The ubiquitous tale of evaporation ponds

Talk about your camp or project's LNT plans (and MOOP problems) here. Ask questions or share ideas on what works and what doesn't.

What's your experience with evaporation ponds?

Never used one.
13
33%
Used one and thought it worked but didn't see how it was cleaned up.
3
8%
Used one and thought it didn't work but didn't see how it was cleaned up.
0
No votes
Used one and was there to see it cleaned up: it worked.
12
31%
I was there ... this is pretty much exactly what happened.
8
21%
Something else entirely ...
3
8%
 
Total votes : 39

The ubiquitous tale of evaporation ponds

Postby Zhust » Sun Jul 18, 2010 6:39 am

According to the Burning Man website, Astral Headwash has had great success with evaporation ponds. As far as I know, they are among the few: probably because they carefully regulate the amount of water. I had written on Tribe a few years back and thought it was worth repeating my take on how an evaporation pond works for a large camp (say 100 people, arbitrarily):

1. Five people set up 2x4's in a big box then install some kind of tarp material (repurposed billboard vinyl is a popular choice).
2. Three more set up the community shower over the pond.
3. Everyone Burns, takes showers, and filters kitchen waste before adding the water to the pond. Everyone ignores the pond for several days.
4. Someone points out on Tuesday that there's 2 inches of water in it. Someone else fashions a line over it and hangs a towel into the water.
5. Everyone sees on Wednesday that there's suddenly less water and congratulates the ingenuity of the towel solution. Three people notice it's actually because the liner sprung a leak somewhere. They try to patch it and end up having to shrink the size of the pond to get the leak to stop.
6. Everyone ignores the pond for the remainder of the Burn.
7. On Monday morning, a few people are concerned that the pond is full of 2 inches of murky, Playa-ridden, filthy water.
8. Everyone in camp packs their personal belongings. 95 of them leave.
9. Five people stay behind. They drink some Pabst they found left by a neighboring camp and stare at the pond -- still full of water -- in the hot afternoon sun.
10. Nobody has a way to take 25 gallons of water home, or at least to the nearest dump. About half the water is bailed in buckets to the JOTS. The remaining 5 people look at one another and shrug, deciding ultimately to just dump the pond and go home.

The result is that 95 people out of 100 used an evaporation pond and it worked: the hot afternoon with no additional water must have evaporated most of the water and the clean-up crew probably had to dry off the tarps a little before taking it down. The 5 people who know what happened will never speak of the fact that they dumped untreated greywater all over the Playa and got the hell out as fast as they could before the BLM found out.
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What to do instead?

Postby Zhust » Sun Jul 18, 2010 6:52 am

I was in a camp of 15 people a few years ago, and we were unable to regulate the desire for daily showers and the evaporator I had made was overloaded, leaving some 5 gallons of murky water to take home. I have found that when it comes to waste (grey water or trash) that the _only_ way to have a successful camp is "you deal with your own". If you have your heart set on a system for 100 people, I wish you the best of luck and would hope that you can prove me wrong.

So what's my individual system? I carry my grey water out. I bring along a used liquid laundry jug and find it is more than adequate for my personal grey water needs for the whole week (I bring another to use as a pee jug: the pouring spout makes for tidy daily trips to the potties; for the ladies, get a proper pee funnel -- try a narrow oil fill funnel from an auto store). Bathing involves a cup of water and lots of washcloths (if you have hair that you want to wash, you'll need quite a bit more.) Several times I'll splash myself with a cup or two of water and let the playa dust and loose skin just hit the Playa (bad me, blah blah). Toothpaste spit goes in the jug. Cooking is rare for me, but if I do, it involves wiping clean a non-stick pan or two with a burnable paper towel. I'd never cook pasta or rice out there, except maybe in a solar cooker or a haybox where I can provide exactly the right amount of water (and I have the kind of food apathy that I can drink the remainder of noodle water). Ice is only added to the cooler inside food-safe plastic bins and then the resulting water becomes drinking water.

As such, my grey water production barely approaches a gallon for the whole week.

