January 7, 2013

Rainwater Catchment (At Last)

Rainwater catchment is a project we've been wanting to implement ever since we bought the place. Two years ago we developed a water conservation plan for both rain and greywater, based on observing drainage patterns around the place. About a year and a half ago, Dan found 275 gallon food grade tanks for a fair price and bought four, with a view toward rainwater collection. This project made it to our 2013 homestead goal list, and while I was painting the bathroom, Dan took two of the tanks and hooked them up to one of our downspouts.

Our 1st rainwater catchment set-up.  More to come.

These tanks stack well, so this set-up gives us the potential to catch and store 500 gallons of rainwater. Placement of the tanks was tough, because we didn't want to block the window, and putting them at the corner of the house would block the path to the garden between the house and carport.

The horizontal pipe from the downspout to the tank has a slight downward slope, to allow water to gravity feed into the top tank.

Dan cut a hole in the tank cap for for the corrugated hose.

The upper tank drains into the lower tank.

Tanks are connected

This not only doubles our storage capacity, but will help with water pressure when the tanks are full.

[UPDATE: April 15 - We had a leak at the connection but have solved the problem. Details on that and  how much water we're collecting are here, Rainwater Catchment Update.]

The tanks already had shut-off valves, so Dan added a hose bib onto the bottom tank so we can hook up an ordinary garden hose.

Bottom tank is fitted with a hose bib to enable
irrigating the garden with a regular hose & sprinkler

To prevent leaves and dirt from entering the tanks, he added a clean-out plug.

Clean-out plug.

Initial rainfall washes debris off the roof and into the tube. Once the tube is full, water flows into the tanks. Theoretically, only clean rainwater should enter the tanks. The end cap can be unscrewed to empty the drain pipe. I admit I was wondering about this, since it is so high off the ground. It does require a ladder, which is not really a problem, but I pictured water going everywhere as I tried to catch it in a bucket. The end cap is not a tight fit however, so that all the water had slowly dripped out by the time I went to empty it. All that was left in the clean out was a few leaves.

The roof surface area here is roughly 100 square feet. Our curiosity was obliged that very night, with a third of an inch of rain. This gave us two inches in the bottom tank. About a day later we got another 2/3 of an inch. That one inch total brought the water level up to the 50 gallon mark.

We're considering this experimental for the time being. We've learned that many of our projects need adjustments and tweaking as we go along. We have the option of connecting the other downspout to these tanks if we wish, but we'll wait to see how much rainfall it takes the one downspout to fill the tanks and how long that lasts. One thing I will likely have to do, is to paint the tanks because summer sun will encourage algae growth, which we'll want to avoid. Dan also wants to add an overflow of some sort. Other than that we've had a little leakage around the valves, but nothing that couldn't be easily taken care of.

This is the first project completed from our 2013 goal list!  I have to admit, that alone feels pretty good.

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Rainwater Catchment (At Last) © January 2013 


Unknown said...

a nice simple solution! We have rain water tanks as we're not connected to town water. Each tank has a screen on top to catch the leaves, so that would be another option for you, but you'd need a larger inlet in that case.

Sue said...

Off to a good start on the goals for this year. Congrats!

Dani said...

Clever, clever, clever - lateral thinking at it's best - or should that be vertical thinking LOL

Izzy said...

Nicely done! What color will you paint the tanks to keep away algae?

Clint Baker said...

Thats awesome! As you know I have two 55 gallon drums and it seems I never have enough water. Thats a great solution right there!

daisy g said...

What a great idea! I saw some like that on Craig's list recently. Wish we had the space for them.

May your barrels always be full...

Theresa said...

WONDERFUL! And congrats on the first 2013 completed project. I know his one will be quite useful.
We didn't put soffits and gutters on this house, too heavy a snow and ice load for gutters, so no way we could catch rain, but I sure wish we could.

Leigh said...

Farmer Liz, thanks! We did consider a screen to catch debris, but the clean out seems simpler for us to maintain. We don't have to be home to make things are flowing properly and leaves don't have to be cleared out immediately, especially with that slow leak in the clean out plug LOL. Dan put a bucket under it to catch that water too. We want to collect every drop!

