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Building rainwater catch system for irrigation

 
Posts: 51
Location: Issaquah, WA
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Hi there.  My wife and I are building a garden this winter/spring and part of it will be a fairly large rainwater catchment system.  I've been working on the design for a bit now, including both the catchment, storage and delivery of the irrigation water.  The garden will be about 2500 sq ft and in the Pacific Northwest where we live we get plenty of rain *most* of the year.  Typically we get ZERO rain from late June to early September so our goal is to collect and save enough to get us through that period.

Design Strategy

First, we don't want a system that makes our property look like a jungle gym playground with overhead pipes running all over the place.  We want to build one that is mostly hidden and out of sight.  Second, from my research, using purpose built rainwater collection equipment for this project would bankrupt us.  So we will be putting this system together with off the shelf parts normally used for other things.  The pumps are inexpensive and used for shallow wells and basement sumps.  The irrigation side is all off the shelf lawn irrigation parts and the plumbing will be mostly PEX and some PVC.

The Plan

We have a pole barn beside the garden location with a 1200 sq ft metal roof and gutters.  According to my calculations that should gather about 750 gallons from a 1" rainstorm.  We get an average of 52" of rain each year so we have PLENTY available to collect.

The gutter downspouts are now all plumbed underground to a single pipe that runs out into the property behind the barn.  That pipe that carries all the rainwater will have a diverter valve (4" septic drain field diverter) installed inline.  When the valve is in the 1st position the water will "bypass" being collected and run out where it currently does.  In the 2nd position the rainwater is diverted into a sump made from a buried, plastic 55 gallon drum with the top removed and a lid fabricated.  In the sump is a 1/2 hp sump pump with a float switch and check valve.  The pump has an 1/8" metal screen wrapped around it for filtering the small amount of debris we get in those gutters.  There is a screen filter on the outlet of the pump (from a swimming pool pump) before the water is dumped into the first tank.  The 3 tanks are poly, 2500 gallons each and will be connected together on the bottom.  Each tank will have a valve/union on the outlet with flexible sch40 PVC connecting it to the "pump manifold" piping to help eliminate plumbing issues caused by flexing of the tanks.

On the outlet side of the tanks I will have a pair of 1 hp pumps (shallow well pumps) both isolated with valves and with spin down filters on the inlets.  Both will not be used at the same time but the ability to have a ready spare is important so one will be isolated while the other is in use.  The pumps have a pressure switch and will provide more than enough flow for our needs and at a pressure of 55 psi.  The irrigation system will be built using a wifi enabled irrigation controller that can control 16 zones.  Each raised bed will be its own zone and have a dedicated irrigation valve and a single 3/4" feed to be distributed in the bed via poly drip hoses.  There will also be 2 hydrant style hose connections in the garden fed from this system.

I attached a crude drawing of my plan.  The pumps are all here, the sump system is half installed and the large tanks are on order and due in about a month.  The irrigation controller is on the way and I still need to order all the valves but we're making progress.  I won't need to start collecting water seriously until the end of February so I'll have time to do some testing, etc once i get it all installed.  

We're open to suggestions as we've never done this before


 
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Great idea!
Can you put the tanks near the position you are planning to put the 55 gal sump?
I doubt you will have a big enough pump to shift all that rain when it comes.
I suggest you fill the tanks from the top and have  2inch flexible connections between them separate from the discharge pipes.
This will ensure they all get filled and the pump is not fighting to get the water into the tanks.

Use large diameter pipes 2 inch from the tanks to the pumps and also run the 2inch or maybe 11/2 " depending on flow rates  completely around the garden [ full loop ] so pressure drop off is minimised,
then smaller pipes in loops through the garden. Keep them all above ground so you can see them.
I suggest you dont go down to 1/2 " pipes until very close to the plants.
Some solenoid valves need very high pressures to actually work, better check they are ok to use, or fit a bigger pump.

 
Jason Nault
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Thanks for the reply!  A lot of the things you suggested are actually what I was planning but didn't include in the original post, so many details!  

