No pictures for this post. I actually didn’t take any pictures for the entire two weeks of my adventure. Sorry about that. I usually take at least a few pictures, but I was really engaged at the festival and I didn’t feel like carrying and electronics.
On the way out of Bozeman in a local Ace Hardware store I found a large enough hard-plastic wading pool to fit the shower base into to prevent leaking grey water on the playa. I tossed that on top of my pile of stuff in the cargo trailer and headed south.
I arrived at Funkytown (10&C) on Sunday and got my new Shift-Pod set up before dark so I had somewhere to sleep right away. On Monday morning I started setting up the shower. First I set down the wading pool, then I set the base in it and screwed in the braces for the PVC poles and the shower head mount. Next I clamped the hoses where they went and connected power.
It worked! Water ran for about 1.5 seconds, then it stopped. It had flowed, then very quickly it became a trickle, then drips. The ultra-fine nature of the playa clogged the silvered-ceramic filter right away. I took a moment to be sad about that then opened the filter canisters to remove the ceramic filter from the set and add another sand filter stage using the extra materials i brought with me.
The removal of the ceramic filter allowed water to flow, but it did mean that the filtered water was muddier than i was hoping for. Once I accepted that, though, I was ready to jump in. It was great! I used biodegradable camp soap and showered 5 times over the next several days. The particles in the water were remained very fine and the charcoal did a great job of eliminating odors.
Over the course of the week at the festival there were four other campmates that were willing to try it out and they all gave positive reviews! The first volunteers to use the shower both had long hair. There reviews of the shower focused on the utility of the high flow rate over time to really soak and clean their hair. They used traditional shampoo and conditioners, though, and after they were done the smell of the products they used were strong in the water.
I hypothesize that their chosen hygiene products contain a lot of compounds that saturated the sand and carbon filters. I had more charcoal on hand so I took the filters apart, washed the sand a bit and replaced the charcoal. There was still a bit of peppermint odor for another day or two, but it did eventually fade.
In conversation with a filtration expert in camp it was concluded that the sand filter is definitely where a lot of the filtration magic was happening, but that we should restrict the soap used to biodegradable products. To improve the effectiveness of the sand stage of the filtration, we guess that it needs to be bigger with higher ‘residence time.’ This means the water should spend more time in the sand filter before entering the next filter stage.
The plan, if I continue with this project, is to increase the volume of the sand stage dramatically. What I have in mind is a set of 4″ diameter PVC sewer pipe filled with sand and plumbed in parallel. This should reduce the velocity of water through the stage while maintaining the high flow rate.
Additionally, the free-hanging curtains only allow for a comfortable experience when the wind is very still. Any breeze causes the curtains to press up against a body in the shower; this is not pleasant. More rigid walls will be needed with some tie-down pins to anchor the structure in case of strong winds.
Overall, in spite of the ceramic filter being less than useless, I’d say the recycling shower for Burnin Man was a success. I’m pretty confident the project will continue to mature for next years event.