Dani, thanks!

Izzy, good question. Algae likes light so it ought to be a dark color. Of course I want something to coordinate with the colors of my house! I'm thinking either brown, like the back porch bench, (pic in this this post this postor dark green. :)

Clint, one can never catch enough! We're so pleased with this that Dan is already planning where to put the next two. He's also wishing for larger tanks! We have such a terrible dry spell every year and so much to water, that we want to get as much as possible.

Daisy, that's where we found these. I think they were $60. They had contained olive oil, of which we drained out the last bits. I'll eventually use that to make soap. :)

Theresa, and there you have it. Every area presents it's own challenges. There are never any one size fits all solutions to things like this.

Unknown said...

Very nicely done! Your debris catching device is brilliant! I had 6 comparatively small barrels at my house that I just sold, and I was always amazed at how little rain it took to fill them up. I was always wanting more barrels! Also, gosh, getting them set up took a lot more little widget-y parts than I expected. Nothing difficult or complicated, but it seemed to require a lot of just step by step thinking things through and buying small parts for this and that to get them just right. So rewarding to use them, though. You'll enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Hurray for the new water catching system! I will be very interested to see how the anti algae paint job works. Isn't it lovely to have free water!

luckybunny said...

We use those same tanks on our property in Alaska that has no water, and our property here in Canada for maple syrup! :) They work so well. So glad you came up with a system! Great idea.

Kris said...

Oh how I envy you those 2 stacked tanks! I'm making do with 55 gallon drums. I did have to put down a platform of bricks under a couple of mine, as the ground gets soft from rain and the barrels, when full, weight over 450# and tilt if there is soft dirt. Gee, that means 500 gallons in your tanks will weigh over (tap,tap) 4,100#! Do you have some kind of foundation under your tanks?

Looking forward to seeing your future water projects from this. Bet you're excited. Meanwhile I'm looking to add a couple more drums - to catch more water from the front of the house next year.

Leigh said...

BA, I remember you blogging about those barrels. It's so true how little rain it actually takes to fill them. It's also true about the little widgety parts! Fortunately, that kind of problem solving is right up Dan's alley. :)

Martha, me too, though how will I tell if I can't see into the tanks. ;)

Donna, I'd love having those tanks full of maple syrup!

Kris, that's why we consider this still experimental, LOL. Right now they are set on bricks to level them. We've had a lot of rain lately, so our ground is saturated. I'll let you know if we have any problems with water weight. :)

k.somerville said...

thanks for the post :) We are working on the same goal. We have a place near us that sells used sturdy shipping containers similar to what you found. Love the setup!

Kev Alviti said...

We'd like to put some rain water catchmet in at our place but it will have to be underground as the planning officers won't like anything above. The alge wont affect your water for the plants too much will it?

Anonymous said...

Oh I can't wait to see the results of this :) Great job!

Misty Pines Homestead said...

Hey Leigh we were gonna do the same at the cabin.I was reading where a galvanized roof is better for rain water cause it wouldn't have contaminates from a regular roof.The heavy metals and polyaromatic hydrocarbons from asphalt shingles and other contaminants that may deposit onto roofs from air. It appears that contaminants that rainwater washes off of shingles may be a significant source of surface water contamination. The contaminants that are washing off of roofs include zinc, lead, chromium, arsenic, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. It is similar to what you might collect off of a parking lot.Just a thought,a galvanized roof is better for collecting,as long as you don't use it for drinking.{{hugs}}

MTWaggin said...

You guys are just amazing. I sit here in awe!

Bootzey said...

Very cool setup. What are you gonna do with that water????

Renee Nefe said...

Wow! Barely a week into the new year and you've already knocked out one project! Way to go!

Like Kev commented, we aren't allowed to catch our rain water...at least not where anyone can see it. :p We're also not allowed to catch our grey water as the water board has claimed that we don't own that. Of course folks here do both on the sly.
I don't know if I can talk hubby into catching rain water or not. I know we both are upset watching all the sprinkler run-off from our neighbors homes.

Leigh said...

K. Crane, so glad it's of use! Dan got ours off craigslist, so you might check there if you need them at a discount. Now he's looking for 1000 gallon containers!

