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Running Water, Flushing Toilets

Overflowing cold, fresh, spring water, showing that our tank is full.

Our house is too remote to have access to city water. When we bought it, we learned vaguely that there was a spring nearby but didn't get nearly as much detail as we should have. Worst case, we figured we could always drill a well if necessary, while hoping that the existing system would work well enough. Unfortunately, once work started on the house and water became a requirement we learned that the existing system wasn't quite as reliable as we needed. With regular usage, water quickly stopped flowing.

The spring.

After a little exploration and digging, we ultimately tracked down several springs including the one that had previously been used. The old water tank was made of asbestos, poorly installed, filled with sediment and the final resting place of a dead rodent.

This has been one of the wettest summers on record in our area of Tuscany. It's led to multiple landslides near us, and no shortage of water flowing off the hillside. But we're looking for a reliable source that will provide us with water even during the dry months. Ultimately we decided it made the most sense to stick with the same spring that's been used for years, which we'll keep an eye on now that we're living in our house full time.
Spring covering.
The older tank was completely removed, and replaced with a new setup. The area around the spring was excavated, cleaned of debris and allowed to flow freely. It was then surrounded by a concrete cup which the spring water fills from below. The open space within the cup was filled with clean gravel which the water can easily flow through, covered with a tarp to keep debris out, and finally covered in rocks to protect it from animals and the elements.

Small tank, closed.Finally, a pipe directs the water captured from the spring into a small plastic water tank below. The small tank has a screw-on cap and is covered in heavy terra cotta tiles, again to protect it from animals and the elements. This allows us to walk right over the top of it when we're inspecting our water source, while also giving us easy access to the tank if needed.

Small tank, open.

The orange pipe flowing from the spring is quite visible when you look inside the tank. Should any large sediment somehow get into the water, it will drop to the bottom of this tank, while clean water flows out through another pipe at the top to a second, larger tank below. The water never sits still to stagnate, constantly flowing and circulating through the tank. We'll inspect the tank annually to ensure it's not filling up with excessive amounts of sediment or anything else.

Below this first tank is a second which holds 300 liters (~80 gallons) of water. This is our actual water tank, from which we pipe water directly into our house. Our hope is that there's enough flow from our spring to keep this tank topped off throughout the year. As with the smaller tank above, water continually flows and circulates, preventing stagnation. Once full, excess water overflows out a pipe at the top of the tank and back into the small creek bed that's always existed below this spring.

Big tank, viewed from the side.Seen from the side, our water tank is buried in dirt, with a simple rock wall on one side. A water pipe connects from the bottom of the tank and carries water to our house below. It's a simple gravity system with no need for pumps while still creating sufficient pressure to our house allowing us such luxuries as showering. 

There are a couple of other springs in the same area should this one prove insufficient. However, monitoring this one over the past summer it has remained consistent throughout rainy and dry spells whereas the other springs seem to be far more affected by topical water.The trail from our house to the spring.

We're getting an estimated 1-2 gallons of water a minute flowing out of the spring this winter which is plenty to keep us in water. If the spring slows down during long dry spells, we will consider adding a larger tank.

Currently there's a simple, muddy trail leading from the spring down to our house. I plan one day soon to lay stones along the path to make it easier to inspect our water supply and in general to make it easier and more fun to explore our property.
The area around the spring.Just last week the work on this simple water system was completed, and it was hooked up to the house. While in most places these days we take running water for granted, we were absolutely thrilled to see water flowing into our sink and bathtub. Perhaps even more exciting was the ability to flush our toilet! Capping off our luxuries we even have hot water, thanks to a small electric hot water tank upstairs.
Next, we plan to test the water to ensure it's safe for drinking. We're discussing the benefits and complexity of adding filtration or purification systems which we may explore in the future. Until we're satisfied with the safety of our water we'll haul in drinking water, only using our fancy flowing spring water for washing and cooking and cleaning.