Water - Spirit

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return to Winter 2009 - Design Studio Sessions

Natural water cycle (Helen)

Water cycle.jpg

Absorption rate of clay (Helen)

The absorption rate of clay seems to vary a little depending on the source.

Infiltration rate of

We could perform a water absorption test to determine what type of soil we currently have. The following procedure is from the University of Wisconsin – Madison Arboretum site

Procedure: Perform the following infiltration test at each location selected.

  1. Dig a hole 6 inches deep by 6 inches in diameter.
  2. Fill hole with water and let stand for one hour.
  3. Refill hole with water. Measure depth of water with a ruler.
  4. Let stand 1 hour. Then measure the depth again.
  5. Use the following chart to determine soil types based on the rate at which water soaks into the soils.

Soil type: Rate

  • Sand: 1.5 inches/hour or 4 hours total
  • Silt :1/2 inch/hour or 12 hours total
  • Clay 1/3 inch/hour or 18 hours total

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6" Percolation Test-Backyard

Performed June 22, 2009

This was a good test to see the type of soil and drainage conditions the plants in the backyard will enjoy.

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2' Percolation Test-Backyard

Performed June 26, 2009

  • This was a good test to see how fast water moves through the top two feet of the soil profile
  • Important because we need to know if we can keep our storm water on the site instead of sending it to the storm sewer.
  • Dug hole in backyard approx. 2' deep
  • Pre-soaked one day before
  • Made measuring stick as described in Lake Oswego percolation test
  • Water level dropped 2.625" in 2.87 hours for a percolation rate of 0.91" per hour
  • This is a relatively fast rate, indicating a sandy to silty soil texture

Rain Water harvesting (Don)


Harvested Water Usage (Tom)

mm inches
Jan 44.7 1.76
Feb 44.2 1.74
Mar 64.8 2.55
Apr 74.9 2.95
May 74.2 2.92
June 91.7 3.61
July 80.8 3.18
Aug 87.1 3.43
Sept 73.4 2.89
Oct 53.3 2.10
Nov 67.8 2.67
Dec 71.6 2.82
Jan 1.91
Feb 1.88
Mar 2.52
Apr 3.05
May 3.05
June 3.55
July 3.16
Aug 3.10
Sept 3.27
Oct 2.23
Nov 2.66
Dec 2.51
Dryest Amt Year Wettest Amt Year
Jan .023 1961 5.02 1932
Feb 0.04 1877 6.41 1881
Mar 0.38 1910 5.63 1913
Apr 0.53 1899 6.89 1947
May 0.43 1920 8.46 2004
June 0.55 1895 8.31 1892
July 0.5 1930 8.76 1878
Aug 0.16 1894 8.33 1926
Sept 0.39 1877 7.52 1986
Oct 0.13 2005 7.8 1954
Nov. 0.19 1904 5.68 1982
Dec 0.42 1900 5.19 1967

Dryest Amt Year Wettest Amt Year
Spring 3.32 1958 16.31 1947
Summer 3.58 1911 16.96 1896
Fall 2.78 1908 13.74 1881
Winter 2.36 1962-63 12.74 1949-50
  • Garden Beds Water Needs
    • Assumptions:
      • Native plants in the wild don't need to be watered. Then they can survive on on average of 3" a month in Michigan May - Sept.
      • Front Bed and front of Annex: because of the extreme heat island in the front of the buildings those areas will need 4" of rain per month.
      • If we store the equivalent of one weeks need: 1" for the front and parking area and .75" for the alley and .5" backyard (obtained either from rain or gray water) the following shows the rain barrel need.
    • 1 Weeks Water Needs by Garden Area:
      • Front Bed: Area: 254 sq ft, Gals needed(1"): 159, Rain Barrels (55 gal): 3
      • Parking Lot: Area: 892 sq ft, Gals needed(1"): 555, Rain Barrels (55 gal): 10
      • Alley: Area: 744 sq ft, Gals needed(.75"): 349, Rain Barrels (55 gal): 6
      • Backyard: Area: 721 sq ft, Gals needed(.5"): 225, Rain Barrels (55 gal): 4
    • If we can supplement the rainwater with steady supply source i.e. gray water, the storage size need could be reduced. (a half a week supply or a couple day supply)
    • Further Considerations:
      • Green Garage soil absorption rates
      • insulation around cement to decrease island heat effect?
  • Wash cars/bikes (homeless could do people's cars)
    • Use a wagon or hose to distribute water


Greywater, What is It?

