Waterpod Demonstrates Self-Sufficient, Sustainable Living

Mary Mattingly is launching the Waterpod any day now. It is " a floating eco-habitat that recalls the work of Buckminster Fuller, Andrea Zittel, and Constant Nieuwenhuis." It is designed to be a completely self-sustaining community; According to Steven Kurutz in the New York Times,

Food will be grown onboard, some of it in hydroponic gardens; drinking water derived from purified rainwater; electricity generated through a mix of solar, wind and bicycle power; and waste recycled into compost.


an earlier rendering

It is loaded with interesting technology designed by an engineering class at Humbolt State University:


  • Human Powered Water Pumping for Pumping of Water Around

  • Rain Water Purification to Purify the Captured Water

  • Bike Electrical Power for Powering Extra Loads, Such as the Stage

  • Picohydro for Extracting Energy from the River

  • Composting Toilets for Processing the Waste of the Occupants

  • Rocket Stove for Cooking Efficiently

  • Solar Cooking (More than a Solar Box, e.g. Parabolic System) for Supplemental Cooking Needs

  • Groundless Food Systems

  • Simple Hydroponic System for Growing Some of the Food Needed by the Occupants
  • Chicken Living Systems


Plus a solar array, a bank of bicycle powered generators and a 1.5Kw vertical axis wind turbine.

Mattingly told Time Out:


"In 40 years we'll have significant sea-level rise," she says. "Our future will be defined, in part, by climate refugees, and the Waterpod will function as a platform for dialogue." In keeping with those ideas, the pod has been designed to run on solar, wind and human power; visitors will be invited to pedal one of four onboard bicycles, which recharge the pod's three batteries.

Another participant explained that they would not be roughing it:

One thing the Waterpod is not, however, is an exercise in Survivor-style schadenfreude. "It will be quite civilized," promises Ward, a sculptor who fronts the psychedelic rock band the Ruffian Arms. "We'll eat with utensils." Ward took us on a tour of the work-in-progress, admiring its futuristic design. "The Waterpod is utilitarian, but it's also about creating a space that's beautiful."


Components are being built offsite, but it really looks like it has a way to go in this New York Times photo

Kurutz at the Times notes a few contradictions in his article, appropriately entitled "A Fluid Definition of Self-Sufficiency"

Ms. Mattingly has been growing tomatoes and onions on her windowsill (as have other crew members), but they won't be ripe by next week, and she acknowledged the possibility that the onboard gardens and the eggs laid by the chickens won't provide enough food to feed four people for five months.

"We worked out a deal with the Union Square Greenmarket, where we're going to barter for food," she said. She hadn't yet figured out what to offer in exchange. But she didn't seem particularly troubled by that, or by the fact that supplementing the food supply meant that their community wouldn't actually be self-sustaining.

More at the Waterpod Project,

Tags: Boats | Urban Life