We're all so used to be able to turn on a tap and get as much water as we want... Clean, ready to drink, and in plentiful supply. Our main complaint is usually that it doesn't taste very nice in certain parts of the country.
However, we're not on mains water supply, neither are any of our neighbours, or many of the rural properties in this part of Wales. We all rely on springs, wells, streams and lakes. Normally this isn't a problem, this is Wales, water is one thing we have in plentiful supply, it's one of our biggest exports. If you live in western England then part of your supply probably comes from Welsh reservoirs.
Then this happened... a miserly 2mm of rain in 3 weeks.
Streams started emptying, springs ran dry. Normally reliable water supplies no longer existed. Luckily, we seem to have a spring that is well supplied, and thankfully we never ran out water. Though thankfully we fixed our leaky pipe in early June...
Our water supply system is old, and for a long time we'd had a very damp patch in the garden. We presumed it was a spring, but when all the other damp patches in the garden dried up we did some investigating. The copper pipe that brings the water to the house had developed a huge hole...
It's now all replaced with brand new plastic pipe, that doesn't leak, and will last a very long time.
This is the marsh that supplies our water. Under all this reed grass are 2 plastic pipes with holes in them. The water seeps in and runs in to a collecting tank.
At this stage it's still swamp water, but underneath the deposits that have built up over decades the water is actually remarkably clear and clean. Even better, despite the dry weather, it's still running! That trickle provides our water supply. Enough water for 3 adults to do all their household activities, and for me to run a dyeing business. Pretty incredible really.
From that collecting tank a pipe runs downhill. This photo really gives a sense of how steep the valleys are in this part of Wales. The storage tank is just visible; the wooden fencing to the left of the green bush.
This tank holds our water supply, it means that we can do all the normal daily things, even though the water is only a trickle. The tank empties during the day, then overnight fills back up again. We upgraded the old 1000L tank with a 2500L tank a few years ago. The old tank now sits in the garden so we can water plants in dry weather. This big tank is set up with an overflow system. In winter a pipe takes the water back to the stream that the spring normally flows in to. In summer we can bypass that system, and bring the overflow directly down to the garden. Even throughout the dry spell we've had a trickle of water much of the time that we've been able to use to keep things alive, and ensure the fruit bushes still crop.
From that tank, another pipe flows down to the house (this is the one we replaced this year), and it gets cleaned and filtered. (the blue pipe in the photo is the overflow going to the stream) A UV light kills all the bacteria and viruses, and there's also a pH filter to clean out any sediment, and to lower the pH. Our water is naturally around pH 6, and will slowly dissolve all the copper pipes in the house if it's not raised. The water is also very rich in iron (that's what the black deposits are on the side of the collecting tank). Our kettle doesn't fill up with limescale... we get iron-scale!
All of this is why I rarely dye to a recipe, particularly for complicated colourways. Our water supply can be incredibly variable. During the dry weather is was noticeably more acidic, and had more mineral content as the water was running through the soil more slowly. When we get a heavy spell of rain (like the 2 inches that have fallen over the weekend) the water becomes cloudy with mud. All these things change how the dyes behave, it's generally ok for very simple solid colours, but the ones that rely on complex colour interactions... just don't play ball when I dye them at different times of the year!
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