Kev, I should have mentioned about building codes. At least you can put one underground; I've seen some amazing diagrams of underground cisterns that work very well. In fact, my grandparents' home, built in 1905, had an underground cistern. All the drainpipes emptied roof water into it. I think at one time it was the house's only water source. My grandmother just used it to water her garden.

Good question about the algae. I was told we needed to guard against it but really haven't researched it myself. I will have to do that!

Stephanie, me too LOL

Mandy, when we first bought the house, the roof was terribly worn and in need of replacing. Dan and I were found a DIY supplier for metal roofs and planned to install one ourselves. Then our homeowners insurance got involved and threatened to cancel our policy if we didn't get a new roof pronto. We could not do it ourselves within the time frame they allowed, and could not afford to have someone install it. Hence the asphalt roof. That said, the plan is to eventually install a metal roof ourselves, one section at a time, though that is still way future.

You are correct about the contaminants, but OTOH, the contaminants in municipal tap water include the ones you mention plus and many more. We use a Berkey to filter our drinking water and figure we could use it for rain water if it ever came to that! ;)

Sherry, aw shucks.

Serenity, water the garden! And fruit trees and bushes, and herb garden, and even the grain field. :) I almost tripled my water bill last year during our dry spell, and I let somethings dry up at that. This will really help with that, both for us, and for our municipal water levels.

Renee, yeah, I heard Colorado was pretty backward, er, tough, when it came things like that. So you don't "own" your greywater? Didn't you pay for it via your water bill? Or maybe their thinking is you just rented it???? What do they do about the stuff you consume?!?!?! LOLOLOL Still there's hope. It wasn't too long ago when Colorado didn't allow folks to collect rainwater either as I recall. It's true though that the other option is very wasteful. The powers that be keep telling us there's a water shortage. If they believe that then they need to untie our hands to help solve the problem.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

But wait, I don't even have my 2013 calendar out yet . . . and you two have already crossed off something on your "to do" list! You're certainly off to a great start, good for you guys!

Becky said...

That is a very clever way to catch the rainwater! I have access to some of those containers, so need to get hubby busy on this project.

frugallivingonthewatkinsranch.blogspot.com said...

We have been wanting to do the same thing but we need to get gutters I love the idea of stacking the tanks we have fourof them one we use to collect gray water from the washer ,And were just going to use one but I was wanting to collect more water then what one would hold. I can’t wait to show my hubby. Connie from frugallivingonthewatkinsranch.blogspot.com

Diane Barnard said...

Very nice! I've been wanting to do something like this for years. We have no live water on our place & when the power is out we can't use our well.
I have the same type of roofing as you do & wondered if the water running off it would be contaminated. Our hay barn has a metal roof. Does anyone know what type of roofing metal is safest for this?

Erin said...

I am so having catchment envy. I'm bookmarking this!!

Unknown said...

Oooo, I'm lusting after your BIG tanks! We have 2-55 gallon ones, which I'd like to replace. The bigger ones are just pretty spendy here...

Sandy Livesay said...

I like your tanks, have you thought about a white reflective paint for the top? Or maybe a wood storage box over the tanks with an area to vent.

As a kid, I remember my Dad using a cooper wire to put in the water tank and this help prevent algae. Now his tanks weren't really big. It's just a thought.

I know you don't want to use dark paint if it gets real hot where you live.

Great start to your 2013 goals. Please keep us updated on the benefits of these tanks.

Looking really good!!

Misty Pines Homestead said...

I hope you can get a metal roof then.Good going!Insurance companies can be such a pain.Yeah we have a water filter on our tap and the water is so better.

Leigh said...

Janice, it's my husband. He couldn't sit still if his life depended on it, LOL.

Becky, thanks! It actually wasn't too difficult, nor too expensive (relatively speaking). But the water for irrigating the garden will be priceless!

Connie, interesting about collecting your washing machine water. So far for greywater, we're planning a "wetlands" and a soil filtration bed. How long do you let the greywater sit in the tank? Any problems with it going "black"?

Starlighthill, good to hear from you! Most of the places we've lived at had wells with electric pumps, so I know what you mean about that. Annnightflyer has done her homework on this topic and mentioned a galvanized metal roof in a comment above. That might be a good starting point for more research. I just know that metal is the recommended roofing material for rainwater catchment.

