Water – Introduction


If water must be drawn from a well by hand or carried from a spring, each person uses only about 2 gal/day, but good sanitation is difficult.  For a pressurized water system, a supply of 1-2 gal/min is minimal because a single faucet discharges about 2 gal/min; 6-8 gal/min is better for a water-cooled heat pump and for watering stock and a garden.  A roof downspout leading to a cistern was popular in earlier days because this water was close to the house.  However, the stored water was usually inadequate during droughts.  Also, dead insects and bird droppings on the roof contaminated the runoff, and open containers bred mosquitoes and algae.  Few people use cisterns today.

When early pioneers were selecting land and a home site, a place for a water mill was the first consideration, but a perennial spring was the second.  A good spring is a gift of nature and should be treasured and protected.

Cross or drown

To determine whether a stream can be crossed, multiply the maximum depth in feet by the maximum velocity in feet per second (time the movement of a leaf or twig). A number less than 10 means that the stream can probably be waded safely; a larger number means that you will be swept off of your feet and drowned.


For a bridge, the steel frame from a mobile home will support cars and light trucks. Otherwise, steel I-beams and decking are longest lasting, as are concrete or masonry abutments.


The simplest dam is made by piling mixed sizes of boulders across a stream bed. Water flows through this dam, but a pool several feet deep can be formed; maintenance may be neces-sary after floods. Boards do not rot underwater and, when strongly braced, can be used for a dam. The wings of a timber dam should extend at least 4 ft into the side banks, and ¾ in. rebar should be used to fasten timbers together every 6 ft and near every joint. Rebar can also be driven 5 ft into the stream bed, or the timbers can be cabled to upstream trees. An earthen dam will fail quickly if it is overtopped during a flood; the overflow pipe or spillway must be adequate. An earthen dam will also soon be eroded by seepage through the dam; a clay core is important.