By Larry Breed
The water situation was growing desperate at the Beacon camp, that Wednesday in 2005. Fresh water had been plentiful on Monday, and now every available container was filled with graywater, with more, always more, on the way. Graywater is runoff from kitchens, showers, and sinks (but not toilets). It’s a major aggravation at Burning Man because it’s highly unsanitary (bleach helps) and because there is no easy disposal method. The rules — and courtesy and common sense — prohibit dumping graywater on the Playa: participants must cart it out, pay the porta-potty company (one of the few examples of real-world commerce at Black Rock City) to suck it up, or do something truly creative to make it disappear.
It’s no surprise that some Burners were already intrigued with the problem, and had created solutions ranging from super-sophisticated to super-simple. At the high end were complete water purification systems. BRCMUD camp’s “Freshmakkur” filtered, flocculated, and purified, and watered a domeful of plants with the result. In another camp of sanitation experts, yesterday’s shower became this morning’s coffee.