Rainwater catchment

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Are any of you using a rainwater catchment system? I would like to read about your experiences, even if you use only a single barrel. I've read many books and on-line articles for how-to info, but precious little about real world, in-use experience.

-- Jerry (neljer@txcyber.com), January 14, 2001


Jerry- I use 4 55-gallon barrels around my house. I do not have gutters (yet), so the system is a bit primitive. I place the barrels under the roof valleys to catch whatever water runs off that way. They fill up very quickly (house is 2000 sq. ft.- did the math once to figure out roof sq. footage, but don't have the figures handy). I have screens over the tops of the barrels to keep mosquitoes out. I have a drip hose attached to the bottom of each barrel so that I can water the foundation plantings around the house. The roof is metal, so I don't worry much about toxins, etc in the water. Check out this website for info about water catchment, etc: http://www.rdrop.com/users/krishna/

-- Elizabeth (ekfla@aol.com), January 14, 2001.

Thanks Elizabeth. I'm reminded of a fella who had a small house, more of a shelter really, with too small of a roof surface to produce much water. Short on roof but long on ingenuity, he rigged several tarps to capture enough water for his needs. This is, of course what sailboat folks do at sea.

-- Jerry (neljer@txcyber.com), January 15, 2001.

We are looking forward to collecting rainwater this year..had a new metal roof and oversized gutters put on and plan on getting one of those heavy plastic livestock tanks, put it up on a platform so that the drain hose is more accessable and use the water for the garden as well as livestock. Although water from the County is pretty cheap here in NE Alabama ($10/month)...we eventually hope to learn more about rainwater collection with a sand/charcol filter for all of our needs. God bless.

-- Lesley (martchas@bellsouth.net), January 15, 2001.

We are in Southeast Ohio. I have a 425 gallon tank, thi kind that is used to haul water in a full size pick-up truck. In front of my house there is a concrete pourch, full length across the front of the house and 7 ft. wide. At one end I set up six steel drums with a pallet on top for a deck, and then placed the tank on top of that. The bottom of the tank is 3 ft.+ off of the floor, for flow and has a valve near the bottom of the tank.

The porch has a roof, and the house roof above the porch also drains onto the porch roof. That roof has spouting that is directed into the holding tank. I use a screen to catch bigger pieces of unwanted things that might end up in the water like leaves, or chips of paint from the roof. We do not drink this water but we do everything else with it, dishes , laundry, bathing and so on.

I have had this little systen in place for about 10 years and was quite concerned about freezing in the beginning, until one night overnight it froze solid like a rock. It did not do any damage to the tank, and it has frozen many times since without any problem (except you can't use the water when it is frozen). As we speak it is frozen, but will be ready for use when we get a little warm spell.

-- Ed Copp (OH) (edcopp@yahoo.com), January 15, 2001.

Hi Jerry,

We have a 1000-gallon tank set up to collect rainwater from our garage roof (metal roof.) The tank is a big black poly thing that we bought specifically for this purpose, as it's for potable water. We have a set-up where we can either let the water flow into the tank, or out via the garage downspout, depending on whether or not we are in filling-mode.

The tank is housed in a framed structure; set off the ground and with a roof. We will get around to putting up some kind of simple siding to the shed someday (keeps the water from freezing, although it rarely would around here. We did just replace the outlet valve this year b/c that DID freeze. I forgot to wrap it.) I think having a brass valve might be better than the PVC one that we are using. Anyway, we would also want to keep one side accessible for maintenance (need clearance for tipping the tank over on its side, should we want to get in and clean it.)

At the bottom of the tank, is this valve and we have rigged up a two- headed spigot below that. From one spigot, a hose for potable water connects into our bunkhouse. From the other spigot, we have a hose that can run water to the garden or to the animals. Inside the bunkhouse, we have two water filters set up side-by-side. The first is to filter out solids and bacteria, and the last is to filter bacteria and anything else. We then have a pitcher pump at the end of all of this, which can pump into a two-basin sink inside the bunkhouse.

The tank cost us ~$350 fob Coos Bay, Oregon (we drove it home to WA....picked it up coming back from vacation. It fit on the back of my Ford Ranger pickup.)The whole business cost us less than $500 b/c we scrounged a lot of the framing/plumbing stuff. This was a couple of years ago.

We have it set uphill from the garden and the barns, and the water pressure isn't too bad with gravity.

We actually have dry spells in western Washington, and this has come in handy. Additionally, if we lose the water supply for any reason, I have way too many thirsty critters to not have a back up plan (and for us, too.)

