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Water Storage Tower

 
Posts: 28
Location: North Central North Carolina Zone 7B
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So on my new place I do not plan to install a well until much later or perhaps never.  Well costs can be quite high where they have to bore so deep.  I am installing rainwater collectors on some of my outbuildings now and will do so on almost all roof surfaces but this gets me some isolated storage.  That is okay for now as I use the water for the plants.  Have any of you built your own water tower to store water and add pressure?

Ground tanks will require pumping so I plan to build at least one water tower on my highest ground for a gravity pressure system.  Just wanted to know if others had done this and any tips they may wish to share if they worked as well as hoped etc.  I am not believing a 1,500 gallon tank up on a raised tower will be like "city water pressure" but it will be better than dribbles.  A pump will be needed to get the stored water there on an as-needed basis but hopefully I will get enough pressure for a halfway decent shower.

A simple tower can be helpful later on when I tie in water to rabbits and chickens etc.  I am off grid so an electric pump will not a 24/7 option.  Construction experience I have, water dynamics will be on a try-it basis so any helpful tips from those who have plowed this field before are appreciated.    
 
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I only have a couple tidbits from my experience and research:

This video is super detailed on how a collection system and attached cleanout works (automatically discards the first x-gallons of water from a rain shower since that's the water that cleaned the crap off your roof first.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDMbhmna2iI . It almost sounds like you would need one large collector for your biggest roof and a pump to get it to another tank at higher elevation, but perhaps one big tank collecting water up to roof level would be enough pressure on its own from the height of the water column.

I made a mini water tower out of a 30 gallon drum sitting on a stack of concrete blocks that got it right up under the gutter outlet of an outbuilding. It had a faucet on the bottom, an overflow pipe towards the top, and the open top was covered in a piece of nylon screen (two layers secured tightly.) The purpose was to water chickens and a batch composter, both nearby. It was not high enough because that building was short, so it was difficult to use the water. Just not enough head pressure to get it flowing at a practical rate down through my hose and back up to spray onto compost and and to my elevated chicken water bucket. A simple system like this would work great if all your water needs were closer to ground level. I hope your localized rainwater collectors work better than mine did!  


 
master steward
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denny, we built one at our previous place.

We used an IBC tank.

First we built a platform that would hold the weight of the tank when full of water.  I know we used 4x4 posts.  I don't remember how many it took. Maybe six for the legs then maybe four for the frame to set the tank on.

It worked great.  All I had to do was turn it on and I could fill a bucket or attach a hose with a sprinkler.
 
gardener
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Anne Miller wrote:

First we built a platform that would hold the weight of the tank when full of water.  I know we used 4x4 posts.  I don't remember how many it took. Maybe six for the legs then maybe four for the frame to set the tank on.

Can you remember about how long your 4x4's were? IE about how high the bottom of the tank was? Guesstimate is fine!
 
pollinator
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Reference for all:

..."1 foot of elevation change creates 0.433 PSI of water pressure.
So in this case 40 feet of head is going to be about 17 PSI. (40 ft head x 0.433 psi/ft = 17.3 PSI.)
Again, the formula is “feet of head x 0.433 = PSI.”

That's the top of the water. As the water level sinks, the pressure sinks.

The lower the pressure, the larger the pipe needs to be to flow the same volume (as higher pressure).  A garden hose at the end of the line is a serious bottle neck; the longer the hose, the worse the constriction.

When figuring out piping for a  zero to low-pressure system, go as big as possible w/out breaking the bank. Eg. if 1" pipe costs $1/ft and 1-1/2" pipe costs $1.20/ft, it  probably makes good sense to go with the larger (note - that's not even a guess - I just made up those $$). 1" pipe has approximately .79 cross section while 1-1/2 pipe  has 1.77 cross section. For 50% greater diameter you get 210% more water.

The longer the pipe, the slower the flow for a given pressure. Any bend, but especially sharp bends (like those 90's seen everywhere in plumbing), slow the flow even more. So try to make changes in direction gentle - like, as in, bend the pipe slightly (but NO crimps! Don't fold, spindle and mutliate!). If by chance you're think copper pipe, it comes in stiff and soft. The soft comes in rolls and bends useably. The "hard" bends slightly but likes to crease - not good.

TEST your piping before you cover it or otherwise make it really hard to reach. If you have no pressure available, it might make sense to rent a small pressure pump for a day. (I assume they're out there, but truth be, I haven't ever rented one.) IAC, you would like to put 50# of pressure into your capped off pipes  and see _no_ drips at all. Especially if you're going to use those pipes for drinking water. Leaks go both ways. If you see (or feel) leaks, start looking very carefully there and then start upwards - because water travels down.

It's often very hard to see a leak, so drying everything off first and then feeling all the pipe and junctions (where you almost always find the leaks) is how you work. You can't actually _feel_ water, but you  CAN see water on your wet hand - so that's how you tell. Hold you hand up in good light and look at all of it. Sometimes a leak sprays invisibly and again, you find it with your hands. A  spray can be a very evil trick, because it is the one  time a leak might be _below_ where you find water.