Here's some things to practice at home ...

    * Try bathing from a bucket of water instead of a shower a few times. How little water can you get away with?
    * Hit the thrift stores and dollar stores for cheap washcloths -- even if you bring 100, they don't take up much space and you can use 10 each day.
    * Prepare a meal and put all the water you use into a bucket. Try again with less.
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Postby mudpuppy000 » Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:34 am

I was camping solo so I didn't have much to evaporate but what I did was put a large bath towel on the roof of my SUV. I had a tarp under it also to catch any run-off,. I'd pour a gallon or so of greywater on the towel and it'd be bone dry in an hour or two.

Squirt bottles and washcloths for "showering" are great for using just what you need to get clean and not generating alot of greywater.
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Postby Elorrum » Sun Jul 18, 2010 8:34 am

solo grey water... less than 5 gallons in a coleman water carrier.

large plastic funnel with polyester aquarium filter floss. Rinse dishes with garden sprayer over funnel. Floss dries with kitchen or bath detritus, and put in dry garbage. Or hang sopped up water towels on line. I got a few of those super sponge towels at the dollar store, may try them this year. Anything wet or dry and in the open air is a dust mud collector. I find it less worry to just put the water in the container than to monitor whether the towels have blown away.
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Postby EspressoDude » Sun Jul 18, 2010 8:43 am

the way we deal with it:

it came in a bottle/jug/tank

it goes out in the same/previous container
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Postby Dr Helix » Sun Jul 18, 2010 8:55 am

Rather than spend the money on tarps, wood etc, just invest in 55 gallon plastic drums. Fill them with your waste, grey, whatever water during the week. Then spend the money and have them pumped out by the porta pottie trucks. Nothing gets dumped, and the waste water goes to the treatment plant. Average cost of drum $60. Average cost of pumping $40 a barrel (you negotiate with the porta guys). I know that throwing money at a problem is not always the best way, but in this case it would seem to be the most environmentally sound way, unless you're very very dilligent in how you build/run your pond.
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Postby Elderberry » Sun Jul 18, 2010 9:19 am

We have about 50 or so campers that use a community shower with an evap. pond. We have a broom next to the showers and everyone that uses the shower is instructed to use it to sweep the water over the entire pond. Additionally, we ask camp mates to sweep the pond if they are just passing by if they notice pools of water in the pond.

This method works.

We also take down the showers one day before we will be folding up the pond and are very conscientious about making sure any water left is being swept around to aid in the evaporation of the last bit of water left.

NO KITCHEN WATER IS ALLOWED IN THE POND AT ALL. (filtered or not)

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Postby This Woman » Sun Jul 18, 2010 9:28 am

I was surprised myself this year to see Astral's pond as official advise for burners. We used it twice, hoping the first time's lack of success was due to inexperience. It wasn't.

We've used the linked system for the last four years, and I love it. In addition to evaporating your water, its not at all bad to look at, and provides the camp with falling water noise (if generator sufficiently silenced). The main drawback is that you can't use it when it gets windy.

viewtopic.php?t=12911&highlight=evaporation+pool

Note that the hardware cloth has squares instead of diamonds. That seems to be a key component because the water lingers longer instead of flowing down the diamonds of chicken wire.

Other than that, Jay's invididual responsible for own is the next best method IMO.
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Postby Hoolie » Sun Jul 18, 2010 9:52 am

I would imagine that an evap pond for a large camp would be difficult to maintain. It has worked pretty well for me on a small scale though. My camp has generally consisted of 6-10 people, and the pond is used primarily for the shower. I've even had neighbors borrow the shower and have still maintained a dry enough pond. Since early on, small pools tend to form in certain parts of the tarp, it helps to use an old broom to periodically sweep the water over the entire tarp. This thins it out and allows it to evaporate much faster. We supplement our graywater containment with five gallon buckets with lids. The dishwater goes into these, and we haul them out. By the time we break down camp, if there is still water in the pond, it's not very much. The pond is small enough that it can be lifted by two people. We then hold it over one of the five gallon buckets while another person pokes a hole in the plastic tarp with a screwdriver. The remaining graywater drains into the bucket, and we haul it out.
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Postby lucky420 » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:26 am

would a small plastic swimming pool work as an evap pond. There will only be 5 of us and don't plan on cooking at all so not many dishes/utensils to wash and plan to only wash hair & sponge bath funky body parts? i could line the pool with black plastic sheeting?
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Postby ygmir » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:32 am

