Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Water Part One

Living in the motorhome and having only a small kitchen and bathroom, means that our daily water use is quite low compared with the amount used in a normal house. Also having to carry it in bottles from a standpipe as we are doing at present means that you become quite aware of how much water you using because I have to go back and re fill the bottle if we run out instead of just turning on a tap and watching the washing up bowl or kettle fill up. Or the toilet flush.

The motorhome does have an on board watertank and water heater, but the water heater packed up last September and we punctured the hose leading from the tank to the heater trying to repair the problem our selves s until we can get the vehicle to the repairers which is back home, all hot water for washing, showering and cooking has to be boiled.

Showering currently consists of using a camping shower bag – basically a heavy duty plastic bag with a small length of hose and a mini shower head on the end. It’s not at all like showering at home, but we do get wet enough to get clean and that’s the main thing. We might be living a slightly itinerant lifestyle, but it does not mean that we don’t have personal standards!

Because the motorhome sink is quite tiny, I had to find a small washing up bowl to use. This proved tricky as the depth of the sink isn’t very deep and I wanted to be able to leave the bowl in the sink when not in use and still be able to replace the slot in work top piece. I eventually found a plastic cake box which fits perfectly. I use about 4 pints of water when I wash up – not much compared with using a standard bowl back home or using a dishwasher, but its effective.

I tend to put the washing up water down the toilet rather than the sink. One of the reasons for this is that the motorhome has a holding tank for waste grey water, and although the drain tap is left open when we are on site and any waste water drains into an external waste water tank, which is emptied daily, the onboard tank gas a gap between the bottom of the tank and the drain tap of about 1 ½ inches. This means that there is always a residue of water left in the tank even if it appears empty. If grey water is left in there, it soon starts to smell and this percolates back up the pipes into the sink, washbasin or shower. To keep all the plugholes and the grey water as fresh as possible in the onboard tank, I flush lemon juice and a kettle full of boiling water down each of the plugholes each day when I am here – Himself tends to forget when he’s on his own !

The toilet is a cassette type. This means that all the waste matter goes into another tank and a liquid is added which helps to break down the waste and should keep the contents from smelling too much. Some motorhomes and caravans have another tank which fresh water is added to for flushing the toilet, but ours doesn’t, so we keep a bottle of clean water in the bathroom and flush as necessary. I do have very serious concerns about the chemical liquid which is added to make the toilet waste break down. It is formaldehyde based and is bright blue in colour. It is one of the few chemicals which we use in our day to day activities and I keep trying to find a more environmentally friendly liquid, but the couple of herbal replacements which are on the market don’t seem to be as efficient and are more expensive. I have experimented with a couple of home made alternatives, but as yet haven’t been as successful as I want to be. If you have a ‘recipe’ for a chemical toilet replacement, please, please let me know !!

The average UK home uses about 150 litres of clean water per day. Living this way we currently use less than 15 litres most days – about 10%. However this doesn’t take into account machine washing which is done at home at weekends, but I always use a full load, wash at low temperature and use home made laundry soaps and natural conditioners which allows me to use the grey water for the garden or green house. If I need to do any hand washing whilst we are away, I have a large lidded tub in which I put the water, clothes and laundry soap and I stick the tub in the boot of the car when I go shopping. The movement of the car agitates the clothes a bit like the washing machine would, so when I come to actually wash the clothes, some of the hard work has already been done for me and it is just a case of a quick dunk, rinse and hang up to to drip dry (Himself is far better at wringing clothes out than I am, he has bigger stronger hands), and again the used water goes to flush the toilet.

Having to fetch and carry the water that you need on a day to day basis really does focus your mind on ways to reduce the need for the physical activity of fetching it – water is heavy. That in itself focuses me to find ways to reduce our overall use of what is such a precious commodity.

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