Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Water Table

Last summer there were so many projects that felt monstrous: the deck, the yard, even refinishing all that lawn furniture. I can dream big – certainly, the big dreams accumulated this summer. However, I made a conscious effort to keep the projects small and simple.

The water table was one of those 'simple' projects. I've been scheming about building the boys a water table for months. Finally, my father stepped in and built the wooden base while he was visiting. Simple = Guilt Your Loved Ones into Doing the Work.

I wanted it to be wood. (I've been biased by my fond memories of wood water tables in Munich.) And I wanted to put a big old-fashion cast iron hand pump on it with a PHYSICAL-LABOR-LIMITING water supply, for educational purposes. (The water is in the red tub below the table.) This summer, both the boys have been known to turn on the water faucet and use the water hose by themselves. Worse than their ability to turn the water on, is their strange INABILITY TO TURN THE WATER OFF. The pump doubles as a gimmick/distraction piece. It arrived last month, so we attached it to the table and set up shop. So far, it's worked: they are a lot less interested in the hose! An added feature of the pump is that the leather gasket occasionally dries out over night, meaning that the pump needs to be 'primed' before they can use it. Basically, one pours some water down the pump from the top. They both think priming the pump is very cool: I think it makes them feel like they are 'fixing' something.

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In my dream version, Colorado would allow us to collect rainwater, which we would exclusively use for the water table. And then, year, the boys would have no water to play with. But in a pedagogically ideal year, they would learn about water conservation! Well...we can't (legally) collect rainwater anyway; so instead we fill the red tub beneath the table with water using a hose. The water drains (mostly) back into the red tub. Over the course of about a month, I've only added water to the tub twice. So, I think we're still limiting the amount of water they have to play with. Kind of. Let's just say it's better than a continuously running hose.

I'm still fiddling around with the functionality of the table - trying to get it to do more. Noah and I went on an exploratory shopping trip to Home Depot with the sole purpose of finding new additions (plugs, pipes, hoses, funnels). We are hoping to build the water table up onto the fence - but we'll see. Summer is almost over, and I think my dreams may have gotten a little oversized again....

[photo removed]


Pregnantly Plump said...

The water table is so neat! I had no idea you couldn't collect rainwater in Colorado! How odd.

Simply Bike said...

Wow, this is nothing short of awesome! What a great activity for the kids while being far more conservative with water than if running a sprinkler (for them to run through)! Love it!

And I'm shocked about the rain water thing, we have a rain barrel to collect water which we then use to water our backyard/garden area and it never even occured me to that it could be illegal to do so in some states. What's the reason behind that?


Sara Struckman said...

Such a cool idea! My kids are the same way with the hose - what's the deal? I'm putting this on the list of things to do. Currently my son and husband are finishing a mini-catapult, which kind of has me scared...

Where did you get the pump? Also, we're going to start collecting rainwater. Our backyard is fenced in. Please don't tell the water police :).

Ann Wyse said...

Thanks for your compliments! Sara - we found the pump on Amazon.

Most water departments specifically address the issue of rainwater collection on their websites. I'd start there if you're wondering about your own. Many, many places DO allow it.

Generally speaking, here is what I can extract from my dusty memory of an Environmental Law class I took about 10 years ago:

Property rights WEST of the Mississippi River, have always been legally different than property rights EAST of the Mississippi River, so if you live EAST of the Miss. River, odds are very, very good that you can collect all the rainwater you want on your property. This has to do with the way that property ownership is defined: essentially, ownership of the property extends beneath the ground to the 'center of the Earth'.

However, WEST of the Mississippi, people realized that water was a scarce(r) resource. So two things happened:1) the definition of property changed (so that people couldn't simply claim water because they lived on top of it or next to it or because it happened to run over their land) and 2) a rather complicated system of 'water rights' to any source of water was developed to regulate the usage of water. Water rights are separate from property rights.

Colorado's rainwater collection laws have been somewhat loosened in the last decade so that some people, who are not on a municipal water supply, CAN collect rainwater. But for the rest of us, they continue to deny property owners the right to collect rainwater. In the big picture, the separate legal definitions of property and water rights means that property owners don't have water rights: thus, no collection.

My understanding is that from a scientific perspective, there is very little reason to believe that homeowners collecting rainwater would ACTUALLY impact the volume of water available to those with 'water rights.' So in the end, it's one of those arguments caught up in legal mumbo jumbo and not necessarily common sense (or even scientific fact) that is informing regulation.

Katie said...

So cool!