Strange Human Habitat: Internet, but No Running Water

Last summer, I lived in a beautiful house (albeit on its way toward decay) on 5 acres with a creek running through it. Not exactly the spot to consider “waterless”; however, the house did not have running water, a thing that I doubt most privileged Americans have had to deal with. I hadn’t.

I had electricity and Internet. And one of the most scenic views. All I needed, right? I learned the extent of difficulty not having running water can bring. Despite the creek, no water runs to the house and the creek water, I’d been told, is not drinking water (I never got around to collecting and boiling it, which I regret).

A few of the things I learned living there (there are some unflattering things so, if you have a weak stomach, be warned):

Local water refill locations. There was a store nearby where you can refill gallon jugs of water so you’re not constantly buying new water bottles. I would never have given this a thought (or even noticed the service), but not wasting bottles is definitely an environmental concern and I’m now extremely glad this service exists.

Vinegar is awesome. A spray bottle of vinegar and water (about 3:2) to wash the few dishes I used and as a general cleaning agent. Spray, wipe, spray, wipe. This goes for my compost bin when it needs cleaning as well. An eco-friendly way to keep stuff clean. Additionally, for a quick clean, I used a vinegar, water, and tea tree oil spray bottle (2:3:dash of tea tree). I did this to spray down my body in between trips to get showers at a nearby gym (washing in the creek was actually quite tough as it was quick moving. Spray, wipe.

One pot pastas. Beyond the sheer fact that I now know how to waste less water and when I do have excess, it can be used to water the plants, knowing how to make a one pot pasta has been HUGE. I only had a single stove top and because I needed to conserve, I learned what techniques I could do vary my diet. I can cook up some slammin’ sauted veggies (and over an open fire – *drools), cook up eggs and bean dishes and whatnot, but what I had in my vegetarian rippeteau was getting old and the world of one-pot pasta made an impressive difference.

I do not love pooping outside. I never had a problem with it while backpacking, but the day-in-day-out got tough, especially with the wily creatures and the mosquitoes (so many mosquitos! The silver lining is that now I know about bat boxes and will build a new one for my next home; helps save the bats and keep the mosquito population down). In my permaculture research, I learned a great deal about composting, including that human feces is compostable. This gave me an idea. I used a brown paper bag and a 5 gallon bucket as my toilet and disposed of the poop-filled bag by composting. No water needed (except in the production of the bag which before becoming a toilet, was used for groceries, and may also be used to composting other things).

The pee cup. Collecting my pee in a cup inside and then distributing it outside allows me some inside relief privileges without the use of water or being bitten up by mosquitos. I never used it to distill water and drink it though.

I’m not saying I’d want that life forever. But I love having had the experience and feel like I could do it again, being more prepared. I value running water more than before and learned a lot. I still miss working on the big porch, lifting my eyes from a computer or a cup of tea to stare at a changing, wild world. I still miss wandering those acres, learning a little more about the motions of nature, pondering the conveniences of human adaptation, and increasing the desire not to squander either.


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