Hope this helps.

-- sheepish (WA) (rborgo@gte.net), January 15, 2001.


You mentioned a brass valve for your tank, that is what I have. The ordinary brass valve that might be used in the laundry room. I am always careful to disconnect the hose if I think we will have freezing weather. The valve freezes up regularly, but has never broken. Our temps. get below zero regularly during the winter. ED.

-- Ed Copp (OH) (edcopp@yahoo.com), January 15, 2001.

What types of roofing material contaminates water? Shingles? We catch a little water from the gables of the roof (where corners meet and water gets pushed togather into a thick narrow stream) in old plastic trash cans, and dip out water (mosquitoes and all) for our plants close by. Is that bad? I havn't used it for veggies yet, but I don't want to if it's dangerous.

-- Marty (Mrs.Puck@Excite.com), January 15, 2001.

Thanks everybody, for your responses. It seems that a decent water system can be built cheaper than paying for drilling the average well. With plastic type tanks it could be dismantled and moved with you, unlike a drilled well. Somewhere I read an article about a woman in New Mexico who built enough storage and roof surface to collect a year's worth of water, including enough for the garden. I, for one, want some for back-up as we have power outages all too often. Any more thoughts?

-- Jerry (neljer@txcyber.com), January 16, 2001.

One more I guess....we also have metal roofs on our barns. We have gutters on those roofs and instead of downspouts, we have plastic pipe (like the perf pipe you use for french drains, but no "perfs." We drain the roof water through these pipes into stock tanks for the animals' drinking water. It's self-supplying...

Typically, this works well for us this time of year, b/c it's rainy most of the winter. This year we are kind of in a drought, and I am concerned that we are getting some contamination in our troughs (bird stuff on the roof perhaps?) Usually the water is moving so fast that it more or less self-flushes. (We also have gravel around the troughs to keep the mud manageable at hoof level.)

Anyway, it's another collection idea, and it keeps our tanks full most of the time.

-- sheepish (WA) (rborgo@gte.net), January 17, 2001.

Hi Jerry. Among my winter projects is going through my old homesteading magazines, I always find something I have forgotten of have newly become interested in. One cheap, portable idea was a cistern made by forming a piece of welded wire fencing (they used the kind with 2x4" openings, 3' high)into a circle. Lined that with 30# roofing felt, leveled inside the circle with sand, put down a big sheet of black plastic, and smoothed out the wrinkles as they slowly filled it. They let the plastic lop over the top 'til it was full, then cut it a few inches long and tucked the excess between the roofing felt and the fencing. Could be made any size. I can mail youa copy of the article if you like. I may try this myself this year, although I think it should be covered. Sandy

-- Sandy in MN (jpevans_56353@yahoo.com), January 17, 2001.

While doing some more looking around I discovered another related site, although on a larger scale of water collection. I found the book "Water for Every Farm". The idea is to reduce or delay runoff, to catch as much water as possible, not always with ponds or tanks. A quote "...spreads the run-off evenly...and does not allow the water to follow its natural path and concentrate... Keyline principles emphasise that the cheapest storage of farm water from rainfall is in the soil itself. This storage system is increased greatly by deep non-inversion tillage and subsequent enhanced fertility."

Just some more to think about. If you are interested the book can be found used at www.bookfinder.com or at the site listed below. . http://www.keyline.com.au/

-- Jerry (neljer@txcyber.com), January 19, 2001.

We have been functioning for the last 25 years without a well. We have a rubber lined tank in the house and one gutter; a 4inch pipe cut in half and joined with conventional fittings, a cap cut in half for each end and junction in the middle. the cap at one end has a hole cut in it for standard 1 1/2 inch abs plastic which goes through the wall and ends above the cistern. the cistern is screened and in summer has an old sock on it to catch debris. there are five 50 gallon barrels under the gutters for the garage, two wood sheds, and carport. I can usually syphon from these barrels to the house gutter to expand collection and storage. the chicken house is too far away to benefit from this so it has its own 30 gallon barrel gathering water from its own roof (9x10 feet) that feeds an automatic waterer until it gets too cold; this year late in November. about water for the garden, I store the grey water from the kitchen sink, bathroom sink and tub in four 50 gallon barrels near the garden and use the water on planted that I am not going to eat without processing, e.g. corn, sunflowers, pumpkins, small grain. We are blessed in Minnesota with regular rainfall throughout the summer and should we have drought I can pump water from the creek that is across the road and 500 meters away.

-- kirby johnson (kirbyj@deskmedia.com), January 19, 2001.

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