April 15, 2013

Rainwater Catchment Update

Our rain catchment tanks collect water from a small addition to the house.
A better photo and close-ups of the set-up are here.

I've been wanting to do an update on our rainwater catchment system, but we had to fix a problem first. That problem was a leak at the pipe fitting between top and bottom tanks.

The water level gives you an idea of where the pipe fitting leaked.

The water level in the photo above shows where the leak was. This was disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. We'd considered the set-up experimental to begin with, something we've learned to do with new projects because things don't always work out as we first expect!

The first thing we did was to try various sealants to plug the leak. Even waterproof caulks state they are not for underwater use, or in this case, in constant contact with water. Between that and the pressure from the water in the tank, nothing we tried worked. It took awhile to figure this out because we had to wait until it rained again to test each sealant.

What Dan wanted, was different fittings, but we couldn't find anything locally, nor online for a decent price. Finally, on a trip to Iowa, he found what he was looking for at Bomgarrs.

fittings for rainwater catchment tanks
Left to right: gland nut, washer, and flanged
threaded fitting with gasket incorporated.

The gland nut (above left) and washer (middle) were fitted into the hole on the inside of the tank. The flanged threaded fitting (on the right) screwed into the gland nut from the outside, and the tanks reconnected. How did it work? We had to wait until it rained again to find out.

double tote rainwater catchment fittings
Success! Leak fixed.

As you can see, the top tank is beginning to fill with no more leaks. The white piece between the two black elbows is a coupling and threaded union Dan put together.

Not an especially good photo, sorry!

To see the rest of the set-up, click on this link, "Rainwater Catchment (At Last)".

So how much rain are we collecting? That small section of roof pictured in the first photo measures 15 by 7.5 feet, or 112.5 square feet. From that, we collect 50 gallons of water per one inch of rain. I am so glad we resisted the temptation to put up a couple of 55 gallon drums, especially considering that we've had over 23 inches of rain since the tanks were installed at the beginning of January. That's over 1100 gallons of water from that little bit of roof! (And our two tanks only hold a total of 550 gallons).

It's almost overwhelming to consider how much rain run-off gets away, even from a small house like ours. That's not only potential irrigation water, but potential toilet flushing, showering, and washing machine water as well. Needless to say, Dan's mental wheels are turning.

Rainwater Catchment Update © April 2013 


Renee Nefe said...

now I'm jealous and want my own rain water barrel and they're "illegal" here. :-/

oh and "Hey Ziggy! Where's da baby?" ;o)

daisy g said...

Wow, that's a ton of water. I hadn't even thought of the possibilities of using it in case of a hurricane or something to flush the toilet or wash off. We have three 55-gallon drums right now, but plan to upgrade our system when we move.
Glad you found the leak!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the update Leigh. I think this is going to be a great set up for you guys, and I am excited to do my own once we move.

Theresa said...

Great system Leigh! Wish we had one.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Leigh and Dan...that is great! I think about that too...how much water comes off our house and big 40 X 100 building and the goat barn when big rains come! oh and the dehumidifier too. Looks so nice! :)

Leigh said...

Renee, that is so dumb of your state!!! Isn't there a group of citizens trying to change that? Maybe they need your signature on a petition!

Daisy, isn't it amazing? And that's only a small portion of the roof! I have to say though, that even 55 gallon drums are better than nothing.

Stephanie, best of all it's fairly inexpensive, especially getting the totes off craigslist.

Theresa, what I'm really looking forward to is getting some rain tanks on all the animal shelters. It will mean less water to haul!

Pam, oh yes, barns and outbuildings too. We just need to get one more tote and we can catch it off the new goat shelter.

Leigh said...

P.S. Ziggy is still holding tight! Next potential due date is between the 21st and 26th.

Woolly Bits said...

our tanks are more "scattered" around the house, but it is amazing that a large tank can be half full after one hefty shower! and after a whole month with barely any rain (extremely rare in ireland:) we were quite glad to have set up so many tanks! I can't understand that a state would take away the right to free water! isn't that one of the most basic rights of all???

CrankyPuppy said...

Thanks for the information on your rain barrels - we have those exact same tanks, but haven't hooked them up yet (it's on the honey-do list for this Spring). I think we may need to get some more of them, given how much rain you're getting off that small area. That's the size of the addition on the back of our house. We put gutters on our coop as well so that we could catch rain to water the garden with. I'm dumbfounded that some legislator thinks they can tax nature.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking of Ziggy a lot lately....:) Sending her good vibes!! :)

Leigh said...

Bettina, we do plan to put up more tanks until, eventually, we have them under all downspouts, both house and outbuildings.

Unfortunately this country is becoming progressively more socialistic, where the government owns it for equality among the people. Typically it ends up being little more than power tripping at the expense of the people. But, that's human nature in a nutshell.

CrankyPuppy, we need more too! It's amazing how much water that can be collected. Eventually every building on the place will have them. :)

The legislature in question is Colorado, who seems to have sovereignly claimed all water as belonging to them.

Pam, all good thoughts appreciated. The babies have dropped! That's one step in the delivery direction. :)

Donna OShaughnessy said...

a "gland nut" wish I was mature enough to type that without smiling ! Anyway. Great job, as always. May your rain collecting go grandly this summer!

DFW said...

