Sharing from Andalousia
We live in a small village in Andalusia called Villanueva de Tapia, less than an hour from Malaga and Granada airports. In this isolated site we are not connected to the water network, no sewer, no electricity, no telephone. So in this place, we have been challenged for living by autonomy non only for ourselves but also to open our doors to guests.
To be in touch with us please contact : http://www.ecocampementnomade.page.tl/Home.htm
We offer a choice of accommodation : you can sleep under canvas, live in a Mongolian yurt, in our guest room, or studio apartment.
Here we decided to renounce to dig a well because the water sheet situated 150 meters deep, offers only chalky and briny water.
In Andalusia, the tendency is to say that rain never comes and anyway never enough. Even coming from Northern Europe that was not our record! Here rain is really not negligible but comes irregularly during the year.
The first year, we got showers from 15 to 35 liters/m2. To pick up that rain we have put gutters and drainpipes all around the roofs. We could not find any cement tank so we built one. We have used cement and lime to make it waterproof.
The first winter, our 11m3 tank overflew. It was an evidence that it was really too small. This was as an evidence that rain collection was the solution. So we were very glad to stop bringing the water from the village for our own domestic use.
After we discovered Professor Orszagh’s web site « EAUTARCIE », we realized that water autonomy was possible for us. That became our goal. Even we got recommendations from the web site “EAUTARCIE” , we were not very confident with the quality of our filtered water. We could not find any laboratory to test this water so we were still going to fill our bottles to the village for one year.
It’s only end of November 2008 that we found a pharmacy where we could make the test for our filtered water. We were so glad to listen that the test was positive: our water responds to the Spanish regulation for drinking water.
If we were confident from the beginning with “EAUTARCIE” system we could escape at least one year water fatigue duty from the village. We now totally agree with Mister Orszagh when he declares “In the near future, the only quality drinking water source available will be water from the rain.” It’s already true in Andalusia.
For our autonomy (family and guests) we already have almost 40m3 to stock but it seems too small for stocking all the rain from the roof. Probably because of non regular precipitations.
Technical characteristics of our installation
House : 105 m2, photovoltaic generation : 7,2 m2, various small roofs: 6 m2, total surface: 114 m2.
We have several tanks :
· One 11m3 tank as mentioned above is bricklayed with floor tile at the bottom. Above this tank, the water coming from the roof is allowed to settle in another tank.
· One 8m3 polyester tank food quality guarantee is dropped on the top of our land. The water is pumped from the 11 m3 tank. So the house is supplied by gravity.
· One 12m3 polyester tank for stocking laying down on the floor. It will be shortly dropped on the top of the land.
· Six 1m3 cubes in polyethylene food quality guarantee.
· One 2m3 polyester tank for collecting the water from the big wooden house.
So the total stocking capacity is 39 m3 including 31m3 directly linked to the roofs.
· One hydrophore pump working 100% photovoltaic and wind generation.
· One filter 25 microns named Cintropur based downstream from the pump.
· One micro filtration system ( pre-filter + ceramic +active charcoal ) for drinking water in the kitchen and the studio apartment.
· One general water meter to measure the total consumption.
· One water meter for the external kitchen for our guests.
· One water meter for the wooden house and the Mongolian yurts.
Grey water purification
From the studio apartment
The grey waters from the studio apartment go through a fat remover tank filled with straw then in a concrete cylinder tank, 1m deep and 80 cm diameter. The substances dump at the bottom. The overflow seeps out in a second tank where the water is pumped before being stocked in a tank used for compost and garden watering.
Grey water from the sanitary wooden house
The grey water from the wooden house goes through three filtering tanks with aquatic plants with 40 cm different level from tank to tank. From tank to tank the water to be purified comes up from the bottom to the top going through 4 layers of minerals. Each tank contains one layer of big stones covered by one layer of volcanic stones covered by small stones and finally one layer of sand. The plants come from the little stream at the bottom of our land.
Guest’s sharing about water and composting toilets
1. After their journey in our camp one couple with their three children: 3, 6 and 9 years old decided to do away with their WC with toilet flush at home and replace it by composting toilet.
2. One dad living alone with his two children 9 and 15 years old asked me to make the children sensitive to their water and energy consumption. “ If advise doesn’t come from the parents, the children listen better, they pay more attention”. He said. I think noticing the consumption on arrival and departure is a good idea. So we can make calculation of the average consumption per day and per person even day by day if we wish. I have also explained simple and responsible acts to preserve energies. The father living in Paris had listened before about composting toilets and wished to make it possible for his children to discover and make the experience in our environment.
