Bringing Home Water

Editor’s note: This essay was adapted from This Week in Purdyville, Vol. 2, #30, originally written in August 1999 (when she was 14) for an audience of family and family friends.

One of our drought-time methods for using less of our well water is to cart it in from the spring in Lisle. The water isn’t tested for drinking, so we mostly use it for washing clothes. It’s pretty easy to see how washing clothes uses up so much water. A full load in the washing machine uses about 17 gallons just to fill up. It uses another 17 gallons for the rinse cycle. Twelve people need to do laundry each week. We try to limit it to one load per person, washing only what you absolutely must. Still, that’s 408 gallons a week right there! And that’s not even counting the extra loads we have to do for towels.

We mostly bring the water home in milk jugs, but Dad also acquired a 15-gallon plastic drum that used to hold laundry detergent. The number of milk jugs we have is continually growing, but as of yesterday we had 41 milk jugs. In order to bring all of those jugs there and back, we take the rear-most seat out of our mini-van, lay down a tarp, and throw all the empty jugs in the back. (We being Teman, and normally Lachlan and me. Of course Evan and Justin would volunteer, but they aren’t exactly…the best people for the job.)

There isn’t any sign announcing the Lisle spring; it’s just a spot on the side of Route 79, at the foot of a steep, wooded hill. The “spring” is a concrete basin, maybe six feet in diameter, three and a half feet tall, with metal pipes coming out of the hillside, one pipe putting water into the basin and the other freely running water out on to the ground. A sign advertising well-drilling is attached to a nearby tree; another reads “Littering is illegal. $100 fine” and is attached to a post in the basin.

When we pull in, Lachlan and I hop out and take an armful of milk jugs each, while Teman grabs the 15-gallon drum, which goes under the pipe spewing water onto the ground. Lachlan and I grab a milk jug in each hand and stick them into the basin, and Teman starts pulling the rest of the milk jugs out of the van. We used to be able to fill up all of the milk jugs before the 15-gallon drum filled up, but now, no matter how fast we go, we can’t fill 41 milk jugs faster than the one big one.

The spring is fairly well known, and every time we’ve gone there, there has always been someone else there for at least part of the time. They often express their doubt about whether or not Teman can get the 15-gallon drum into the van, and occasionally they offer to help. But Teman always politely refuses. It’s not so much heavy, as it is awkward and slippery, and more people carrying it won’t change that.

After we get all the milk jugs filled up, we stick them in the van. If I rode in front on the way there, Lachlan rides up front on the way back. The ride back is normally uneventful (meaning Lachlan’s run out of things to complain about, except “Man, my hands are cold! That water is ice cold!”) Once home, we unload the jugs, and put the seat back in. So every day we go to Lisle to spare our well about 400 gallons of water a week. Isn’t all this sunny weather great?