Erin, it's something we've been wanting to do for a long time. We're relieved to have finally gotten a start on it!

Nancy, check craigslist! Dan got our for about $60 each. They were used, but the price was worth it!

Sandy, I haven't thought much about it yet at all, lol. They're already white so who would notice. Dan thinks they're ugly no matter what color they are. Actually, I'm planning to use them as trellises for vining plants.

Interesting about the copper wire. Copper is on my mind a lot because our goats tend to show symptoms of copper deficiency. Copper as a soil amendment is the best way to meet this need I think. I'll have to research this. Thanks for the tidbit.

Mandy, it's on the to-do list! Along with a million other things, LOL. We only filter our drinking water and I have to say I feel a little guilty making our animals drink tap water. :(

Woolly Bits said...

we bought black plastic tanks (we call them eggs, because they're domed on top). you cannot stack them, but they are very large anyway and the weight alone would prevent stacking. to give pressure to our water we build a concrete water tank at the bottom, put concrete slabs on top and put the tank on top. which means we have water pressure enough inside the house - apart from the washing machine, which needed an extra pump inside. but the black plastic prevents algae growth - and even in winter it keeps the water in the tank from freezing, unless we have extreme cold and grey conditions over a long time. we considered digging a cystern into the ground, but with our stony ground it would be impossible without using heavy machinery (not an option in an already planted garden:). might be doable for you though? you'd need a pump to get the water out, but at least it would mean a huge amount of water storage, no eyesore (the tanks around the house aren't exactly beautiful) and pretty safe from frost...

icebear said...

for reading water levels, maybe leaving a 2" vertical strip of the tanks unpainted might allow you to see where the water is. put it on the shady side so light can't get in too easily?

you could also do a first coat of black to block light, then a top coat of a color that will match the house. the double-coat should block a lot of light.

Tom Stewart said...

This is one of the projects I have wanted to do for ever. I have gotten some 55 gallon tanks, but really want the ones you have. And with the new CH and work shop, there is a lot more roof for rain to run off!
Your set up is pretty neat and seems easy to get started. Dan is still my hero and he has some great ideas!

Leigh said...

Bettina, Dan does talk about digging a cistern for rainwater, but that would be a big job and as you say, we'd need a pump. We do have the old swimming pool, but that would need to be dug out and we suspect the concrete is cracked anyway. He's motivate now though, so who knows!

Icebear, the tanks have level indicators, so unpainted, we know how much is in there. If they were painted, we wouldn't be able to tell! Two coats of paint like you say, is a really good idea.

Tom, we got our tanks off craigslist. Around here they're listed as "totes," and they were fairly cheap. You'll likely want more than 55 gallons soon. We got close to that with only an inch of rain! Good idea about including outbuildings for rain catchment. Eventually, we plan to do that too.

Glenda said...

My hubby had a in-ground tank called a cistern on his ranch when he was a kid. They used it for outside water and toilet water. Yours seems easier.

Leigh said...

Glenda, we've talked about an underground cistern. Besides digging and burying, there's having to pump it, so at this point, we're planning to rely on gravity and pressure. Dan is planning one for toilet flushing though.

Kaat said...

Hi Leigh and Dan,
I just got eight of these babies and am converting the whole town to this system!
Does it work, with the pressure once the barrels are full? We'd love to hook up some low pressure but quite extensive drip irrigation. Any glitches you've run in? Any advice?

Leigh said...

Kaat, good to hear from you! We actually did have a problem with leaking around the connector. Dan has tried a couple of adhesives and then broke the pipe, so that will have to be fixed. I've been wanting to blog about this, but also wanted to be able to share the solution to the problem! That will be upcoming one of these days.

Dan recently bought Art Ludwig's book, Water Storage: Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers, and Ponds and now wants to try his had at cement cisterns. We will probably abandon the tanks in favor of that someday.

Kaat said...

Thanks, Leigh!
I ordered the book from the library. We are thinking of a pond as well. Found a good place for the totes, away from the house, closer to where the water will go. Will blog on it!

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