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All content by Kyle E. Mitchell, who is not your lawyer.

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Hydrant Meter for the Homelessa giant step forward for East Oakland Collective and EBMUD

This post is part of a series, Water Boy.

Earlier this afternoon, East Oakland Collective Executive Director Candice Elder and I picked up the first East Bay Municipal Utility District hydrant meter ever issued to pump drinking water for the homeless. This marks the successful conclusion of a year-long project, begun with an open letter and capped off with a successful fundraiser.

Now comes the fun part: Putting the meter to work on the street, getting the unhoused of Oakland the clean water they need.

Meter Kit Version 1
Hydrant Meter Drinking Water Kit Version 1: Hydrant Meter, CAMCO Two-Stage Filter, Hydrant Wrenches, Accessories

All the equipment pictured above fits in one large duffel bag. We can take that bag to any fire hydrant in Oakland, hook up, and pump clean water into jugs and other containers, right on site. In short, having the meter turns every standard fire hydrant in the city into a garden faucet. We can use RV-style water filters to be double sure the water flows pure.

The meter weighs thirty pounds—less than a single five-gallon jug of water. It fits easily in the footwell of a compact car. With it, we can pump as much as water as we need, without additional weight. We’ll pay standard EBMUD rates for the water, the same as housed people pay to turn their taps.

No more stuffing five hundred pounds of full water jugs in a car. No more lugging fifty-pound jerrycans through campsites. No more paying a dollar a gallon for bottles that end up as trash piles. Just grab the bag and go.

My next steps are to do some trial runs on my local hydrant, pin down the equipment and process, and start training more volunteers. Eventually, we want volunteers dropping by the East Oakland Collective distribution center, checking out the meter, driving to their camps, and filling everyone up spontaneously, on whatever schedule works for them.

Looking ahead, we are going to be able to look at larger on-site containers. The challenge there will be making sure the containers stay clean, safe, and functional. But they could allow us to visit camps less frequently, while also serving more people.

Big thanks to each and every fellow donor who helped made this happen. Extra special thanks to Andrew Lee, Manager of Customer and Community Services at EBMUD, who made it possible in the first place.

On a personal note, my deepest gratitude goes to Derrick Soo and the 77th Avenue Rangers, the Alameda Avenue crew, the Wood Street community, and all the other folks who’ve heard thanks from me in person. Without your hospitality, patience, and willingness to educate me over the last few years, there’s no way I could have seen this way through. Stay strong.

Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome by e-mail.

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