Hey Leigh,

Thanks for posting this. We purchased some food grade barrels this weekend. I really want some of the water totes like yours to water the garden with/ wash outside showering, etc. I keep looking on Craig's List but non have become available for a decent price.

Renee Nefe said...

I noticed that Colorado allows rainwater collection if you have a well permit you can collect rainwater for approved uses, but only from your roof.
We are also allowed to collect "warm up" water...the water that is otherwise wasted when waiting for the correct temperature of water to reach your faucet...but we aren't allowed to water our yards with grey water as it might contain pathogens.

Mama Pea said...

I'm sending a link to this post to my hubby's computer. We can water the gardens from our pond but it's not a very efficient set-up. So I end up watering straight from our well (we have plenty of water) but, of course, the water is ice cold which is not good for the plants. We've talked about an efficient, tempered water system for some time now so, as usual, we are benefiting from your generous nature in sharing. Thank you!

Ellen and Adrian said...

Will you treat the water before giving it to the livestock? I understand some types of roofing can leach chemicals into the run-off.

Leigh said...

Donna, I know. The names they come up with for things!

DFW, the totes seem to come and go on craigslist. I've seen them range from $45 to $125 each. Patience always pays off in the end and in the meantime, you've still got those barrels!

Renee, allows you to collect warm up water. Sheesh. They need to get up to date on their research.

Mama Pea, that's true about the water temperature. Ours is pretty lukewarm in summer so I never thought about it. I hope you can put something similar to good use.

Ellen and Adrian, from what I've researched, there's negatives about every roofing material. There's a very interesting article about something similar, the dangers of using chlorine to purify collected rainwater for drinking, here.

To answer your question, yes, Dan is planning a simple filter for the rainwater for watering the animals. Considering what's in our tap water, we aren't going to do any worse that what they have to ingest now.

The Stay @ Home-Gardener said...

It is amazing people even bother to drill wells instead of getting better water from the sky. Then again, I see, flying all over, every house isnt orientated to utilize sunshine. The way we build our homes baffles the bejebus out of me.

Sandy Livesay said...


I'm so happy to hear Dan found what he needed on your trip to Iowa. Now you have a working system for everything, including emergencies.

thewovenspoke said...

I wish we got enough rain here to even have a barrel! Nothing like a 20 year drought, US southwest

Leigh said...

Cloud, it seems that the more "advanced" we become, the more ignorant we get. Building according to sun and weather patterns is nearly a lost art. Eric Sloane talks about it quite a bit in his books. The building we use as a goat and chicken shed was properly oriented. It was built 80 or 90 years ago and the front side never catches rain or wind! It amazes me.

Sandy, that's one perk of being a truck driver! He can do his shopping nationwide, LOL.

Thewovenspoke, oh my, yes. Drought in that area has been the worst. Truly heartbreaking.

bigfoot said...

A 1000 sf roof area will net 600 gallons of runoff in a 1" rain event.
Also always go for the "food-grade" tote tanks if you plan to feed to livestock, water gardens or consume yourself
After filtering.
Bigfoot in Tx

Leigh said...

Bigfoot, thanks for stopping by! I definitely agree about food grade collection containers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing all of this info. I have a question about what you do with your system during the winter. Do you disconnect it to prevent freezing the containers and pipes or do you use it in winter?

I live in an arid climate, most of the precipitation is in the winter and I have read that rain collection systems will freeze and break during winter use. What do you think?

Leigh said...

Anonymous, that's a very good question. I honestly don't have an answer because we live in an area that does not have sustained temperatures below freezing. I took a look in Art Ludwig's Water Storage and he has a list of ideas for freeze protection. I can't recommend his books highly enough, so I'd suggest either buying one or borrowing it from your public library.

The Stay @ Home-Gardener said...

:) Figured this would be a good place to comment about the Colorado Rain collection law. For a century, All water was appropriated in CO. Even Rainwater. However, around 2010 they changed the law in order to allow catchment.

I hope this helps some of you above that mentioned it being 'illegal' for rain-butts in CO.


Leigh said...

Thanks Cloud. Good to see you're doing your research. :) Renee, did you catch that?

Off-Grid Homestead said...

fantastic! we have barrels for our gardens etc,, but have a well for our indoor needs..
our barrels are not filtered etc..
will this supply your indoor water?
Luckily our pump is 110 and our depth is only 100 ft so our solar panels will be able to pump our water from our well!

Leigh said...

Off-Grid Homestead, sounds like you've got a good set-up. Eventually we plan to use rainwater for flushing toilets, laundry and maybe showers, as well as irrigation. For drinking and cooking water, we'd love to have our own well! (We're on municipal water right now).

Anonymous said...

You have a great set-up. At my farm, I had a 250gal tank behind my house, and halfway up to the ridge, we had a spring where we collected water via PVC pipe that transferred it to two horse troughs as settling tanks. Then it came down the hill through a buried pvc pipe, across the field and filled up the tank. It wasn't much fun during the winter when the pipes would freeze.

On another note, I was reading through one of my old Mother Earth News magazines today and came across a system that reuses sink water to flush the toilet. I think that is brilliant! Here's some info on it:

Enjoy! =)

Leigh said...

Thank you for that! We definitely hope to eventually use either gray or rainwater for flushing. I know it's necessary, but flushing a toilet seems such a waste of water, LOL. We did look into composting toilets, but they are too expensive and a lot of work.