I'd guess black plastic lining would have minimum effect.

mostly, evaporating water faster is a function of increased surface area and air flow.
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Postby some seeing eye » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:40 am

I was the designer of the size of an Astral-style pond. There is an equation for gallons per square foot per day I can find from my files if anyone needs it. Usually people undersize their ponds and the mess noted is what happens.

So thanks Jayce for starting the topic. And yes I have drained the last bits to JOTS gallon by gallon. I wouldn't be surprised that there might be some ponds with slow leaks. Brought your underwater patch kit?

The falling water hardware cloth design is a great improvement! Another I saw at AEZ last year and would be my next design is http://www.instructables.com/id/Gray-B- ... ywater-di/ made from a lot of free, low cost or scroungable materials. And with a name like evapotron, they are on the right track!
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Postby motskyroonmatick » Sun Jul 18, 2010 11:06 am

Please please please do not dump grey water in the potties.

If you have a grey water problem have the guys from United Site Services suck your grey water up with one of their mobile RV servicing trucks. They take cash.
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Postby Captain Goddammit » Sun Jul 18, 2010 4:22 pm

I've never understood all the fussing over water conservation. Between myself and one other person I generate about 75 to 90 gallons of greywater. Why so much? Because it's SO EASY to simply do what EspressoDude said - I just dump my grey back into the same cheap surplus 33-gallon plastic barrels I hauled my fresh water in with. Unless you have to fly in, just bring enough water and carry it back out! Why the hell not? I just don't get it.
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Postby Bling » Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:12 pm

Right on! :D
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Postby Savannah » Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:39 pm

would a small plastic swimming pool work as an evap pond. There will only be 5 of us and don't plan on cooking at all so not many dishes/utensils to wash and plan to only wash hair & sponge bath funky body parts? i could line the pool with black plastic sheeting?


A small plastic swimming pool will not evaporate water fast enough. This idea made me and just 1 other person miserable in '08. (Since there were only 2 of us, we had to screen & bleached our grey water as allowed for small camps with small quantities, & sprinkle it in the street w/ a gardening can brought just in case (as directed by the Burning Man site for very small camps). Time-consuming, but we didn't have water drums or other wide-mouth containers w/ which to tote it back; we'd brought 2.5-gallon spigot containers.

In 2009, we followed the instructions for building a very nice, flat evap pond as directed on the burningman.com website when you search for the terms "grey water". Either 6' x 6' or 10' x 10'; can't recall. Anyway, it's half way down the page. It was easy & cheap to put together & worked great for two people (who didn't have kitchen water), and would've worked for a few more if they showered at different times, paid attention to how it the pond fared, and took their last shower of the week with thought to how long it would take to evaporate. An evap pond is not really a pond, more like an exceedingly shallow (2"?) tray that spreads out the water in a nice thin later under the sun.
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Postby Elorrum » Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:39 pm

Captain Goddammit wrote:I've never understood all the fussing over water conservation. Between myself and one other person I generate about 75 to 90 gallons of greywater. Why so much? Because it's SO EASY to simply do what EspressoDude said - I just dump my grey back into the same cheap surplus 33-gallon plastic barrels I hauled my fresh water in with. Unless you have to fly in, just bring enough water and carry it back out! Why the hell not? I just don't get it.