Again. Don't assume that where you find water is where you find the leak. Keep checking upwards until your hands stay dry, then work back down until  you find it.

And again, in order to build tight piping, even if  you're going to run only 5-10PSI, you need to test it at a decent pressure, something like 50PSI.

It's _possible_ to test with air pressure. But,  if you have valves in the system and they don't close tightly, you're SOL as far as finding a leak with air.  Install a _good_ gauge, capping off the piping and putting 50+# in and capping _that_ air source - then wait half hour and see if your gauge drops. Remember to test the connection where you put the air in. If it does drop, start crawling around with a dobber you dip in a diluted mix of dish detergent and look for bubbles.  Water drips are usually way easier to find. Air is usually the last resort and that means desperate plumbers have been known to put 150# + pressure into supply pipes and then turn off all noise and walk around listening for a whistle. Works. Sometimes.  Air pressure test for drains, if I recall, is 15# and you need a _really_good_ gauge.


Regards,
Rufus (licensed plumber)





 
pollinator
Posts: 2827
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Winter
Water freezing your water tank and pipes connecting to your water tank/tower in the winter.
Pipes can be carried below the frost line but the connection to the water tank on the water tower will probably freeze and burst , emptying your tank.
Here is a 120gallon pressure tank from lowes for $650, maybe you can stick that somewhere in your house and have a direct solar drive pump bring it up to pressure whenever sun is shining in the winter
https://www.lowes.com/pd/Water-Worker-119-Gallon-Vertical-Pressure-Tank/1001001864

Regular/Summer
https://www.tank-depot.com/p-130/underground-water-storage-cistern-tanks
I think that a elevated tank of 250gallon to 600gallon should more than adequate.
And a solar direct pump should be fine to trickle fill it thru out the day, from the main tank by the roof.
Water is very heavy how will you support this tank?
How will you protect it from sunlight/etc?

Main Tank
How long does drought normally last?
How much water can you catch per month.
Do you have a pronounced wet and dry season? Whats the difference
I recommend keeping at least a month supply of water in the main tank, but 12months would be wonderful.
Will this tank be underground?




 
Posts: 1038
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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We catch a lot of water from the roofs and drink it as well.
I can tell you the cost of a good sized pipe to get the water up the hill and another to bring it down will be high.
You uphill line, called a rising main should enter the top of the tank.
The pipe running downhill should exit the tank via a ball valve at the bottom of the tank, is called the supply main.
If you plan to fill the tank quickly you will need a bigger rising main than if you fill it slowly.
I use a submersible pump in the tank that I empty to the other, it now automatically switches itself as required and I never loose water.
In the past when I turned it on as needed, sometimes I would not realise it was full and the shower of rain overflowed.
Otherwise you need to walk up the hill and turn taps each time you do the other action.
I suggest looking at a 12V pressure pump, they are often used in RV's.
You then put money you save from my idea into a bigger tank if needed.
I have used pressure pumps to the house and surrounding area of 1/2 acre for 40 years and replaced 1 in that time.
 
Anne Miller
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Jay Angler wrote:Anne Miller wrote:

First we built a platform that would hold the weight of the tank when full of water.  I know we used 4x4 posts.  I don't remember how many it took. Maybe six for the legs then maybe four for the frame to set the tank on.

Can you remember about how long your 4x4's were? IE about how high the bottom of the tank was? Guesstimate is fine!




As best as I can remember, the posts for the frame were maybe the width of the tank plus enough to make it so the tank fit inside them.

The height was about maybe 4 foot, maybe less.  I am 5' 3" and the spout was easily within a reach for me to fill the buckets or attach the hose.

I really don't remember using it with a sprinkler now that I think about it.
 
pollinator
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Years ago I made a "quick and dirty" water tower of sorts with six 300 gallon "totes"--big cubical plastic tanks in metal cages, set up on cement blocks five or six feet off the ground.  I connected all the outlets together so that the group of tanks filled and emptied as one (1800 gallon) tank.  A single hose from the diaphragm pump (300 yards away and 30 feet downhill in the creek) would fill them from the top opening of one of the tanks.  That 5-6 feet of elevation was enough to run drip tape in the garden right there, and this improved the further downhill that water was used.  When I moved to a new site I wisely sited the main house and garden at the bottom of the land, and the well and cistern at the high point.  Only about 30 feet of difference, as before, but that much head would run small, low-pressure sprinklers, solar shower, sink, and even a washing machine.
 
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Hi Rufus

Excellent post, I am an engineer dealing with water storage systems and you managed to give a great discussion of all the important points, I was not surprised to read at the end that you are a licensed plumber.  The only comment I would add is to keep in mind that water is very heavy one liter (4 cups) weighs one kilogram (2.2 pounds) so any storage structure must be well supported keeping in mind that fact that soil will settle if not properly compacted, which can lead to collapsed structures.