Any wastewater generated from non-industrial sources such as dishwashing, hand washing, bathing, and laundry is referred to as greywater. The wastewater that is generated by the flushing of toilets is considered blackwater. The distinction between greywater and blackwater is the concentration of toxic and biological contaminants, such as toxic chemicals and feces. Wastewater from kitchen sinks that contain large amounts of solid particles, wastewater containing high levels of toxic substances from household cleaning products, or wastewater from laundered diapers, can also be considered as blackwater. Greywater constitutes 50 to 80% of residential wastewater.

The conventional method of disposing greywater is to combine it with blackwater, and then direct it to septic tanks or sewers. This approach can result in system overloading. An additional shortcoming of this process is the contamination of the natural waters with poorly treated discharge. The later is especially true when sewage treatment facilities are burdened with storm sewer runoff during periods of heavy rain.


There are many re-uses for greywater. Diverting greywater for irrigation of landscaping and gardens are two possibilities, and with proper filtration and purification, the water can be re-used to flush toilets and for laundry purposes. There are claims that with high amounts of purification and decontamination of greywater, the resulting water can be potable, hence fit for human consumption. There are Do It Yourself (DIY) approaches and commercially available systems intended to treat greywater. Books and the Internet are good sources for information. A good system will deliver the best results in the proper context, with minimal maintenance and complexity. The ideal system should also have an overall positive environmental benefit.


The benefits of greywater re-use can be both ecological and economical. Foremost, there is a lowered demand for water extracted from natural sources. Because greywater can be used for irrigation, the small particles of food from kitchen sources also provide nutrients to the soil. Greywater returned to the earth is also effectively purified by the layers of soil as it permeates downward where it will replenish the water table. Returning greywater to the earth reduces the volume of water that will need to be treated by septic and sewage treatment plant systems, and the associated energy demands. The reduced reliance of city water for landscape and garden irrigation will also provide a cost savings to the occupants of the residence. A further benefit is choosing ecologically friendly cleaning and laundry products, which will increase demand, possibly resulting in lower costs and increased awareness of the impact of toxic cleaning products.


The greywater water can be sent to where it is needed by gravity, or by means of a pump. Precautions should be taken when the greywater is transported by a pump, as particulates and hair can foul the pump mechanism, prematurely ending the life of the pump.

Testing has shown that untreated greywater is considered to be a potential health risk and source of pollution, as the same types of micro organisms can be found as those which are present in blackwater (sewage), although at lower levels of concentration. The amount of risk of the spreading of disease becomes greater as the number of dwellings that share greywater re-use increases. Because of this concern, care should be taken not to consume unpurified greywater, or use it to irrigate any vegetables that may be consumed, especially un-cooked (raw). The best practice is to use greywater as irrigation of the soil surrounding vegetables and trees. This practice also minimizes risks of the spreading of micro organisms in an aerosol form when spraying and other forms of above ground distribution are used. As toxic chemicals can contaminate the soil, the proper choice of home cleaning products, laundry detergent, and other additives should be exercised. --Temp2009 15:13, 7 May 2009 (UTC)


  • From Wikipedia [1]
  • From Oasis Design [2]
  • United States; State Regulations Composting Toilets, Graywater Systems, and Constructed Wetlands, Compiled in 1999. [3]
  • Guidelines for Greywater Re-Use: Health Issues "a must read" [4]
  • Soil percolation test for septic systems From DuPage County, IL
  • City of Lake Oswego OR Percolation Test ProcedureMedia:StormWater.pdf

Grey water systems