In the process of working on garden plans today, I fell down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out ways of reducing our water usage. I got started on it when I went to wash my hands and we had no water. Our well system is set up so that we can't run out of treated water without first finding out there's a problem because there is a reserve shut-off that activates when we get down to 800 gallons. We tripped the shut-off today and I panicked about our well having gone dry (or Timmy having fallen down it). Turned out that it was one of the hot water heaters failing and gushing water out into the garage that caused the water level to drop so precipitously. Two new hot water heaters are being installed Saturday even though only one failed today. Both of them were installed on the same day 16 years ago and I don't want to wait till the second one fails to replace it. Now the well is slowly filling the storage tanks back up and the RO system is cleaning .5 gallons of water and hour...
Messing around with the system and talking with our system maintenance guy made me think about the reverse osmosis system again today, as often happens when I feel the need to fret about something, and I again felt the burning need to repurpose all the waste water from the system. Reverse osmosis is one of the most wasteful desalination methods possible in terms of both energy cost to process the water, and amount of water that comes out as waste in the process. For every gallon of drinkable water, 1 to 3 gallons flows out as waste, and my frugal Montana soul just shrivels. So I set to work to see if I could find something I could do.
The first thing I stumbled upon was a passive solar distilling system that you could build yourself. It's relatively inexpensive, but it's also slow and not as efficient. I found a really cool solar-powered one in use in California called Aqua4 from WaterFX, but it's a slightly larger scale than I need, producing 1.6 billion gallons of freshwater each year.
Then I stumbled upon a solar-powered home unit that was crowdfunded a couple of years ago and I missed out. Now I have to wait for one till they get them to market, and then I'll be able to go to zero waste for our water with all water processed by the second stage desalinator going to the gardens and the pond. It's called the Desolenator and has been getting some really good buzz. The company hopes to have it out by the end of this year (which most likely means mid next year), and I will be one of the first people in line for one. Check it out!