What is non-potable water used for?
July 10, 2005 9:05 PM   Subscribe

When several tankers with the words "non-potable water" fill up at a fire hydrant, where are they going? What is it being used for? Are they buying the undrinkable water directly from the city?
posted by Satapher to Work & Money (14 answers total)
My guesses are: street cleaning, pressure washing somethignorother, plant watering during times of drought, municipal swimming pool filling, water transportation for some reason. Do you have any reason to believe they're not trucks doing the city's bidding in some way or the other?
posted by jessamyn at 9:14 PM on July 10, 2005

They may also be for filling the fire department's tanker trucks.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:20 PM on July 10, 2005

Could also be running water out to a wildfire. They've done that here in Oregon ... filled up at hydrants at the nearest city and then run tanker trucks out.
posted by SpecialK at 9:23 PM on July 10, 2005

Non-potable water is often used to keep dust down at construction sites.
posted by vaportrail at 9:25 PM on July 10, 2005

Best answer: Most likely they are buying it from the city. Usually there's a meter that installs between the hydrant and the hose. I seem to recall that in the last city I lived in you could fill up your swimming pool from a hydrant by using one of these meters and then paying for the amount of water you used.
posted by friezer at 3:48 AM on July 11, 2005

vaportrail writes "Non-potable water is often used to keep dust down at construction sites."

And for other things as well, some construction equipment uses water as a lubricant for cutting pavement etc.
posted by OmieWise at 4:31 AM on July 11, 2005

Best answer: It's also possible that the city is flushing the hydrants, and they don't want to just dump all that water on the ground. (Hydrants need to be used every 12 months or so; if they've not been used to fight a fire, they get flushed to get the sediment and other junk out of the pipes and valves.)

Probably not for filling a pool, as the non-potable water tankers aren't as clean as pool tankers are. ( Although it could be going to a fountain or pond.)

FWIW, the water coming out of the hydrant is probably clean enough to drink, although it may have a lot of sediment in it; it's that the tankers aren't kept as clean as potable water or pool water tankers.
posted by jlkr at 6:00 AM on July 11, 2005

To echo previous responses, it's probably being used for construction. The city may or may not require the contractor to pay for the water, depending on whether it's a city job or not. The main difference between the potable water truck and the non-potable water truck is the former is subject to certain rules concerning sanitation and chlorination and the latter is not.
posted by electroboy at 6:46 AM on July 11, 2005

Also, I knew a guy who drove one of those water trucks, and he was using the water to clean out sewer lines. He worked for a private company that was contracted by various municipalities to maintain their sewer lines. I suspect there are several uses for the water that gets pumped out of hydrants.
posted by raedyn at 7:19 AM on July 11, 2005

I always thought fire hydrants were connected to the exact same waterlines as one's home water. Is this not so?
posted by five fresh fish at 1:14 PM on July 11, 2005

Response by poster: awesome thanks much for all the responses -- i considered the idea of rogue water thiefs, but only for amusment
posted by Satapher at 3:42 PM on July 11, 2005

Response by poster: there is a short hose attached to the hydrant, but its also ALWAYS there, could there be a keylock?
posted by Satapher at 3:44 PM on July 11, 2005

Response by poster: also the trucks (which come around every 2 hours all day, all night long) are not uniform... they are all sorts of sizes and designs
posted by Satapher at 3:46 PM on July 11, 2005

five fresh fish writes "I always thought fire hydrants were connected to the exact same waterlines as one's home water"

Yep, in most cases. It's the trucks that are non-potable not the source water.

Satapher lots of cities contract out water hauling, it's cheaper than having to pay guys during the winter. In which case the city rarely cares what your truck looks like as long as it can haul a certian volume of water and the truck has your name on it.

Some other tasks that require lots of clean water though not nessasarily potable are tree transplants, making concrete, and drilling. There are also dust control compounds that come in powder form in bags that you just mix with water in your tank.
posted by Mitheral at 6:17 AM on July 12, 2005

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