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how we got drinking water

May 3, 2012

Since we’ve been back in the US, people have asked us whether we had electricity, water, and other conveniences in Solomon Islands. So here’s a retroactive post about our water situation in the capital there. It’s a much different story outside of the capital and a few other cities, and I’m sure even for many people in the capital.

Our 3 categories of water

1. tap water

We were fortunate to have running water throughout our house: in our sinks, shower, and toilet.  This tap water is a mixture of rainwater and city water. Nobody’s really sure how good the city water is, so none of the SITAG families drink the tap water.  City water is also unreliable – it may be on one day, and then there won’t be any water coming through the city water pipe the next day.

We used it for:

  • showering
  • flushing the toilet
  • washing dishes
  • washing fruits and veggies with peels

2. unfiltered rain water

Each SITAG house has a big tank that collects rainwater from the roof. We used the unfiltered rain water for some cooking uses. When it was raining, it was quicker to fill a bowl from the rain tank overflow than to fill it from the sink! We were there during the rainiest part of the year, so our rain tank was never empty. When there’s less rain, though, sometimes people have to use water very carefully, and the rain tanks might even be empty.

We used it for:

  • cooking things that would boil for awhile, like rice
  • filling our water filter to get drinking water (read on)

3. filtered rainwater, aka our drinking water

Not everyone in SITAG has this category. Some of the families drink unfiltered rainwater. We filtered it first.

We used filtered water for:

  • drinking
  • making ice
  • adding to recipes that won’t be boiled
  • washing foods that won’t be peeled or boiled
  • rinsing our mouths after brushing our teeth

How we got our drinking water

Little D often initiated the process by asking, “more water?” and reaching for the teal bowl, pictured above.

This blue tank is the rain tank in the house we stayed in. It’s conveniently located by our back porch, which is behind the kitchen. The water is directed off the roof into the white PVC pipe, through a screen, and into a hole in the top of the blue tank. We turn the faucet to get water out (shown in the picture below). Some holes near the top let out water when the tank is full but it is still raining.

We bring the filled bowl back into the house.

Our water filter lived on our kitchen counter. It holds 10 liters of unfiltered water in the top and 10 liters of filtered water in the bottom.

The top half has three replaceable filters.

looking in the top of the water filter

We take off the lid and pour in the water. The water seeps through the filters and drips into the bottom half of the tank. It filters quickly enough, and John and Little D kept it full enough, that I never ran out of filtered water. [A note from John for those that are interested: the rated output of the filters is ~4 liters/hour. However, on the 3 times I kept track of it, the highest rate was closer to 3 L/hr when the top tank was completely full, dropping to less than 1 L/hr when it was half full. Average filtration rate for the entire top tank to filter through was less than 1 L/hr. Yes, I’m a nerd, and love it. For those even more interested, here’s my rough graph showing filtration rate, with a disclaimer: I only kept track of the filtration rate 3 times, so it was far from a precise scientific study.]

Put the lid back on. Little D asks, “More water?” Repeat.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. slackersharla permalink
    May 3, 2012 10:55 pm

    In April, when I was in a car with Little D and we drove past a blue water tower, he seemed quite fascinated. “Big blue wadeh toweh.” Once I saw the picture of the blue tank, his fascination makes more sense.

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