1. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Indoor plumbing without electricity

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Lea`Brooks, May 21, 2016.

    Okay, okay. This is my last question. Maybe. :p

    In my fantasy WIP, I really want the home my MC lives in to have indoor plumbing. But, there's no electricity in my world. I tried looking it up, but most suggestions were gas or battery powered pumps to move the water, and I don't want any of those things either.

    Everyone else in the story relies on well water, boiled over the stove before they can take a bath. And while I could do that for her too, I wanted her to have this luxury for story reasons. Plus, she lives on the third floor, and the stove is in the basement. It'd be a long trek to carry hot pots of water up four flights of stairs.

    Any suggestions on how I could make this work?
     
  2. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Put the water tanks on the roof. The only thing required for running water is water pressure. You could have the water, room temperature. Then her servants or someone can heat the water where it's needed. Such as filling up a kettle with the running water & putting it near a fireplace.
     
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  3. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    It might be worth looking into Roman engineering.
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    My family's cottage used to have running water without electricity. There was a spring up the hill from the cottage, so we built a little dam at the source of the spring to create a reservoir, and the water pressure was provided by gravity. Same idea as the water tanks on the roof, but not reliant on rainwater.

    If you wanted hot water at my cottage, you had to heat it manually, but if you REALLY want your characters to have the luxury without the nuisance, you could have a hot spring up the hill?
     
  5. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would the water be hot enough to remove any impurities?

    The reason I ask is because most of the water in my story is infected with a deadly sickness. If you use well or river water without boiling it first, it could kill you.

    This would be the most ideal option either way. My character does live in the mountains, so I should use the location to my advantage. If I isn't hot enough though, I'll just have to use the traditional boiling method.

    Thanks! :D
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are definitely hot springs that are super hot. I guess you'd have to decide what temperature your pathogens could survive.

    But the water at my family's cottage was bone-chillingly cold. It had come from deep underground, I guess, and was the same temperature winter or summer--so if there was some way for your character to TEST the water and see if it was contaminated, I think I could believe that she'd find it wasn't. But if she doesn't have the ability to test, I wouldn't think much of her ASSUMING it wasn't.
     
  7. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Waterborne bacteria are not normally found in rain water or water that is moving rapidly. As a general rule, one only needs to boil water that has been sitting stagnant. Obviously, there are exceptions but things like snow melting off a mountain and running fast down a stream won't contain anything in levels toxic enough for humans.
    This all assumes your world is not contaminated by human pollution and industry.
     
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  8. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Someone who knows better can correct me if I'm wrong, but my dad once returned from a trip to the ruins of Pompeii all excited because of how remarkably advanced they were, including something about indoor plumbing. Definitely no electricity though. So I'd second @Chained and say look into Roman engineering.

    Also...I guess I don't know much about modern indoor plumbing because the water still flows when the power goes out? But maybe the electrical pumps and such are all stored remotely, with the city?
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what water towers are for. Good ol' gravity.

    If the power's out for long enough, the water will stop.
     
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  10. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Well that makes sense. Huh. Never really thought about that before.
     
  11. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    The general rule is you get around a pound of pressure per linear foot (pressure builds up only when water is vertical, you could have a million gallons but if the height is only an inch, there won't be much pressure.

    Also, plumbers generally have all pipe laid at an 1/8 to 1/4 bubble fall (this means that the pipe drops 1/8" to 1/4" per foot.
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    You should write a post-apocalyptic book sometime - lots of learning to be had!

    (Alternatively, live in the country. The necessities of life become a lot clearer when you have to look after them yourself)
     
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  13. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    The sickness is my story is a little more complex than that. It infects pretty much everything.

    There's no way to test for it, unfortunately. The water doesn't change at all if it's contaminated. I think I'll go with this idea though. :) It's the least complicated explanation so it wouldn't require me to explain too much.

    Thanks for your help, everyone! :)
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Eeek! No, sorry, that isn't true.

    Fast moving water is full of microorganisms, not sure where you got your idea from. And in a cistern, organisms can grow.

    Here's how untreated water is potable: Spring water, as long as it's not contaminated by animals or humans begins with rain water filtering down through the ground which filters it. In an aquifer that isn't directly contaminated and in ground water such as the stuff that seeps out of a hillside, the water is highly filtered. The few organisms that grow (because there isn't a lot of food in highly filtered water) are not likely to be human pathogens.

    Something similar happens with rain water. Water molecules evaporate, condense and return as rain. That also results in highly filtered water. And while in the cistern organisms begin to grow, unless it's contaminated it is unlikely to have organisms that are human pathogens.

