Water in all it’s forms. Water security is so significant to this project, that it deserves it’s own section.
Drainage is required if your property fronts onto a public roadI felt the that the pipes were more than we needed, but didn’t want to argue with regulations. ฿11,000 for the pipes and ฿1,500 for the digger
We purchased another 1.3 Rai of land next to our land. The plot has no road access so we got it cheap: ฿300,000. The plan is to dig a lake for fish and water storage and grow some fruit trees.
The land office came out to survey the land and the next job is to find the 4 corner posts
Digging out the lake
We put the topsoil on the rest of the land; used some of the clay soil for backfill around the retaining wall then sold the rest of the soil which meant that we got the lake for free. Lake 28m x 17m X 4.5m
Trip out to the next province, Buriram to buy a DC solar well pump from KK Solar Cell. The owner and his wife both spoke excellent English and were very helpful.
The pump capacity to raise liters per minute from various depths. The pump is rated at 400w, so we purchased 2 x 300w solar panels and 100m of cable to connect to the pump down the well.
All tossed in the back of my pickup and we headed back for the 30Km drive to the build site
I impressed the builders today with my knowledge of geometry as we built a frame for the solar panels. 2 sides of a triangle are 2m and the angle between them is 15 degrees, what is the length of the third side? It has been much longer since I was at school than any of them.
Solar panels frame design based on a childhood playing with Meccano, located next to the site office.
Digging the well. The guy is using water from the teak tree field next door to soften the ground and a mixture of soil and water is sucked out of the hole. We will line the hole with PVC pipe and drop down the pump. 42m well cost ฿6,000
Starting to get the cold water and waste water plumbing organized.
I was pleased to see that all the joins were properly solvent welded. Don’t want to dig up the bathroom floor looking for leaks.
Wastewater treatment tank:Not sure why American bacteria is better at eating poo.
The gravel drainage bed will feed the Teak Trees
My plan is for water from the well to be pumped by the solar pump into a series of tanks. Most water tanks in Thailand are shaped like a pencil, tall and thin. They are also usually bright blue or have flowers on them. That means they are unstable and ugly. I wanted a tank that was lower than the retaining wall so it wouldn’t ruin the view and the same colour as the dirt, so it would blend in. The tanks are 1,500L each and I plan to have several of them. They will be properly mounted on concrete foundations later, but having fat bottoms they are naturally stable.
There was no water supply at my rented house again today! I am so looking forward to having some control.
A temporary pump and pipe arrangement allows me to connect a 50m and 30m hose pipe to different parts of the land to start plant watering.
We met with Ruben from H2O water systems in Buriram. He tested my well water. I plan to have one of his systems to filter and demineralize the whole house water. I also will get him to install a system for producing drinking water from captured rain water.
A few km from my house is a new water bottling plant. Houses near the plant are already complaining that their wells are now dry!
We purchased a strip of land 4m x 30m for ฿60,000 to link the land that the house sits on to the land where the lake is. We then needed to make a road to get there, which took 28 trucks of dirt at ฿300 each ฿8,400 in total.
We have decided to dig out the lake to a depth of 8m, to maximize our water storage.
We are putting in another solar well pump, while we wait for the lake to fill. It also means that we can start planting fruit trees.
Temporary 150w pump replaced with a Hitachi 350w. An upgrade to the plumbing and the addition a 100m 1 inch pipe. We also now have 8 x 1,500L tanks = 12,000L
We originally planned to buy a 4m x 32m strip to join the house land to the lake land, but the teak trees growing on the strip greatly reduced the size and usefulness of the strip so we agreed with the owner to extend it to 8m x 32m. It meant that we acquired more teak trees with the land. Panda the dog is feverously trying to bury a stolen donut, before the trucks dump tons of earth on it!
Still waiting for the new 3 inch DC pump to arrive, so we ran a 100m of 25mm pipe from the DC solar well pump at the front of the property to start filling the lake.
Starting to install the rainwater guttering. All the plastic guttering I have seen does not seem capable of dealing with a tropical monsoon. So I commissioned mine to be oversized and made out of high grade stainless steel to feed into my rainwater harvesting system.
