5. Rain water harvesting and solar power……
Saaremaa would never have been completed had it not been for my dear architect- husband’s nature-friendly views on rain water harvesting and harnessing solar power. Initially, we did try to get a water line and paid a pretty packet for it too, but it didn’t work out as the villagers nearby hardly get water during the summer, and didn’t naturally see why outsiders from Delhi should share their meagre water supply. Fair enough, we took this in our stride and we decided to rely entirely on rain water. We got a 30,000 litre underground tank built and an effective filter made up largely of layers of sand and gravel, which filtered out the rain water from all the pipes leading to it from the slanting galvanised iron roofs of Saaremaa. A few good rains and the entire tank would fill up!
If there are two things that have saved our lives a million times over in Saaremaa, they are the clean rain water we get in our taps and the solar lanterns which light up the house at night and also charge our Nokia phones! The collected rain water would be pumped up to the tank above, every day, by a hand pump.
Nature friendly 'Saaremaa' - rain water pipes, filter, tank and hand pump.
This was usually done by our Chowkidar, but whenever we had guests and large quantities of water had to be pumped up, the highlight of the day would be the water pumping. Everyone would take turns at it and there would be a competition as to who was the strongest. This was judged by the number of pumps he/she did! On an average, one pump of the hand pump lifted up only one large mug of water. Keeping this in mind, the children all took turns at pumping water on a daily basis. They each pumped up around 15 mugs for a bath, 10 for flushing and 5 for washing everyday, a total of 30 pumps at least. Needless to add, very rarely did any of them actually bathe during their time at Saaremaa!
I really miss this aspect of our life at Saaremaa now that there is electricity (since October 2010). The solar lights have been replaced by CFL bulbs and the hand pumping by an electric motor. Anyhow, the electricity is not exactly very reliable here in the mountains and we still charge and use our solar lights regularly and feel very happy while doing so.