Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Providing Water, Book Update

Nine days left on the Kickstarter project- to assemble a Field Guide for Providing Water. I receive calls regularly asking various questions as diverse as spring design to how much storage is needed, and everything in between. This book will be a summary of my experience over the last 25 years in the US and with groups in 20 countries. This book allows people working in developing countries, as well as rural Americans, to find solutions without having to reinvent the wheel. It is also one of the very few books that emphasizes appropriate technology. A few more backers of this project will get it off the ground and flying.
Providing Water, A practical Field Guide

Friday, May 17, 2013

Climate change and Water Scarcity

And why we need to change the way we design for water and wastewater

A recent opinion piece in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat   talks about Amy's foods needing to expand and the City of Santa Rosa wanting a $31 million water and wastewater permit fee. Amy's, one of my favorite packaged food companies, is expanding rapidly and needs a larger manufacturing plant which they anticipate will require 12 million gallons a month of water and resulting wastewater. The city says they have to expand water and wastewater facilities for this kind of demand, and want Amy's to help pay for this. Back in the last century, battles like this would rage, companies would move, cities would back down, and the taxpayers would be in an  uproar.
But here's the thing. This isn't 1950, nor even 1980. We are in an age of increased population and demands on water as well as requirements to clean up discharges into precious water resources. Then, you pile on top of that climate change, rising sea levels, increasing salt water intrusion, and it is necessary that we rethink our water use and wastewater production radically.
A couple of years ago, I was hired to do research into methods of providing water and dealing with waste streams for a planned community with the following rules- no aquifer depletion, no discharge of wastewater, and rainwater to be the sole source of water.
You'd be surprised to know how much you can do with those constraints. Capturing rainwater through porous materials and storing in huge underground self supporting structures, complete recycling of wastewater leaving only solid residues, using biological treatment systems that don't have high energy or chemical requirements. It's all available now.
If Amy's were to use these approaches, they could not only reduce their usage, and therefore their bill, but also not strain existing water resources, and help the planet. And I bet  it would cost less that $31 million.
Of course, this also requires major changes in how the regulatory process works, and a big change in the engineering mindset that relies on last century technologies and approaches to 21st century problems.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

River wells

The drawing above is representative of the type of illustration the Field Guide will use. Since the book will be available in ebook and paperback format, this type of illustration is more readable in ebooks, especially the  black and white versions. The drawing depicts a river well, one form of a structure to take water from a stream or river, or pond for that matter. Surface water sources often have algae and seasonal high turbidity and sediments. By digging a shallow well a few feet away from the water edge, filling it with gravel and then placing a perforated vessel in the middle of the gravel, most of the algae and sediments problems are solved. The gravel layer extends above the water level so that the well does not become a breeding ground for mosquitoes  A pump can then be placed in the perforated vessel and operated without concern for the pump being plugged. This is an example of the kind of information available in the Field Guide. The book is scheduled for publication May 2014. Please click on the link above or in the side bar, to follow this project. Thanks!
(drawing interpretation by Xan Blackburn from a photograph)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Flying over Sumatra as Mr Jacob

In my work with water, lots of interesting stuff happens. The following is one such episode. The book project (Providing Water) contains many more. 
After the 2005 Christmas Tsunami, I got a contract to supply 200 slow sand filters to decimated villages along the west coast of Sumatra. We assembled these filters in a week working 12-15 hour days in the shop in Santa Rosa California. Fedex flew the filters to Indonesia for free, several pallets worth. There was also an urgent need for training of the people in Indonesia who would be setting the filters up in the villages. So, I went. If you’ve never flown from the US to south east Asia, let me tell you, it’s one long trip. 24 hours after getting on the first flight in Seattle, I disembarked in Medan, Sumatra. A  little worse for wear, I was met by the US team that was handling the filters and informed that they were grabbing a puddle jumper flight to Banda Aceh to speak with members of the team there. They wanted to know if I wanted to come with them, or go on to the hotel to recover from my long flights from the States. Banda Aceh was off limits to everyone due to the conflict between Islamic Jihadists and the government, but a truce was in effect because of the public health catastrophe that was the Tsunami. I didn’t even have to think about it, of course I wanted to go to Aceh. The departure “lounge” was in a state of pandemonium with people trying to get in to effected areas. There was no way to get a ticket to the flight which was leaving in 30 minutes. That’s when one of the Indonesian team members held up his finger indicating for me to wait a minute. He disappeared into the crowd and returned a few moments later with a boarding pass for me. I looked incredulously at the document as we all started heading through the queue to board when I noticed that the document was in the name of Mr. ES Jacob. My turn in the line came, the woman took the boarding pass without a second glance and sent me  on my way up the steps. What followed was an adventure for another time. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Want Access to my 25 years in the field experience?

Well, here is a simple way to do that.

 First, go here
Take a look around, then support the project, according to your desire and requirements. For $10, you will get an ebook copy when it publishes in April 2014. Other options include a paperback copy and even a discounted rate on a water system design fitting your requirements. I will be regularly posting progress, and I highly encourage feedback from all of you regarding content and what you would like to see in the book.
My intention is to make this book a relevant resource for development workers, disaster planners, relief workers, as well as engineers, and do-it-yourselfers.