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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Oh...precious water

Do you know how much water your toilet uses? I do....1.6 gallons per flush. How about your shower head? Mine uses 2.5 gallons per minute. I never would have know these things before, but being here in Bethel makes you really appreciate your water.

We get our water delivered to our houses. This is the water truck backed up to my apt. delivering my water for the week.

Here is the water truck driver filling my water tank. They dont keep track of how much water they give you, they just fill it up. They know it's full when the over flow starts to drip water. When you first go in to sign up for water service, they ask you what size water tank you have and how often you want it delivered. That is the information they use to determine what your monthly bill will be. I have a 500 gallon tank and get it filled once per week. My monthly water cost is $181. That's $181 for approx. 2000 gallons. I bet that gives you a new appreciation for your monthly water costs.
Here is my tank being filled. The tank is in the utility room with the water heater and the washing machine. The water is pumped from the tank into the pipes using a shallow well pump. The pump is really loud and if you run out of water, you have to unplug your pump so that it doesnt burn out.
Here is the sewer truck coming to suck the sewage out of a tank that is buried under the house. It smells so bad. You can always tell if there is a sewer truck in the neighborhood. The sewage tank even has a heater that I have to plug in during the winter when it gets too cold (ok, i'm up to three things to plug in when it's cold...my truck, my bathtub, and my sewer tank. think i'm going to remember all this?). The whole water situation has been my biggest headache of living here in Bethel. For two weeks in a row, we were left a note on the door that said they did not give us water because there was dog poop on the ground in front of where they need to drag their hoses to suck out the sewer. It is so frustrating to come home to find out that you did not get water. And it seems kind of silly too....the guy that sucks the poop out of your sewer tank wont walk up to the tank if there is poop in the way! Does that make sense? They were pretty adamant about making sure we knew that they wont fill the water if there is dog poop in the way, so we've always been very careful to clean everything up on Sunday night. The first time they didnt give us water it was because the sun had come out during the day and melted the snow and there was poop under the snow. So, I called before they closed and they came out and filled it. The very next week they didnt fill it again. This time I was really mad because Avery and I had gone outside and cleaned everything up on Monday morning before we left for school. I called and let them know that I was sure there was NO POOP there and they came back out and filled it. It's very frustrating...basically you are at the mercy of someone else's whims.

Some parts of town are actually hooked up to city water that is delivered in unlimited amounts through pipes that are insulated and run above ground. They cant put the pipes in the ground because the permafrost freezes and thaws causing the ground to shift and move. Here is a picture of some of the pipes. These are the ones that run along the main road in front of the post office. All of the city buildings are hooked up to city water and there are a couple housing divisions that are hooked up to water.This is the main water pipe that runs out to a subdivision called city sub. All the houses in city sub are hooked up to piped water (ahem...chandra's place...she's soooo water spoiled:)). If I understand it correctly, even the people who are hooked up to piped water dont pay there bills based on how much water they use. They just pay a certain amount each month and get unlimited water.

The areas of town that have piped water also have fire hydrants. None of the other neighborhoods have them. I know the fire dept has at least one water tank truck, just in case there's a fire in an area of town without fire hydrant, which is most of the town. If I had to estimate, I'd say about 20% of the buildings in Bethel have piped water.
In addition to not being able to shower or flush the toilet, this is what happens when you run out of water. I think just about every dish in the house was dirty in this picture. Basically, here's how it works...I get my water delivered on Monday. That means that on Sunday, we try to use all the water (doing laundry) so that when they fill the tank on Monday, we get the most out of our fill up. What this means though is that sometimes if we completely use up the water on Sunday, we wont have any for Monday morning. So, we keep a gallon of water under the counter for just in case we run out. It also means that if we dont keep very close track of how much water we use on Sunday, we could run out before the day is even over.I challenge you to find out how much water your toilet uses per flush and how much water your shower head uses per minute. I get 500 gallons of water delivered each week and we use every bit of it, mostly on laundry. I would be so curious to know...how much water do you use? How much does it cost? Look at your water bill and see if it tells you, then post a comment letting me know how much water you are using per week. I am willing to bet it's more than 500 gallons. If anyone is willing to share this information with me, I would be very interested in finding out. I never really paid attention to how much water I used when I lived in the lower 48. Now, I make sure I turn the water off while I brush my teeth, we dont flush EVERY time, and we catch the water the usually runs down the drain when you are waiting for your shower water to heat up. All of these small changes that we've had to make to live here in Bethel will, hopefully, become lifelong conservation habits.


Anonymous said...

In Bethel, the toilet, has truly earned the title, "Throne"!

Our last water bill, "kidless", was just under $50.00 for the month.

Refer to Chandra's blog, and when Dave flies in to earn poop pizza points at her place, she can send him over to your place!


Anonymous said...

Oh wow Alisha! I am so glad I did not move to Bethel.....that is a lot of money every month for water. I do try to be conscious about how much I use too. Here the house is on a cistern system and septic tank. I don't pay anything for my use as it is all included in my monthly rent. Even my heat....sorry..... Ketchikan gets over 8 feet of rain a year...the lost of any US city. We don't have a water shortage but it makes sense not to be wasteful anyway.

alisha said...

poop pizza points? Do I even want to know? :)

Mr. Iverson said...

I may be on an island in the Bering Sea, but I do have unlimited water. I can be thankful for that I guess. I'll be in the first of December for writing assessments. We'll have to get together and drink some water together.

alisha said...


sounds good...lets do it. actually, i was just telling the others when we were sitting at our last polycom culture nightmare that we should invite you to come in one of those weekends when we have class. we always make class tons of fun and you would just fit right in. you are welcome to join us here in bethel to take the culture class sometime. you'd be a welcome addition to all of our quirkiness.

Mr. Iverson said...

By the way, I wanted to commend you on your amazingly comprehensive expose on the current water situation in Bethel. I found it in depth, informative and fascinating. It game me some ideas.