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New to rain water collection & irrigation - Looking for advice and guidance

 
Posts: 3
Location: Metamora, IL
1
kids building
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Hey everyone,

I'm new to this group, but I've just jumped into rain water collection for my home garden. My wife and I have attempted (relatively unsuccessfully) to have a small garden at our home in illinois. We aren't necessarily garden people, but we like the idea of being able to grow our own vegetables to enjoy at home, and as our kids are 5 & nearly 7 currently, it is a fun project that they can enjoy with us every year.

I'm starting to get things around for next years garden, and I started off by building some rain barrels for my home to use for watering and irrigation going forward. I got some free plastic drums that originally held distilled water and built a bottom fill rain barrel system with them to feed off of my roof. My home has a shingled roof, and the area that feeds the downspout these barrels are connected to is approximately 950 square feet. So I should be able to get plenty of water from the roof when it rains.

For this year, we will probably just continue to water by hand or with a hose connected to the barrel output, but I'm looking to put in some kind of irrigation next spring that I can automate to help take the human forgetfulness out of the equation. Those that have experience with this kind of thing, do you have any recommendations on systems, methods, products, etc that would work for a zero pressure rain barrel system like mine? My garden area isn't going to be very big, maybe 50-75 square feet or so.

The attached pictures are what I just setup. It's a bottom fed system where the downspout diverter is just below the top of the barrels to set the water level. I've got an internal vent tube that runs from the bottom of each barrel up above the water level. Doing that allowed me to keep the barrels in takt without requiring me to drill or cut into them at all. I figured since I'm new to this, I may want to re-configure them once I learn more, which I still have the freedom to do since they are still in once piece.

I'm not sure if the garden hose will end up being a restriction in the system. I've already thought I may need to plumb in something larger there, but I'm going to see how this works for now. I'm also probably going to build a first flush system to try and catch the initial run-off from the roof before it goes into the barrels to help with the water quality in the barrels.

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pollinator
Posts: 517
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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Hi Mark, I don't have any advice for you but I wanted to compliment you on your set up.  Looks like you're off to a great start!  I'm looking to at least reduce the amount of time/effort in watering from my rain barrels too, and I'm in the market for a low tech, preferably free solution.  
 
Mark Garety
Posts: 3
Location: Metamora, IL
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We had our first rainfall after getting my system installed and connected up. The national weather service said we got 0.33 inches of rain in my area, but I filled up all three barrels about half way! That gives me about 75 gallons out of that 1/3 inch of rainfall. I think that's pretty decent. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it just goes to show how much water is available to utilize.

Living in central Illinois, it is rare that we ever go for truly extended periods of time without any rain. We are starting to get into the drier part of the year, but you usually don't go more than a couple of weeks without rain even as we get into July / August time-frame. I have a hard timing seeing that I would run out out water from the three barrels. I supposed it is possible, but this just shows that even a light rain can give me a good amount of water that will last a while. I've got a lot of hope for next year and the years to come that we could pull off a no-fuss drip irrigation without supplement it with the city water.

In the attached pictures, you can see the water level in the barrels (easiest to see in the white barrel on the left). I threw the first sprinkler and hose I could grab onto the barrel output and opened up the valve to see what would happen. It was putting out a pretty good amount of water for not being pressurized. I'm guessing my garden bed is about 16-20" below the bottom level of the barrels, so just a little bit of height differential for the gravity feed setup.
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Posts: 6
Location: Ozarks
cooking building homestead
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You have a very clean set up nice work!
Is the Garden hose that is attached to the down spout your fill hose? Or am I miss understanding the picture?
 
Posts: 263
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Hi Mark,

There are drip systems you could implement that are low pressure, about 10 psi. You would need to install a pressure reducer on the line that feeds your drip system, and that system you could control with a simple battery powered valve controller. The battery powered valve controller is essentially just a timer, thats battery powered, and goes on the threaded facet, like any ordinary garden hose hook up. Your tote cistern storage system, should have enough pressure to run drip, but it may be smart at some point to identify at what water level, your pressure drops below 10 psi. You can mark that level, and know you'll need to hand water or refill your barrels before your drip system will evenly distribute the water, once it reaches the below pressure designated mark. If it drops below the recomended psi, hand watering may be wise to implement, to avoid dry patches, and plant losses from the ill pressured system.

Hope that helps!
 
gardener & hugelmaster
Posts: 1707
Location: mountains of Tennessee
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Nice looking system Mark. Is your goal to collect as much water as possible? The hose & pvc diameter shown will be a limiting factor. I suggest next time it rains hard try observing the downspout & see how much doesn't get caught. Each square foot of roof can provide 0.623377 gallon per inch of rain. Which calculates to almost 200 gallons per 1/3 inch for a 950 sf roof. It appears to be about 75 gallons there. It really is mind boggling how much water can be captured from even a light rain.

I have a similar system. When it's full or expected to be I run the output hose slightly uphill to a hugelbed to allow that to collect as much excess as it can. Cheap & effective.

Welcome to permies!
 
Posts: 2
Location: Peoria, IL
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Hey Mark et. al,

I'm also a new member to permies, a resident of Central IL (Peoria), and looking to install a rainwater collection into drip irrigation system as well!
I'm reaching out specifically to start with finding out realistic pricing and availability on the 275 gallon IBC totes. Does anyone have a relatively standard idea on pricing? If so, how about a manufacturer or seller?