Another solar pump installed, this time I had it done professionally by Buachet Solarcell A much more professional job than doing it myself.
Hundreds of meters of drip irrigation piping has been installed, powered by solar pumps.
Installing stainless steel guttering for the ground floor using Stainless 304 grade. There is now 86m of stainless guttering around the house, installed at a cost of ฿75,000
Bought a new pickup for my girlfriend’s family and borrowed it a few times to transport pipes for my rainwater harvesting.
Water Security: The house is 2km away from a bottle water plant which is buying up
land to take the water under it and the wells (the only source of water locally) in homes near the plant are drying up.
I plan to install a rainwater harvesting system feeding tanks at the back of the house. The tanks need to sit on a substantial concrete slab:
The cement truck got a bit stuck due to the heavy recent rain, but luckily living in the country means that there is always a tractor nearby.
There are 24×1,500L tanks = 36,000L in the rainwater harvesting system. Each tank cost ฿6,500, so ฿156,000 in total. There was just enough room for a garden shed at the end of the concrete slab.
Ruben from H2O water systems in Buriram is spending the week with me. We are starting to install the rainwater harvesting system. It is important that there are access ports to the rainwater system as some of it will be under concrete, like at the front of the house:Four inch pipe joining up to the 6 inch ring main. The ends can be screwed off to flush the system through.
Installing drains for grey water from sinks and showers. The water will be piped to the back of the house and fed to our teak trees, so we plan to be chemical free in the bathroom.
As we plan to use a centralized hot water system using solar thermal, we need pipes that can carry hot water and the Thai Blue PVC pipes are not up to the job. Unfortunately The green hot water pipes require a special plastic welding machine, which had to be purchased as none of the local plumbers had one. Thais heat hot water at the point of usage using electric water heaters.
Ruben from H2O water systems in Buriram has joined me for the week. His first job was to set up my whole house water filter system. The system can work off my well water or off my rain water. It removes the impurities and make the water safe, as well as removing any hardness, so I won’t have any white calcium deposits. The second system takes my rain water and makes it fit for drinking.
The 2 tanks outside the mechanical room are full of filtered water.
The second job that Rubin helped me with, was setting up my Rainwater Harvesting System. I have been researching this for some time, so I felt confident I could probably do it myself. Having seen the system that Rubin built for me, building it myself would have been a big mistake.
Finished just in time for the rains.
Rubin will be back to fine tune both systems when I move in and start using the water system. I will say more about it then, when I am more familiar with it. Rubin can be reached at www.h2owatersystems.co.th
Many of my Thai workers stopped to watch Rubin toiling away in the heat. They commented that they had never seen a westerner work so hard in Thailand.
Solar Thermal water heating system:
The system works by passing water through the panels from the filtered whole house water system, which is heated by the sun. The hot water rises and enters the top of the insulated 200L tank above, which pushes the cooler water out of the tank back into the panels for reheating.
The system is pressurized and there is a pressure release valve which allows the boiling water to escape. Video
There is also an immersion heater which can be set to come on a different times of the day and when the water reaches a predetermined temperature. It is currently not connected as the water is still scolding hot in the morning.
I recently received some criticism about my rainwater harvesting system when discussing it on a Thai Expat forum:
“I might also add it is surprising under a thread titled “Eco” to see all that plastic out in the yard”
I had to explain to him that any excess PVC have been sold for recycling by the family:
First real rain since I installed the rainwater harvesting system. All this fell in an hour:
My tanks (the ones set for rainwater harvesting only – I had some tanks reserved for well water) went from 5% full to 75% – I collected over 20,000L in one hour. So basically it only has to rain hard once a year for me to have enough water to last me all year.
The 4 well water tanks are linked to the solar well pump at the front of the house. There is a tank sensor in the first tank that shuts off when the tanks are full sending a “Tank Error” message to the pump controller and so shutting off the pump.
Where I am living in Surin Province in NE Thailand is experiencing the worst drought in living memory.
Huai Saneng reservoir is the main source of water for Surin City:
Mains water is being turned off daily in the city. In Buriram, the neighboring province, the situation is similarly bad.
