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Saving water

saving water, photo 1It’s raining hard here in Davao, the first real rain we’ve had for about three weeks.

I thought it rained here pretty regularly. I thought we were out of the seasonal wind flows that bring pronounced dry and wet seasons to the rest of the country’s islands. My wife Menchu tells me, though, that late February and March can bring long periods of dry weather and that’s what we’ve had.

Everything has taken on a film of dust and some of the plants and trees have started looking a little droopy.

Amihan and Habagat

The famed Pacific trade winds dictate the seasons for most of the Philippines. September/October brings the Amihan, the cooler winds from the northeast. The Amihan season brings moderate temps (for a country near the Equator!) and lower rainfall.

Habagat weather hits in June/July when the trades switch over to the west or southwest and bring hotter and more humid weather and the seasonal monsoon rains.

Davao is out of the trade wind rut, though, and our weather is pretty steady. We don’t get the flip-flopping seasons and are out of the normal path of most typhoons (I worry about climate change and how that might influence the paths of future typhoons, though).

Saving water

So our rainfall, except for dry spells like the one we just came through, is pretty consistent. Before we hit this last dry spot, rain and thunderstorms were almost a daily occurrence.

The Philippines’ weather center, PAGASA, says that Davao City has averaged 1759.1mm of rain over the period of 1981 – 2010. That’s nearly 6 feet of rain each year!

Last year, Davao City passed a law requiring new buildings to submit a plan to capture that 6-feet of water and use it, to ease the growing city’s pressure on its other water sources and to reduce the amount of roof water introduced into the city’s storm water system.

I am 100% behind this. Not only does saving water make “green sense”, as in not wasting a precious resource, but it makes “peso sense” to not have to pay the water company so much when there’s “free” water falling on my roof. I had planned, back in Seattle, to be saving rain water from the roof  for non-potable uses.

Our house, as modest as it is, still has a roof (“catchment area” in the technical lingo) of over 200 square meters. You can almost feel it coming, can’t you? A problem. Yes, it is. It’s running through the gutters on the house we haven’t built yet.

The problem showed up in the implementation of the city’s requirement.


saving water, photo 2

An 800-liter (210 gal.) water storage tank.

Having done my research back in Seattle while we were still kicking around house plan ideas, I had anticipated catching some of the rainwater that fell and having a couple of 500-liter (130-gallon) tanks at the back of the house.

260-gallons is a lot of water to use each month. I was pretty sure we weren’t going to go through the expense of setting up a set of filters and a UV-light disinfectant station in order to make it drinkable but I was sure we’d find some use for all of that water around the house.

We’d use the water in our garden, on our future fruit trees and to keep our house clean with. Heck, you can do the dishes with rain water because it’s nice and soft so the detergent foams up well.

What I didn’t realize is that Davao City’s law requires a plan that catches every drop of water that falls on the roof in one month!

So when the architect delivered his drawn-up plans, I was slightly (ha!) shocked to see six, two-meter high tanks drawn on the blueprint!

Now, like I said, I’m fully behind saving water but what the hell am I going to do with 11,000 liters of the stuff every month? Set up a water park on my lot?!

It now looks like we’ll be installing a small pump to the rainwater system to give us enough pressure to use it and, even though the blueprints are drawn up already, I’m seriously considering piping the rainwater to the washer and maybe the toilets.

Heck, if I have to catch it all, I may as well try to use it all!


photo credit: Playground via photopin (license)

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