I'm looking to gather in one or two of the IBC totes and use gravity to take it down to the food garden I hope to have going in Spring 2020.
I'm just starting out on this journey so any and all advice and guidance is welcome and appreciated.

Mark, keep us updated on your project as time goes on, I'd love to see how it works for you.
Thanks everyone,
 
gardener
Posts: 3050
Location: Central Texas zone 8a
680
cattle chicken bee sheep
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Davey, in my area used ibc totes go for about $95 on average. I have seen them as low as $70 and some over $100.

Please do a thorough cleaning. I bought some "ready to go". It filled with rain, i filled a cattle trough and added minnows. A slime layer formed and the minnows died. It was a mess. They were sold as cleaned and non toxic (cleaning solution for pressure washers).

Green lids are supposed to imply "nothing bad" was used. Black lid might indicate poisons. Not sure if that is true or not. If it is true, lids can be changed easily so who knows the truth.

The whole ickyness of my first try kind of turned me off on the whole idea.
 
Davey Mooney
Posts: 2
Location: Peoria, IL
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Hey Wayne,
I appreciate that response. I'm seeing used ones anywhere from $50 on the low end and about $100 on the high. I'm also seeing some brand new from the manufacturer for about $175.
I'll keep a good eye on them and update everyone as I go along.

Thanks again for the reply.
 
Posts: 1038
Location: Bendigo , Australia
58
dog gear plumbing earthworks bee building homestead
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I have a continuing discussion about rainfall collection. Here, just search for it.
One thing I think may help a lot is to increase the size of the off take pipe to the tanks, but perhaps taking it to 2 Inch dia.
Also dropping the water in from the top will speed the flow of the water to your tanks.
I thunk your catchment volume will increase dramaticaly.
 
Mark Garety
Posts: 3
Location: Metamora, IL
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Having used this system for the summer, I have a few takeaways that I wanted to share

I am letting a lot of water bypass the system due to a couple of reasons:

-Garden hose feeding the manifold cannot keep up with the water flow down the downspout.
Too much restriction, and during a steady rain, I'm estimating that at best i'm getting about 25% of the water into the barrels. During heavy rain, I'm sure the result is much less.

-Debris clogging the hose / plumbing.
I used to have a small piece of window screen at the end of the hose and that would fill with the fine particles that would make it down the downspout and prevent all water from making it to the rain barrels. I removed that screen and it helped the issue, but every now and then I connect the hose and lower it to allow water to flow back out and flush out any of the debris and sediment that gets trapped there.

-Gutter Debris.
I have a aluminum screen on the opening to the downspout to try and prevent leaves and larger debris from getting in. It works well, but the debris will dam up around the screen and cause poor flow of water down the downspout. If I don't keep that clean, then my gutters fill up with water and ends up overflowing over the edge of the gutter rather than make it down the downspout. That's not good for many reasons, but also leads to missed opportunities to collect water. I am going to install some mesh gutter guards and go from there.

This is what I plan on doing for next year. I want to make a new manifold for the barrels and plumb up using 2" pipe to the diverter. I'm hoping that should allow plenty of flow so that I collect more water. I also would like to be able to incorporate some kind of a first flush system to help with debris, but the small diameter garden hose was preventing that from working. I'm hoping that switching to the larger diameter PVC, i'll be able to get away with it because I won't have the flow restrictions.

I also want to add a shut-off valve to each of the barrels so that I could disconnect a single barrel without draining the full system. Right now I can't do that. If I need to take a barrel out of service for any reason, I need to drain the whole thing to disconnect one barrel. Aside from that, I like the bottom fill and the fact that I haven't had to cut into them to make these work. I'm looking forward to getting a zero pressure irrigation timer and some drip lines run next spring to automate the process of watering our garden. I found this year i would get forgetful and leave the valve open for too long and waste rain barrel water by over-watering my garden. I also was using a standard garden hose with a sprinkler, and it was inconvenient to have to move that around the garden to get to all the areas.
 
wayne fajkus
gardener
Posts: 3050
Location: Central Texas zone 8a
680
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I like the separate valves. It would allow you to do other things. Like dump a gallon of strong compost tea in one barrel then water it into the garden. This would be done with no extra time committed to it. Seawater could be added also to mineralize the soil. Little quickie things that could add tremendous value.
 
Posts: 174
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You have a roof?!
This is my rainwater collecting. I use a 12 volt bilge pump and store the water in a 10 foot aboveground pool inside the greenhouse.
It took me a while to figure out i needed 2 inch pvc to move water .
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John C Daley
Posts: 1038
Location: Bendigo , Australia
58
dog gear plumbing earthworks bee building homestead
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That is a first for me, collecting puddles!
 
kevin stewart
Posts: 174
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When i siphon water out of the barrels i sometimes get a bit in my mouth. I like to think it tastes like chocolate milk, and not the dirt, clay and cow shit it really is.
 
John C Daley
Posts: 1038
Location: Bendigo , Australia
58
dog gear plumbing earthworks bee building homestead
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Here in Australia we have first flush diverters and lef traps.
You may have them in North america
rainharvesting gadgets
 
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