Ol' Stucco the Whale

How bad is the drought in the Southwest? So bad a whale got beached at camp. He’s too heavy to move, so we named him “Stucco". We try to keep the whale well hydrated but he can drink 2,300 gallons! Every living thing is basically a bag of water.  Babies are as much as 75% water.  Less than 1% of Earth’s water is drinkable.  Of that, we have already polluted half.  We can live a few days without water.

In Lama NM there is no ancient aquifer to tap, no giant municipal reservoirs or water towers, and no pipes from far away watersheds. All of the H2O for agriculture and domestic use on the ranch flows from one canyon on our mountain.  We have water only if rain and snow fall from the sky, right here, right now.           

In the past, water was hauled to camp with a truck.  The cook tent has a metal roof, perfect for harvesting potable water.  Rain would rush off the roof and just wash dirt down the hill.  All we needed was a gutter and a big tank to hold the runoff.

The roof is 20ft x 50ft, or 1,000 square feet.  We can hope for about 12 inches of precipitation per year.  That’s not much, but 1,000 square feet of roof times 12 inches = 1,000 cubic feet of free distilled water.  Each cubic foot holds about 7.481 gallons, that’s 7,481 gallons already on site!  We save 24 trips with the 300-gallon water trailer.

To harvest this heavenly bounty, the 2010 young adult session made a ferro-cement cistern.  Water storage usually costs about $1/gallon.  This catchment holds a few thousand gallons, was a only few hundred dollars in materials, and has tons of personality.

Expanded metal lath is wired onto a sculpted re-mesh skeleton.  Rebar is added around the hatch, in the tail, and in other strategic locations for a little rigidity

Expanded metal lath is wired onto a sculpted re-mesh skeleton.  Rebar is added around the hatch, in the tail, and in other strategic locations for a little rigidity

Concrete is poured sloping to a center drainpipe.  The spigot pipe, also imbedded in the slab, sticks up six inches to pull water out from above any sludge buildup at the bottom of the tank.  The completed skeleton is placed on the slab and plastered before the concrete sets up to prevent leakage where the wall meets the floor.

Concrete is poured sloping to a center drainpipe.  The spigot pipe, also imbedded in the slab, sticks up six inches to pull water out from above any sludge buildup at the bottom of the tank.  The completed skeleton is placed on the slab and plastered before the concrete sets up to prevent leakage where the wall meets the floor.

Mixing crew worked dawn to dusk. 

Mixing crew worked dawn to dusk. 

plaster lath.jpg
First coat is plastered from the inside, the second from the outside, and then another from inside.  We plastered up to the waterline and waited till the walls set up before doing the ceiling since the structure was still a little wiggly.

First coat is plastered from the inside, the second from the outside, and then another from inside.  We plastered up to the waterline and waited till the walls set up before doing the ceiling since the structure was still a little wiggly.

Rico makes sure the overflow drain is placed below the level of the access hatch to control excess runoff

Rico makes sure the overflow drain is placed below the level of the access hatch to control excess runoff

 Bob and Nat in the belly of the whale.  Thunder from July monsoons resonated nicely in the chamber, reminding us of our mission.

 Bob and Nat in the belly of the whale.  Thunder from July monsoons resonated nicely in the chamber, reminding us of our mission.