Many people think that “preppers” are only preparing for TEOTWAWKI: the end of the world as we know it. But if you ask people what they thought the chances of that happening, most would probably say very very unlikely. But what about the chances of the following situations happening:
Power cut: 100%
Power cut for 24 hours: 10%
Water Shortage: 100%
So these are the things to prepare for.
Treated Black Water having passed through the Aerobic Wastewater treatment tank, complete with imported American Bacteria, a plastic septic tank, it has two sections with an overflow. In the first section sewage is deposited, solids sink to the bottom and are consumed by bacteria and are then liquefied. Liquid flows to the top and is removed by the overflow which then passes into the leach field gravel filled tank.
Grey water from showers etc. in the pipe behind, goes further up the garden to water the Teak Trees. Any water from the kitchen passes through a grease trap first.
The purpose of the grease trap is to act as a reservoir holding the kitchen wastewater. As the wastewater cools, the fat, oil, and grease (FOG) harden and the food solids settle. The FOG, being lighter than water, floats to the top of the grease trap where it can be removed, preventing it from passing into the grey water system.
The condensate from my air conditioners is piped into my Grey Water System to water my teak trees in the garden. It is moisture pulled out of the air, and so it does not contain chlorine or other additives, but as distilled water it can be quite corrosive to most metals, so I will not be using it for drinking. “A central AC for an entire home can collect 5 to 20 gallons (18.9 L to 75.7 L) of condensate water per day”
In the tropics when it rains it really rains and my tanks can fill very quickly.
So I have implemented a rainwater harvesting overflow system. When the rainwater tanks are full, the water is directed to fill my pond. When it is raining, the height difference between the top of the raised tanks and the pond allows the water to flow to the pond. The pressure is increased by the back pressure of the raised height of water in my rainwater down pipes.
I have also added a pump to the system so that I can pump rainwater from the tanks to the pond. I aim to keep the tanks at about 75-80% full if rain is expected.
View from the pond back to the house at dusk:
Prior to the start of this year’s drought the Thais living near my house thought I was a bit crazy buying so many water tanks. Even my girlfriend’s family didn’t know what to say when people asked them about them. However, when their shallow well (their only source of water) started to run dry, they were very grateful to have their own rainwater harvesting system installed. They also have access to unlimited fresh drinking water from my filters.
Over a year ago I installed my first solar well pump and it caused quite a bit of interest as most people locally had never seen one. I then installed a second solar pump at the local primary school. As a result, a large number of people have had a chance to see solar well pumps in action. I now know of several who have plans to install them.
Due to the chronic water shortages in Thailand last year. I decided that a third well was required. My 2 existing wells are 3 inch and about 30m deep. For water security I have had a new well sunk which is 5 inch and down to 52m (Thailand likes to mix metric and imperial). The cost of the drilling was ฿18,000. We found water at 13m.
The first few meters are lined with 5 inch PVC pipe
We added a 500 watt submersible pump to the fish pond, so we could use the nutrient rich water from the bottom of the pond on the plants.
We run drip irrigation from the solar well pump for about an hour a day, the rest of the time it is used to recycle and aerate water back to the pond
Solar Thermal Update:
I have been using the solar thermal system for 2 years now and it has worked perfectly, providing hot water to the kitchen and 2 bathrooms all year round. I was recently asked about the economics of such a system.
In Thailand electric water heaters are normally located in the room where the water is being used, normally under the sink. Assume the water heaters are 5kw and in total are run for 30 minutes a day = 2.5Kwh/day @ ฿4/kwh = ฿10/day = ฿3,650/year (adjust parameters to match your personal circumstances)
I paid ฿30,000 for my solar thermal unit compared to 3 electric water heaters say ฿6,000 each = ฿18,000 – ฿30,000 = ฿12,000 /฿3,650 in saved electricity per year = 3.28 years to payback. As it has no moving parts it should last for several more years to come. I am happy with my investment and enjoy as much hot water as I like knowing it’s all free.
Photo of the pond taken from the drone:
A one hour tropical storm provides enough water for the house for 6 months!
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