halifaxearthtech: photo by Marlene Thyssen (Water)
The project of living sustainably can seem daunting at first. According to the New Economics Foundation in the UK, August 20 was global overshoot day for 2013 (1): the day on which the human race extends the Earth's capacity to mitigate and account for our food consumption, water usage and pollution expenditure. At Verge Permaculture they recommended we live within our solar budget for the year. That means, not overdrawing more water than falls on your personal chunk of land in a given year, not using more energy than falls as sunlight on your house. This is also referred to as the solar economy: instead of drawing upon fossil energy and ancient aquafer water, we adjust our demand to fit within what the sun and the earth give is in a given year. Obviously this is a tall order but to me it felt like a handy place to start.

This is our water usage meter. The city uses it to bill us for water (although since the city owns our house, we don't actually pay for water).


On the first day of every month I remember to, I record the total water used. On average it is 10m^3 or 10 thousand litres a month for cooking, dishes, drinking, washing clothes showering, irrigating my garden in the dry months and flushing toilets. It seems like a lot, perhaps five bathtubs full.

Find yearly average rainfall in your area from Environment Canada's website
link:
http://climate.weather.gc.ca/climate_normals/index_e.html#1971

Here's a hint: for Shearwater airport in Halifax it's 1421.4 mm average between years 1973 and 2013.

I found my house's roof area was roughly 101.8m ^2 by going out and measuring the length and width of the house with a tape measure (and then multiplying them together to find the area). Make sure your final area measurement is in metric.

Finally, multiply the mm of rain with the m^2 of the roof. The answer should come out in litres (.001 m x m^2 = .01 m^3 or 1L). I found out my roof collects an average of 144'698.5 L of water a year. That's 12'058.21 L a month.

It turns out that in a climate like ours, we can afford with our roof space even to use flush toilets. We also live in a house and have a large roof area. Implications for those who live in apartment buildings would be more frugal. However for us it takes fossil energy to pump water up from the Grand Lake aquifer to the Hydrostone reservoire for downtown Halifax, let alone to treat the water before and after home use. Reducing your water use directly saves energy and greenhouse gasses. Furthermore if you were saving rainwater for all your needs, reducing your water consumption would make it easier to accommodate fluctuations in seasonal rainfall and get you through the drier months.

During the month of September we used the humanure toilet without changing anything else and went from roughly 100 m^3 to 7 m^3. That's a decrease of more than 90%, and that should reflect a little on our power bill too.

To further reduce my water usage I could be staggering my shower (turning off the water to soap up). The next stop would be a front-loading washing machine, greywater use and better water management in my garden.


The media coop focusses on exposing class divides and injustice that other news outlets will not cover, but how can we reorient our lives to start supporting justice? How can we decouple from fossil fuels, and the pipelines, spills, fracking, global warming and human rights abuses associated with them? How can we end the oil addiction, relocalize production, create meaningful work and a truly lasting human ecology? In this column I hope to present solutions and create dialogue around permaculture. Feel free to ask your gardening and green living questions and I will answer.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_Debt_Day
halifaxearthtech: photo by Marlene Thyssen (Water)
This is apparently an old practice. Peoples of Northern Pakistan will seed new glaciers with charcoal, sawdust, and the ice chipped from another glacier and carried to a new mountain pass. They do this to create better conditions for agriculture and purportedly to sometimes block mountain passes from invasions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_glacier

Does anyone know any more about this?
halifaxearthtech: (Default)
(Posted on Oct. 2nd, 2011 10:37 am)


October feels like it's involved many wrap-ups on what worked and what didn't. Autumn has always felt like the beginning of a new year, even before I was doing the pagan thing. I had a meeting yesterday with the members of my community garden and it felt like we came to some good agreements about what to do next (although that came along with some sprinkled "I can do better next year I promise, I just need to *apply* myself". Which doesn't work. I wasn't trying to get people to work harder or feel guilty, just think about what to do with some of the empty fallow land). Someone from the Transition Initiative also wants to do a post-mortem about what worked and what didn't, and I promised someone in Way of the Preserver to do the same.

I gave a permie consultation in St John this week. It turned out to be about a 5 hour drive with breaks so they had a spare room prepared for me and then I drove back on Friday. It's always a tough call deciding how much work is too much and how much is needful for their satisfaction. The clients are a young couple who bought the house and property not long ago. They also own an organic hops farm. They are looking to produce food on their house's property and spend less time maintaining grass, and replace some brush. The property is waterlogged and overrun with Water hemlock, which it will be important to eradicate or control before they have children. Verge had a lot of dryland strategies, being in the prairie, but not a whole lot on drainage (perhaps because draining land is a mainstream strategy that most of dominant culture already does quite well, but that doesn't mean I know how to do it yet.)

Hurricane Ophelia is offshore of us, headed toward offshore-of-Newfoundland. Rob at Verge told us that extremely wet events are good opportunities to watch how water behaves, especially in land that is well vegetated and not prone to obvious erosion.

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