3. One couple discovered than everyone could shower with only 3l of water. Enough to fill two bottles of 1,5l.
4. One couple with two children : 4 and a half years old and 5 and a half years old really wished to come to our camp to make their children sensitive on saving water. They always let the water running from the tap when brushing their teeth, let the water running from the shower and never turn off the lights when living the room. In our camp, after less than three days, the children understood how savings were important and their mummy was really satisfied.
5. One couple came to our camp with two children. The wish of the husband was to install composting toilet at home against the wish of his wife and children. The “opponents” were astonished when they discovered that even with temperature over 35°C there were no flies, no smell in the toilet even though next to the compost.
As far as the composting toilets are concerned, absence of smell seems to be the decisive argument for most families.
Since our arrival in Spain, we bought bottles of water only to renew our stock for collecting the water containing chlorine from the village tap.
After sometime we used the distributed water, we preferred collecting drinking water from a spring that was well known by old villagers giving fresh and good quality water. We preferred this water even if officially it was declared “non drinkable”.
The next summer, the flow of “our spring” became very small. So we had to find another one. As it was this water was declared officially non drinkable. That did not stop us from collecting this water. Local Spanish people were doing the same. This spring water had a nice test, but we were going very often to toilets.
Puzzled about the sanitary effects of this water, we asked it to be analyzed by the communal administration. Then we learned both springs were containing more than 50 mg/l of nitrates that is the legal limit.
By the way, after the results we got above, I gave our rainwater harvesting to be analyzed to a pharmacist. It’s very sad but it’s only after one year that we realized the quality of our stocking water was far better than distributed water and also the springs from the village. We are now convinced to drink our filtered rainwater harvesting. So having at one’s disposal quality drinkable water is very much possible with simple means.
Examples about water issues in Andalusia
Rich of our experience, we ended up by looking closely to the water issues in the neighbouring villages. We discovered that the water layer situated in that area was drastically polluted by nitrates. The inhabitants are supplied in drinkable water by tankers.
The same thing could happen in other villages in Andalusia as a result of intensive agriculture. Already now lack of water is spreading little by little: some villages are running out of water sometime for 15 days.
During one of our summer hikes, we decided to visit “Pantano del Agujero” lake next to Malaga. When we reached there, despite the sign on the wall “Pantano del Agujero” we could not see any visible water. We asked one Spanish villager who confirmed we were at the lake mentioned on the map. At that place instead of water, we could see one deep valley covered with vegetation. So we could think that there was no water since a long time in this reservoir.
This lake/reservoir/dam should serve normally to provide drinkable water for a part of Sevilla and Cordoue provinces. It was created in 1979 by Franco.
Some questions I answered about water in a survey for an ecological holidays guide book
Do you have low flow taps or low flow shower heads?
Yes, even though the gas water heater allow the flow for only 5 liters per minute.
Do you have dual flush water cisterns or water efficient in your WC?
We don’t have any WC with water flush, but composting toilet where we use exclusively wooden shaving instead of water. We recover scrap from carpentry.
Do you have any rainwater harvesting system?
Yes. Every square meter from the roof contributes in rainwater harvesting. It is our unique resource on water. We do not have any other alternative but it is sufficient. We never miss water.
Do you have grey-water recycling system ?
Yes we do. All grey-water is purified and used to water plants, trees, and compost. We are not allowed to waste this water that is so precious in Andalusia.
Grey-water is purified and stocked in one tank. In this way it is always available in need.
Have you taken any other measures not mentioned above to reduce or manage your waste water ?
On their arrival, we let our guests know that our buildings are not linked to the public network. We let them know that we have no well nor spring on our land. All our water comes from rainwater’s tanks.
As water quantity is limited, water saving comes by itself. If the tanks had to dry up, we would have to go and collect the water from the village and this would be costly for everyone.
That’s the reason why we have a water meter. It helps to control water consumption and stock management. On our site, reasonable use of water comes through live experience. It is a good school for responsible management, also we will be able to practice when we’ll go back home after we return from holidays.
Daily consumption calculation per person is non only a precious indication to adjust our behaviour but mostly a playful calculation activity for children to implement daily ecology.
Our hosts are very surprised when they learn that their use for daily hygiene ends to be established about 20 l per person. It’s less than half their use at home. Cooking takes only 5 l per day per person. I also tell them that composting toilet should reduce their bill by 30%.
In our home, holidays are also an initiation to ecology.
Villanueva de Tapia, January the 25th 2009.