The sump has to be where it is and the tanks will be about 20' away.  The tanks need to be on compacted, flat ground as they will weigh about 63,000 lbs when full so they will sit beside the building.  The sump is slightly lower in elevation because gravity is how the water from all 6 downspouts gets to the sump.  The sump pump we're using is rated for 4000 gph so unless we get 5" of rain in a single hour I doubt it will overrun the pump.  If it were to be overran, the excess water would go out the sump's overflow and back into the pipe that takes it out to the back of the property.  We would lose some water but we have far more than we need, we get 52" of rain per year and need about 10" to fill the tanks.  ‚Äč

The tanks ARE to be joined at the bottom using flexible PVC and the sump pump will flow in to the top of 1 tank, then be distributed slowly to the others.  

We aren't using anything smaller than 3/4" and that is just the feeds to the raised beds from the irrigation valves.  We DO need to bury the pipes as we do get a few freezes each winter and we don't want anything to be visible or a tripping hazard.  

The valves we're using are rated for 15 - 150 psi and the pump will pressurize the system to 55 psi so we should be fine there.  The irrigation controller we're using only activates one zone at a time so the most we'll be able to use at once is a 3/4" flow (going through drip irrigation so likely even less).  Not worried about flow or pressure yet but if i have to upgrade the pump that would be easy enough.  I've read that people run whole houses with this pump so I'm optimistic it will be ok for our purposes.

Discharge pipes from the tanks will be 2" and the discharge pipes from the pumps will be 1 1/2".  That 1 1/2" will run through the garden and the valve boxes (4 valves each) will tee off of that.  My wife is handling the irrigation in each raised bed, I will leave a 3/4" NPT fitting in each that can be adapted to whatever type of irrigation that raised bed requires.

Hoping to get the diverter valve, sump and pump installed this weekend.  I'll try to post some pics when I have something worth looking at
 
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I only have one concern, the pump can move a lot of water and drops it into tank 1 but only gravity is redistributing the water to tanks 2 and 3? I fear that the water will not move around fast enough and you'll end up with an overflowing tank 1 at peak rain, unless the pipe connecting them is a similar size to the down pipe the water originally enters the system from.
 
Jason Nault
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Thanks, that is a valid concern.  The pipe entering the sump is 4" and the pump outlet is 1 1/2" so there may be an issue there.  The nice thing is it doesn't often rain super hard here, it's more like a constant drizzle for 8 months with a few periods of heavier rain tucked in there.    I may go with a 2" pipe from the inlet strainer to tank 2 instead, that way the flow will be slowed a bit.  This is still a bit of a trial and error thing so hopefully this works, can always modify it if it doesn't  It's looking like I'll have some time to get out and work in the dirt later today or tomorrow for sure.  We also heard from our excavation guy and he'll be out in a week or so to get the garden space leveled and get started on a small retaining wall.  The 10' x 12' greenhouse arrives in a couple weeks and the tank just after that.  After a year of planning it's finally starting to happen!!!
 
John C Daley
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A couple of extra points picking up on Skandis comment.
The discharge pipe could be altered to fill each tank with T pieces.
If the sump pump discharge pipe was say 2 inch instead of 11/2 less power would be used because the frictional losses would be less. Those loses occur because of water speed.

I would encvourage the use of ball valves rather than gate valves, they break from time to time.
 
Jason Nault
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Thanks for all of the suggestions, definitely going to do some of them.  Absolutely upgrading the pipe from the sump to the center tank from 1 1/2" to 2", not sure about the others, we'll see when we get started building.  With the shortages of about everything lately I've been gathering a lot of the fittings and parts we'll need in the next few months as we start construction.  Also, much of what we need is available online in bulk quantities for incredibly less than buying them in a "big box store", sometimes up to %500 less!

