|So you want to use an evaporation pool (EP) for your graywater? EPs seem like such a good idea: with a little space and time your graywater magically evaporates! But, like many things that seem too good to be true, this one stinks, covers you in mud, and leaves you wondering what the heck you were thinking. Sound familiar?
Rant off. Thanks for listening.
- First and foremost, what's missing from the glossy brochure is that EPs smell bad. The longer they are there, the worse they smell.
- EPs use a lot of ground space. The more people using it the more area is needed if you actually expect the water to evaporate.
- When the wind blows the dust collects in the EP and turns any liquid into mud. The mud is then contaminated and must be removed along with the graywater.
- They are hard to see at night, and low, so it is easy for someone to stumble into one, or ride their bike into one. A muddy, stinky mess isn't what most people have planned for their evening.
- Suppose you're lucky enough to plan enough space and limit your graywater production so that your graywater actually evaporates! Then the blowing wind will blow the small flakes of contaminated mud out across your camp and your neighbors camp, making an almost impossible cleanup job. What was the point of the EP anyway if not to protect the playa?
- When the event is over, what do you do? Chances are you still have liquid water and sludge in your EP, but it's time to pack up and go. If you dump your EP on the playa,
then you did nothing for the playa, but you did live in the stench of the EP and make room for it during your BM stay.
- So, let say you have some integrity and decide to try to take the tarp(s) away from Burning Man. Now you have a real problem, because while the EP contained the sludge when it was flat and on the ground, a tarp, it turns out, makes a rather terrible "container" in general. So, some process is necessary to "fold" the tarp and somehow contain it. This might go well enough that only the tarp and whatever contains it need be cleaned or disposed of. But, alternatively, the sludge might escape into your vehicle and onto your gear, making the cleanup oh, so much more... personal.
- And who is going to clean up the sludge at BM and then again at home? Who ideed? You, or whoever you stick with this nasty job. Either way, someone will feel kinda put-out over it, because everyone else just produced graywater and didn't have to personally handle it.
- EPs have a size, and that size determines how much water can evaporate all other things being equal, which they aren't in the desert. But whatever size you pick there is a tradeoff between space used in the camp and capacity. Most people don't make EPs too big. Most people would like to be nice and maybe let someone use their shower once in a while. Generosity is difficult when you use an EP because one more shower per day might be just one too many, but you won't really know until it is too late to do anything about the sludgefarm.
- Stench. Yea, I mentioned it before, but the wind changes direction, so sometimes it is your neighbors on one side suffering, and sometimes its the neighbors on the other side, and sometimes it's your turn. You were clever and put the EP out of the way, but now the wind has shifted.
- Ever try to clean a tarp used for an EP? You won't bother. The question is whether you'll bother to re-use the tarp next year. My guess is that anything that disgusting and stinky will get thrown away and a new plastic tarp (or tarps) will be used the next year. So, there is a cost to building a new EP each year.
Want an alternative? You could invent your own shower, or you could build a Nosefish shower. This is a simple shower that protects the playa. It takes less than a day to make, and costs less than $100. It is easy to transport and is reusable each year you go to Burning Man.