Big capacity rigs, sure, why the hell not. A little car... makes it necessary to conserve use. It ain't a fuss.
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Postby Bling » Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:42 pm

You wouldn't be bringing out any more than you brought in--and probably less. You'd have less food (but more trash), too, so that's probably about the same.
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Postby Elorrum » Sun Jul 18, 2010 9:24 pm

Bling wrote:You wouldn't be bringing out any more than you brought in--and probably less. You'd have less food (but more trash), too, so that's probably about the same.

that I understand... certainly less to take back. It's the conservation of actual use that I'm speaking to, since the supply is less in a small car, and I do bring back my grey water. I bring about ten - 12 gallons, maybe a little more, of plain water. So, no frequent showers specifically, and no big dishpan full of soapy water, or lots of rinse water.
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Postby Dustdevil » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:11 pm

I believe it was in 07' that Illumination Village created a tall fountain that used a pump to recirculate the grey water. It seemed to work well for the huge size of the Village and it was very ornate. One morning it also provided entertainment that you cannot buy anywhere. A hippie wandered in from who-knows-where and stood there staring at the fountain for a while. He then proceeded to take out his tooth brush and tooth paste. I really don't need to go any further...... It was a sight I will never forget. No one said a word to him.
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Postby ygmir » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:16 pm

Dustdevil wrote:I believe it was in 07' that Illumination Village created a tall fountain that used a pump to recirculate the grey water. It seemed to work well for the huge size of the Village and it was very ornate. One morning it also provided entertainment that you cannot buy anywhere. A hippie wandered in from who-knows-where and stood there staring at the fountain for a while. He then proceeded to take out his tooth brush and tooth paste. I really don't need to go any further...... It was a sight I will never forget. No one said a word to him.



I just threw up a little..........
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Postby Dustdevil » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:29 pm

A little? You should have been there. Nearly half of his "audience" had to leave. Some were laughing so hard they were nearly choking.
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Postby Bling » Mon Jul 19, 2010 6:46 am

Oh, YUCK!
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Postby Fire_Moose » Mon Jul 19, 2010 7:32 am

It's better when they get into the pond and splash around.
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Postby This Woman » Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:00 am

Some Seeing Eye, that looks like a sweet system. We may have to go that way next year.
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Postby mudpuppy000 » Mon Jul 19, 2010 2:19 pm

Captain Goddammit wrote:I've never understood all the fussing over water conservation. Between myself and one other person I generate about 75 to 90 gallons of greywater. Why so much? Because it's SO EASY to simply do what EspressoDude said - I just dump my grey back into the same cheap surplus 33-gallon plastic barrels I hauled my fresh water in with. Unless you have to fly in, just bring enough water and carry it back out! Why the hell not? I just don't get it.


I suppose you could but I wouldn't want to use that container for fresh water after that. So you'd need twice as many containers, plus enough for ice melt.
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Postby Teo del Fuego » Tue Jul 20, 2010 12:18 pm

our mid-sized camp, Whiskey and Dust, pop. 25-30, used a wind-powered evaporator that worked perfectly. I didn't build it so my description is going to be a little sketchy, but it is basically a big squirrel cage contraption with a covering made out of something resembling pantyhose. The bottom sits in the evap pond and when the wind blows it slowly spins. The wet cloth wicks water up and out of the pond where it dries in the wind and sun. I think the guy who built it got the design off ePlaya. We took lots of showers and the damn contraption worked, perfectly.
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Postby This Woman » Tue Jul 20, 2010 12:26 pm

It sounds like what Some Seeing Eye is considering. Link is above and here again. It looked really sweet, but I think we already have the materials for the most part on the construction cloth pool unit. But if same as One's I think we'll be chaning up next year.

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Postby Ugly Dougly » Tue Jul 20, 2010 4:06 pm

After the Burn, we threw out everything that we made the evaporation pond out of. All just to save the desert from a little water. Leave no trace? Where did the dumpster get emptied? :D
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Postby Elliot » Wed Jul 21, 2010 7:39 pm

My first year, 2006, I volunteered to clean up after the camp that had so graceously invited me to join them. I spent that Tuesday-after mucking out the most hideous sludge pond, filtering with towels, sprinkling filtered water on the ground, scooping water and muck into buckets and barrels....

Evaporation systems apparently can work if properly designed and operated. But unless you really know what you are doing, this is not for you.

Please do not just build a pond out of 2-by-4s and black plastic and expect it to work! :x
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