Update on the construction:
  • My wife and I spent 2 days clearing the area for the dirt work to start.  That included limbing all the trees, taking out a couple small trees as well as pulling a few shrubs that were planted by the previous owners of the property.
  • The rainwater diverter valve, sump, sump pump and basket filter are installed and ready to connect to the tanks (using an extension cord for power for now, will run permanent power once the tanks are filling and all has been validated to work)
  • Our dirt work guy will be here on November 1st to get started leveling the area, extending 1 retaining wall and building another
  • The dirt work guy will also level the area where the water tanks are going to live
  • The tanks shipped yesterday and are only coming a few hundred miles so we should see them this week, with all the shortages we were lucky to get them made in black, apparently there is a US shortage of black raw polyethylene
  • The 16 zone irrigation controller and 18 irrigation valves have arrived, time for a bench test!
  • The PEX fittings and pipe are ordered and should be here next week
  • The discharge pumps are here, the isolation valves/unions are here as well and ready to go
  • The 2" threaded tank fittings are here, as well as the tank valves/unions
  • The 12' x 16' greenhouse kit has been purchased and should arrive in a few weeks, construction will commence right away



  • The rainwater comes into the diverter valve from the top of the photo, when position 2 is selected the rainwater is diverted "left" into the sump.  When in position 1 the water is diverted "down" and out to the back of the property as it has been for years.  There is an overflow pipe in the sump (can't see it) that connects back to the main pipe that runs as it used to if the sump pump were to fail.


    The first place the water goes after leaving the sump pump is this filter basket, it's from a swimming pool pump and will hopefully work well for any debris that makes it past the sump pump.
     
    John C Daley
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    Good to see progress. I wonder with all the shortages of materials whether new supplies will appear and whether the world will wean off China as a major supplier?
     
    Jason Nault
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    Hope it gets figured out soon, it's getting nuts over here!  Interesting thing is that all of the things we're short can't be blamed on China, we're in the middle of an employment crisis, openings EVERYWHERE but nobody to fill them.

    Enough about that, as long as I plan ahead I think we'll be fine with this project.  I spent some time reviewing the drawing and making a few small changes.  This is the go forward plan for now, until it changes again

     
    Jason Nault
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    Small amount of progress.  I have a lot more plumbing supplies coming and we have started the dirt work!  Oh and a minor bit of progress, THE TANKS FINALLY ARRIVED!


    Yup, filled the entire truck!  My wife finally realized what I meant when i said the tanks would be BIG!


    They look great, just sitting there for now until the spot they will live is leveled and ready.  The roof in the background is the one the water will be collected from.


    Just another angle, the house is in the background.  It also has a large roof but it's not metal and we don't have an easy way to tie into the gutters without creating an eye-sore.

    So the dirt work will be a few more days, some retaining walls to build, etc.  Once that's complete and the tanks are in place I have all that I need to get them connected and ready to start collecting!
     
    Jason Nault
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    Making more progress on the system but slowly, the weather has been great for collecting rainwater, just not for doing construction to build a rainwater collection system and garden.  We've gotten 4+ inches of rain in a week and it's been unseasonably warm so everything is a swamp.  At this point the majority of the dirt work is completed, next we get the tanks plumbed up to start collecting water and build the greenhouse when it arrives hopefully later this week.  Here are a couple pictures.


    Retaining walls are built and the roughly 2500 sqft area is flat.


    The tanks are set, might need some slight adjustment when I connect them but that's where they'll live.

     
    John C Daley
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    looking nice. Did you think to have the tanks turned so that the major entry point is nearer to those tow downpipes?
     
    Jason Nault
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    We could do that but i currently have all the down spouts plumbed to the sump where the water will be pumped up to the tanks so most of the piping will be hidden.

    I had a friend come by this weekend and we got the tanks set in their final location as well as got them connected to the sump.  I still need to connect the overflows and create a drain then I'm done until it's time to start connecting the discharge pumps and irrigation equipment.  The green house arrives later today and the beams for its foundation arrive tomorrow.  Hoping the wife and I can get started assembling it over the weekend but we'll see what happens.  Here are some updated photos.


    The 2" pipe connecting the sump to the center tank, we have very rocky soil so digging by hand is unpleasant.


    The horizontal piece of pipe into the inlet at the top is actually flexible PVC, basically hose from a spa.  This allows the tank to flex and move a bit as it fills/drains without breaking fittings.


    I set concrete blocks in the ground and attached unistrut and clamps to secure the pipe.  The small sections between the valve and the elbow or tee is also flexible PVC to allow for movement.


