How does one get a reliable supply of water to garden a forlorn alley lot in DC? There seem to be 5 options:
- Tap the water. So, how complicated could it be to install a water spigot 100 ft from a DC water main? Off to DC Water office for 2 hours to pull maps and consult the (very good) folks there. DC Water is not thrilled about having to provide maintenance on any new alley water lines, as they are often located on narrow alleys their large trucks can’t deal with. So we’d need a lawyer to draft a covenant to exempt DC Water from maintenance requirements. Then we need a civil engineer to detail the line hookup (running from the street down and alley to the lot) and submit basic plans to DC Water for permitting. Then a permit from DDOT (transportation) for a public space permit to dig up the alley to the road. Then a plumber to come out dig and lay line. Then DC Water to come out and tap the water line and install the meter, then the plumber to come out again, fill the trench and make it all pretty. So bottom line: 5 entities, lots of legwork, probably $10-15K, and 6 months. Doable, but rather a pain.
- Buy the water: Thanks to the preponderance of above-ground swimming pools in northern Virginia, there are several pool filling services that can deliver water to your door. $325/delivery, up to 5000 gallons. $500 for a 1000 gallon tank. This could probably work just fine.
- Pray for water: it’s possible to collect and store and treat rainwater, but the rain gods are fickle. We’ll likely have some sort of rain collection system for garden use though.
- Friend the water: technically there 13 neighbors with property backing on the lot, so perhaps we can find a friendly one to throw a hose over the alleyway once a week to fill a tank. Maybe in exchange for a parking space? We shall explore.
- Make the water: There are at least 10 companies peddling ‘electric condensing water generation units’ (i.e. glorified dehumidifiers) online like this one. Using power (and no small amount of it), these units pull purified water out of the air, provided there is water in the air. As we are all too aware, DC’s relative humidity never falls below 40% (and is typically 50-60%), so we’d be good. These units aren’t the cheapest, but small residential water coolers can provide daily cooking and drinking needs (in fact they appear to compete directly with water cooler delivery services). Water for showers is another question. There are also industrial sized units that use 2kW and generate up to 50 gal/day.
So DC Water, we’ll probably spare you for now.