Peter Elson P.Eng
 
denny hall
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Location: North Central North Carolina Zone 7B
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Rufus, thanks for the detailed information, this is helpful.  I was able to pick up a used 1,500 gallon tank that I plan to install on a tower.  It sounds as though I will still need to use a demand pump to get "city pressure" for my shower and washing machine and that's fine with me.  I have an old gas-powered 2" pump somewhere and farm supply stores sell a 3-point 2" pump that I think may work for transferring from my other pick up tanks.  After I complete my barn expansion I will add a 2,500 gallon ground tank on each side as my main storage.  I am thinking I would eventually set up an in-ground plumbing network to pump water where needed and have a smaller IBC tote towers by the rabbits etc.  Are there downsides to reverse-flowing the supply side when pumping up to the tower?


Would there be any value to graduated piping on the supply side?  The 1,500 gallon tank has a 2" outlet so I presume that's my limit (no value to switching to a 3" pipe just past the 2" etc.) but if the line graduates down to say 1" on the vertical drop would this help with the pressure.  The tower will likely be 18'-22' above ground and on the higher grade than the cabin and other outbuildings.  So does the head pressure increase if say the first 10' drop is 2" then next 10' is 1-1/2" before transitioning to black plastic distribution pipe?
 
Maybe I should have paid more attention in school. ;-)

Rufus Laggren wrote: Reference for all:

..."1 foot of elevation change creates 0.433 PSI of water pressure.
So in this case 40 feet of head is going to be about 17 PSI. (40 ft head x 0.433 psi/ft = 17.3 PSI.)
Again, the formula is “feet of head x 0.433 = PSI.”

That's the top of the water. As the water level sinks, the pressure sinks.

The lower the pressure, the larger the pipe needs to be to flow the same volume (as higher pressure).  A garden hose at the end of the line is a serious bottle neck; the longer the hose, the worse the constriction.

When figuring out piping for a  zero to low-pressure system, go as big as possible w/out breaking the bank. Eg. if 1" pipe costs $1/ft and 1-1/2" pipe costs $1.20/ft, it  probably makes good sense to go with the larger (note - that's not even a guess - I just made up those $$). 1" pipe has approximately .79 cross section while 1-1/2 pipe  has 1.77 cross section. For 50% greater diameter you get 210% more water.

The longer the pipe, the slower the flow for a given pressure. Any bend, but especially sharp bends (like those 90's seen everywhere in plumbing), slow the flow even more. So try to make changes in direction gentle - like, as in, bend the pipe slightly (but NO crimps! Don't fold, spindle and mutliate!). If by chance you're think copper pipe, it comes in stiff and soft. The soft comes in rolls and bends useably. The "hard" bends slightly but likes to crease - not good.

TEST your piping before you cover it or otherwise make it really hard to reach. If you have no pressure available, it might make sense to rent a small pressure pump for a day. (I assume they're out there, but truth be, I haven't ever rented one.) IAC, you would like to put 50# of pressure into your capped off pipes  and see _no_ drips at all. Especially if you're going to use those pipes for drinking water. Leaks go both ways. If you see (or feel) leaks, start looking very carefully there and then start upwards - because water travels down.

It's often very hard to see a leak, so drying everything off first and then feeling all the pipe and junctions (where you almost always find the leaks) is how you work. You can't actually _feel_ water, but you  CAN see water on your wet hand - so that's how you tell. Hold you hand up in good light and look at all of it. Sometimes a leak sprays invisibly and again, you find it with your hands. A  spray can be a very evil trick, because it is the one  time a leak might be _below_ where you find water.

Again. Don't assume that where you find water is where you find the leak. Keep checking upwards until your hands stay dry, then work back down until  you find it.

And again, in order to build tight piping, even if  you're going to run only 5-10PSI, you need to test it at a decent pressure, something like 50PSI.

It's _possible_ to test with air pressure. But,  if you have valves in the system and they don't close tightly, you're SOL as far as finding a leak with air.  Install a _good_ gauge, capping off the piping and putting 50+# in and capping _that_ air source - then wait half hour and see if your gauge drops. Remember to test the connection where you put the air in. If it does drop, start crawling around with a dobber you dip in a diluted mix of dish detergent and look for bubbles.  Water drips are usually way easier to find. Air is usually the last resort and that means desperate plumbers have been known to put 150# + pressure into supply pipes and then turn off all noise and walk around listening for a whistle. Works. Sometimes.  Air pressure test for drains, if I recall, is 15# and you need a _really_good_ gauge.


Regards,
Rufus (licensed plumber)





 
John C Daley
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Would there be any value to graduated piping on the supply side?  The 1,500 gallon tank has a 2" outlet so I presume that's my limit (no value to switching to a 3" pipe just past the 2" etc.)



There is no value in graduating the supply line.
Pressure is a function of height only in the case of gravity, and with pumps its a function of the energy input.
And friction along the pipe if the water is flowing through it. Usually gravity fed friction losses are a lot less than a pumped system.
Using a 3 inch pipe after the 2 inch valve would be ok, since its friction along the pipe that causes pressure losses.

With a 20 foot tower I doubt you will need a pump if you have a single storied house.
 
denny hall
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Thank you John


With a 20 foot tower I doubt you will need a pump if you have a single storied house.

 
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