    Lastly I got the power ran out to the post that the sump pump will plug into.  Hoping to get some time to run the power to the panel inside the building.  Once that's done the diverter valve gets moved to position 2 and we're collecting rainwater!




     
    Jason Nault
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    Made a few more changes to the design.  I added a drain valve that connects the "discharge" side of the plumbing to the overflow line that runs out to the back of the property.  This would allow us to drain the tanks (all be it slowly) if the need ever arose.  

    Also added a pressure regulator and pressure gauge on the "irrigation" run.  This will allow us to connect the drip irrigation equipment in each raised bed directly to the piping and not need a pressure regulator in each of the beds.  The drip requires 25psi and the pump is fixed at 55psi so this way it will be set to 25psi for that entire run.  The hydrants will be on a separate run and will remain at pump line pressure.

     
    John C Daley
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    Looks good.
    I am concerned about fixing the rigid pipes, will they need movement.
    I use the poly pipes in that area so they are fully flexible, you dont think thats an issue?
     
    Jason Nault
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    The clamps aren't tight and the pipe sections after the valves are flexible PVC (sch.40 hose basically) that allow for movement of the tanks.  Hoping that's enough.  

    I had it on collection mode last night isolated to just the center tank and from 7pm to 8am we put about 800 gallons in the tank, filling these will not be an issue, anxious to get the overflows done :)

    John C Daley wrote:Looks good.
    I am concerned about fixing the rigid pipes, will they need movement.
    I use the poly pipes in that area so they are fully flexible, you dont think thats an issue?

     
    Jason Nault
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    I was able to spend some time outside over the weekend, pouring rain and unseasonably warm from a "Pineapple Express" weather system we've been dealing with.  I was able to get the overflows and drain plumbed in and now can say that the "collection" part of the system is complete!  I'll work on the discharge side next year to avoid the short freezing season here, next is the greenhouse build, it was delivered last week and I got the foundation built and just have some flashing to pick up before construction can commence.  Here are a few pics of the weekend's accomplishments.


    The outside tanks have their top fittings plumbed together underground, with the drain valve tied into them.


    That valve is the drain, not fast but it will get it done.  Clamps are loose and every fixed pipe is separated by a section of flex hose.


    The rock pile is where the drain from the sump comes out, you can see the whole system from this view.
     
    Jason Nault
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    No progress on the water delivery side of things but I do have news.... after collecting for about 2 weeks the tanks are about to hit the full mark and test the overflow capabilities!  That's 7500 gallons in less than 2 weeks, should be enough to get us through the driest part of our summers.  I'll be draining the tanks slowly over the next few days then leaving them empty until we get through our coldest part of the winter then filling them back up starting in February.  Super excited with this so far, working EXACTLY as designed!
     
    John C Daley
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    Will a tank that big freeze solid, or will the connections suffer?
     
    Jason Nault
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    So far we're forecast for nothing colder than a couple degrees below freezing so not worried about the tank as like you said, it's so large, but the pipes and ball valves are a concern.  Ball valves are especially an issue as there is a "slug" of water inside the ball when the valve is closed, that often freezes and splits the valve in half.  An un-controlled release of that much water in that area would be a real mess so trying to do anything we can to avoid one
     
    John C Daley
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    is it possible to insulate them?
    I found this power blankets
    http://www.freeze-tolerant-ballvalve.net
    Freeze Tolerant Ball Valve: A Freeze Tolerant Ball Valve can actually tolerate the freeze.
    It is designed with a freeze plug incorporated in the side wall to provide an escape for expanding ice.
    A ball valve in the closed position traps water in the center chamber of the valve body by design.
    Whenever water is left in this area during a freeze, it has no place to expand, and will warp &/or crack the valve body.
    Water is also trapped in the outer area of the valve body between the ball and valve side while in the open position.
    In most cases this volume of water is not enough to do any damage.
     
    Jason Nault
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    Great point!  Insulating is tough because of all the rain however I ordered a spare ball valve yesterday and will look into modifying it to be able to drain that center "slug" of water when the valve is closed.  My father is a retired pipe fitter that worked in a paper mill for 40 years and he had some suggestions of how he's done this in the past to prevent ball valves from freezing.  If its successful i'll modify the valves on the tanks and will no longer worry about freezing issues.