    But for you hikers that drink out of streams, it all depends on what is upstream. Here in the NW, animals contaminate a lot of the streams with giardia. The swiftness of the stream might mean pathogens are not constant, but by no means does it prevent microorganisms from growing.

    That said, if you have a cistern you can control pathogens with iodine or chlorine if you know the proper amounts to use.

    The vast majority of organisms don't cause disease and of those that do, they are species dependent. All you need do is have an uncontaminated water source.
     
  15. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Cities have water towers. The water is pumped into them then flows into the taps via gravity.

    Where the rain is common enough, people collect rain water in cisterns that sit on the building's roof. So no pump is needed to get the water up there. I use rain barrels to water my plants. The barrel is only a couple feet higher than the ground and the water flows just fine.

    And getting water out of a ground well, you either use a bucket and rope, or a hand pump if you don't have an electrical pump.
     
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  16. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    That would be "Not normally" part of what I said. When you're out camping in remote areas that haven't been affected by humans, water shooting down a mountain is not usually going to be a problem for people.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    Which is not what you said. You said fast moving water. That was spreading a myth. Lots of those sources you are referring to are contaminated by animals. And how fast the water is moving has little to do with it.

    I'm an infectious disease practitioner. I don't mean to be rude but you are spreading false information.

    It doesn't mean you can never drink stream water. It does mean you need to know the status of the water where you are hiking.

    Backcountry Water: What Are the Risks?
    It's an excellent thorough source of information on water for the back country traveler.

     
    Last edited: May 21, 2016
  18. BayView
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  19. GingerCoffee
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  20. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    This thread is turning out to be highly informative for me. Thanks for posting @Lea`Brooks!

    This right here explains why my grandpa always allowed and even encouraged us to drink from the hillside spring behind his mountain cabin. One time a hiker saw us drinking from it as kids and warned us to never do it again, because it could make us sick. I knew that drinking from a creek or river could make me sick, but my grandpa always assured me that the spring water was safe. He wasn't a disease expert or anything, so he definitely could have been wrong - but I'm glad to now understand the science behind why he was right. It was super cold, earthy-tasting water, but we loved it. Just an anecdote, not technically relevant to the OP.
     
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  21. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Sorry if my comments confused anyone. I was only thinking of the thousands of years humans survived without antibiotics or boiling water without dropping dead.
     
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  22. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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  23. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You do know before antibiotics and vaccines the average life expectancy was in the 30s-40s, right? If you lived past early childhood your chances of getting old improved. But infectious disease was one of the leading causes of death and it continues to be so in countries that lack potable water.

    Our lives first got better when we discovered sanitation and the germ theory. It took another swing up with the beginning of antibiotics and vaccines.

    Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Control of Infectious Diseases
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    For what it's worth, there is such thing as a hand-powered water pump, as well. If (1) the technology were up to creating such a pump and (2) your character were wealthy enough to install substantial infrastructure and hire plenty of servants, I could imagine a situation where:

    1) The servants in the basement pump water into a large boiling vessel that's also in the basement.
    2) The water boils in the vessel.
    3) Servants on the third floor pump the hot water from the boiling vessel, up two floors, into the character's bath.

    In fact, this could also theoretically work for cold water, assuming that cold water can safely sit once boiled. There could be a second boiling vessel, servants could pump the water up to a holding tank on the roof, it would sit there and cool, and that height would provide pressure for cold water on demand. Edited to add: Really, that wouldn't require a second boiling vessel--the lady's bath would just bleed off a little of the hot water, and most of it would go to the roof.

    So once a week or once a month or whatever, there could be Water Night--a group of servants stoke the fire and pump the water, that's when the lady of the house takes her bath, and that's when they prepare the supply of water on the roof, ready for the rest of the week/month/whatever.

    I don't know if I'm pushing the limits of hand pumps here. Can they pump water up thirty or forty feet? How big a water repository is required? Does this mean that the house has to be built on top of the well, or is some horizontal run OK? I don't know.
     
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  25. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I really don't understand why you seem to be so upset over this. I never said anything about these water sources being pure. The only thing I can see that might be misleading was the "Waterborne bacteria" I should have been more specific. But since this is a writing site I don't normally get into the details of medicine.
    If you really want to know, I'm not ignorant in the areas of bacteria, antibiotics, microbiology, or camping in the wild. I'm a retired pharmacist who spent thirty plus years working with all these things.
    Humans are animals. We are perfectly capable of drinking water that has all sorts of bacteria in it without dying. That's part of what stomach acid does for us. I'm not saying sickness isn't possible. But I have frequently put my lips up against a rock with a trickle of water coming down a mountain as I was climbing up. I didn't die or ever get sick.
    Our society has become so removed from nature that we're scared of anything that isn't wrapped in plastic first.
     

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