because it's ancient, or so I'm told. More to the point, there's a beautiful, 50-foot-tall walnut tree sitting just outside my pump house wall, right next to the line that goes from the tank into the pump house, on its way to the house proper. There's another tree just like it about 100 feet farther on. Guess where they're getting their water? Holy Smokes! If they break the pipe, which they may be doing at this very moment, I'd really be in trouble! Who knows how long I'd be without water if that happens?

Wait! If I have to lose that shade, then I'm going to make use of the debris. When the tree service takes them out, I'll plug the stumps for mushrooms. Think that won't work here in Arizona? Wrong. Look what I found today! That's a gorgeous oyster mushroom cluster on the cottonwood log that I plugged with oyster mushroom spawn two years ago. I can't believe I found it before the turkeys did!

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