    That said, we got a dusting of snow last night however the tanks are empty (drained them over the weekend) and all the valves are open so not worried about anything freezing at this time.  I'll be heading out there in a bit to continue assembly of the greenhouse, nothing like messing with 1/4" bolts in 36 degree rain (F not C).  I promised my wife she would have a useable greenhouse by Christmas.... perhaps I should have given myself a few more weeks
     
    Jason Nault
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    Well, I got the greenhouse foundation built and ready and made a fair amount of progress on the assembly of the greenhouse itself but some extreme weather (for us) came in and shut me down.  Thankfully the tanks and piping were already empty and I was able to pull the sump pump out of the rainwater sump before the freeze.  We normally stay in the 30-40 degree range (F) but had temps down into the 10's for a few days.  Here are a couple pics.  The snow is mostly gone now, I'll get back on the project this weekend and hopefully wrap it up soon, getting to be time for this year's starts!


    The foundation is made from 6" x 8" 50-year ground contact, pressure treated, douglas fir beams.  They are lag bolted together at the corners, they have pieces of 3' long rebar driven into the ground to anchor them and are capped with a 20ga steel, powder coated cap flashing.  Once the build is complete sand and then pavers will make up its floor.


    This is how it sits today, hoping to get out there this weekend and finish it up.  Once it's dried in I'm onto wiring it for electric and then onto the irrigation water delivery system, if the weather agrees.
     
    Jason Nault
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    Well the weather finally cleared up a bit, at least enough to get the assembly completed and the electric started.  I'm adding outlets inside for seed starting mats, grow lights, heater, etc as well as wiring for a large fountain that will be powered from the greenhouse.  Once we get the power connected to the building nearby it will be time to get started on the rainwater delivery system!







     
    Jason Nault
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    We were able to make a ton of progress on the greenhouse build over the last few weeks, it is now mostly DONE!  I have auto openers for the louvre windows on order and will install them when they arrive.  The roof vents (4) have auto openers on them so it makes sense for the louvre windows (2) to open automatically as well.  Next up for my wife is to get her starts going for the garden boxes that I still have to build and for me to get the delivery side of the rainwater system completed now that we should be past any freezing temperatures.  We started collecting for the summer this week so we'll have water to test with when the pumps are installed.  I'll post more pictures when I make more progress on that front, here are some of the greenhouse.


    I installed two 15amp circuits with outlets spread around the bottom of the walls, alternating grey outlets for circuit 1 and black for circuit 2.  Also added a water hydrant and a small drain, the water source is the rainwater system.


    4000 lbs of sand and about 2000 lbs of concrete pavers later the greenhouse has a floor!  I've already noticed a difference in how it holds the heat and we haven't had many warm days since finishing.  I also hung some grow lights from the shelves as we won't be getting enough sun to not need them for a few more months and she'll be starting some seeds this week.


    We have a couple large troughs to put in there and fill as well as lots of pots.  The chairs may go away but were part of me surprising my wife with the completed floor.  I also added two 16' strips of LEDs up near the peak of the roof for working out there in the late afternoon or early evenings.


    I was able to get the electric ran for the discharge pumps.  Next is to get the tank level monitor installed and pumps installed and plumbed, more to come on that soon!
     
    Jason Nault
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    Made more progress over the weekend but freezing temperatures are gonna shut me down again this week.  Over the weekend we were able to get the discharge pumps (primary and backup) installed and plumbed together as well as get the Liquidator 2 tank monitor installed.  Next is to install 2 more hydrants and get that side of the output up and running.  That will provide the much needed water while i build the rest of the irrigation system.  I also updated the design, after looking at my wife's layout we decided to add another irrigation controller and many more valves.  Now she will be able to control each box independently as well as have more than one box irrigating at the same time (each controller can only open a single valve at a time).  Here are some updates.




    We went with the Liquidator2 for our tank gauge.  I just have one on the center tank but as they will be connected together MOST of the time that should be fine.  We have a wireless, solar powered, pressure based monitor from NZ in our tank at our off-grid cabin but wanted something more simple here.  So far it seems to work great!



