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  • Maintaining Water Balance

    There are many things that upset the water balance, like irrigating dry areas for crops. But bottled water is one completely avoidable imbalance. It's a waste of energy. It's a waste of money. It's unfair to the local communities that rely on the water table.

    Let's take a look at a balanced water system and then see how to imbalance it with bottled water. I'll use my water system (which I described yesterday) as an example.

    First take a look at the soil and ground water layers in this USGS diagram. The "unsaturated zone" has small empty spaces between the grains of dirt that are filled with air or water. But because it's all mixed in together, it is impossible to pump any water out. Plants do a pretty good job extracting water from this layer with their roots.

    If you go down deep enough, you arrive at the saturated zone where water dominates. I actually have two wells on my property. One is an Artesian well, where the ground water is really near the surface. It's not trapped below like what you see in the diagram. The other well is tapping into ground water similar to what you see in the image.

    The ground water gets refilled by water seeping down through the layers, although in some cases there could be an underground river recharging the ground water. In a dry place like parts of Texas, it could take centuries to refill. In wet areas, like the Panama canal zone that I just visited, ground water will get replenished fast. I have no idea how long it takes for my ground water to replenish.

    Not all rainwater makes it back to the groundwater layer. As you might imagine, evaporation and plants use up a bit.

    After I extract the water from the ground, it either gets drunk, used to wash something (dishes or me or laundry), or flushes a toilet. Used water goes into a septic tank or directly on the ground. In either case, it ends up seeping into the ground and some of it will end up recharging the ground water. The main point is that this is a balanced system. Whatever I takes stays right on the property.

    If I were an entrepreneur, I might look at my 10,000 gallon water tank as a money maker. That comes out to 40,000 16 oz bottles. At a conservative $1 a bottle, even if costs were 0.50 to produce, I can make $20,000 a tank. I'm told that the flow rate from my groundwater is pretty good. I haven't done the math, but I do know I can pump quite a bit of water, quite fast out of the ground in my area. Pure, clean, mountain water.

    What would happen if I did that?

    As soon as the water gets transported off property, I lose that amazing balanced system I had going. What's more, I'm using gasoline to bring the water to someone who is too lazy to fill their own reusable bottle. I'm also sucking down the same groundwater that my neighbors are tapping into. Oh yeah, then there is the energy I have to expend to fabricate the bottles, the gasoline to bring them to my bottling plant, and the inevitable waste the bottle creates.