    I added graduation marks on the guide pipe at the empty, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and full positions with red reflective tape but they clashed with the indicator so i changed that one to a yellow tape, now it's easy to see.



    Both the primary and backup discharge pumps are installed.  They are isolated with valves on the inlet and outlet and have unions so they can be removed in the cold months.  They and all the pipework are currently dry so no worries with the cold snap coming in tonight and throughout the week.


    Each pump inlet has a 50 micron spin down filter to be sure we don't clog up the downstream drip irrigation.



    Hopefully these pumps are reliable, we have two so I guess we're safe if we have a failure.
     
    Jason Nault
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    Location: Issaquah, WA
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    Haven't made quite as much progress as we'd like over the last couple weeks but did knock out a few things.  I got the valve manifolds built and ready to install, got the irrigation controllers installed and wired on one end, got the lighting transformer installed and also wired on the local end.  All of the "utilities" like water, power, irrigation controls, etc are now above the retaining wall and ready to be terminated into the raised beds I haven't built yet . The 3 yard hydrants are connected and have been tested with negative results so far.  My plumbing on the pumps was terrible, leaks everywhere, replacing some fittings and trying again hopefully later today.  Here are some updated pics for your viewing pleasure


    Spring is coming!!!



    Just a shot of my wife's "potting bench" area of the greenhouse.  The greenhouse's shelf design is frustrating to use as a work surface so we added a countertop, smooth



    7 manifolds for 7 in ground valve boxes.  Still missing a few fittings but they're on the way.  Hoping to start installing these in the next week or two.



    All the wiring for the irrigation and lighting feeds out of the shop and runs underground up to the garden space, where it currently awaits something for it to be connected to.



    I ran a 7 conductor cable to each valve box, that leaves 2 extra conductors for each location.  I terminated the others in order and will duplicate that order on the far end when connecting the valves.



    This pile of wire is now sitting in the "upper terrace" where the garden is located, ready to go.



    The controllers were very easy to configure, so far we haven't built any watering programs yet, will have to wait until the valves are in so we know which channel goes to which bed.  It knows the weather so it can not water if its raining, pretty cool!
     
    Jason Nault
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    Was able to spend some time out there playing the the dirt yesterday and got the last of the plumbing issues resolved, we now have WATER FLOWING!!!  The 3 yard hydrants are now up and running (on their own run and isolated with a valve) and next will be to start installing the 8 valve boxes then onto raised beds!  Here are a few pics as always.


    Woo hoo, its been quite a bit of work but here we are, dispensing water!


    The pump was cycling and never getting up to pressure until I realized I was missing a check valve on the inlet side, once I fitted one everything worked fine, minus a few small leaks that i was able to resolve easily.


    Next is to figure out some type of cover for each pump, to keep them out of the rain.  A trash bag works for now.
     
    Jason Nault
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    Updated the design drawing to reflect any changes to the build so far.  Today everything is built out and working from the collection to the hydrants.  We have 15 tons of gravel arriving today and the weekend's job is to fill in some low spots and do a final level of the area then it's getting started on the irrigation system.  Here is the updated drawing.

     
    John C Daley
    pollinator
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    Location: Bendigo , Australia
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    Eh! Jason is your pump and pressure tank set up correctly?
    I think the hose to the tank needs to be attached to the outlet pipe.
    I think you have it connected to the drain plug for the pump housing.
    6470d35f3c62292f2386a284d4938418.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 6470d35f3c62292f2386a284d4938418.jpg]
    Deep well pump with 3 outlets the bottom one seems to be used to lift water
    images-4.jpg
    [Thumbnail for images-4.jpg]
    Pump with 2 outlets pressure tank fitted to consumption discharge pipe
     
    Jason Nault
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    Hi there, not sure why you think that, it's set up correctly and works 100% fine, been using it all weekend.  The garden hose will flow for about 45 seconds on the pressure built up in the tank then it runs to bring the pressure back up. The pump i have looks quite different than the one in your photo, the tank comes connected the way it's shown in the photos, it can't be modified.  There is no drain plug for the housing, just a fill plug for priming.  Keep in mind these are very inexpensive pumps and as a "proof of concept" if they work for a couple years that's a bonus.

    John C Daley wrote:Eh! Jason is your pump and pressure tank set up correctly?
    I think the hose to the tank needs to be attached to the outlet pipe.
    I think you have it connected to the drain plug for the pump housing.

     
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    This looks amazing! One question: why are you using a pump instead of direct feed from the roof to the tanks?
     
    Jason Nault
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    Thanks!  We're using a sump for a couple reasons.  

    1. The main reason is visual appearance, we want to see as little of the system as possible.  

    2. The shop building has 5 downspouts for the gutters, with the 2 that carry the largest amount of water being the furthest from the tanks.  In order to capture that water there would have to be 75ft of pipe hanging overhead, around the back of the building to the tanks.

    3. For the other 3 downspouts they were already ran underground to the back of the property so we either had to dig those up to make them overhead or have a sump for those and overhead for the others.  

    4. With all that said it was "fairly simple" to tie the 2 downspouts that weren't already connected to the 4" underground pipe the others were already ran through and then put a diverter and sump inline with the pipe that runs out to the back of the property.

    5. This isn't a homestead and electricity here is very inexpensive plus from the hour I turn on collection (diverter valve in the 4" underground pipe) it takes about 48 hours of solid rain to collect our max of 7500 gallons.  The sump pump cycles a bunch of times during that period but it's fairly short and sump pumps can handle that, it's what they're made for.

    In the end the system was built this way to fit the space and our requirements as closely as we can make it fit.  3 tanks fit in that space perfectly, the sump and all the gutter downspouts plumbing lined up perfectly with just enough downward pitch and the overflow drains work out perfectly.  We've been using rainwater for watering what my wife has started in the greenhouse but nothing else yet.  This past weekend we hand shoveled 30,000 lbs of gravel and did a final leveling of the garden space.  Later this week I'm starting the trenching for all the irrigation valve boxes and lines to each raised bed location.  Once the pipes and wiring all all ran it's onto building raised beds!

    Amy Knutson wrote:This looks amazing! One question: why are you using a pump instead of direct feed from the roof to the tanks?

     
    Jason Nault
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    I performed the longest test of the system yet yesterday.  I connected our power washer to one of the yard hydrants, turned on the pumps and power washed a section of our concrete driveway for about 45 minutes.  This is an every 2 year event,  it turns green and very slippery (we call it the Pacific Northwest funk) and either bleach or a power washer seems to be the best way to clean it.  The best part was that it was raining (I get soaked doing it anyway) so I was using rainwater from the tanks and replacing it almost as fast as it was coming out!  Power washers can be sensitive of the incoming water pressure and volume but it never missed a beat!  Loving this system so far!
     
    Jason Nault
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    It's been a couple weeks, time for a project update.  We got more gravel delivered and leveled the area one final time.  I got the fountain installed and working (sounds amazing) on rainwater and added a water meter to the system to keep track of how much rainwater we use and in turn how much potable water we AREN'T using in the garden.  I also installed a 2nd pair of downspouts on the greenhouse as the pair it came with were far from able to keep up the rain we've had lately.  Here are some pics and an updated plumbing design drawing. My only plans for tomorrow are to get started on the raised beds, hopefully nothing comes up to get in the way of that.


    This is most of the garden space finally level, the orange string lines that are tough to see denote the walkways and where the raised beds will be placed.


    The fountain is all set up and now running, here I was waiting for the sealant between levels to dry before filing them up.


    My wife has been very busy in the greenhouse, I need to get some raised beds built asap so that all has ground to go into!


    This is the output side of the system, it has valves to shut off the two runs, one for irrigation (with a 25 psi pressure regulator and gauge) and one for the hydrants as well as the newly added water meter.


    Just a basic, mechanical, 1" water meter that counts in US Gallons.  When the little black wheel spins there is water flowing somewhere, also helpful for finding leaks in the future.


     
    Jason Nault
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    I finally was able to get to building raised beds over the weekend.  We priced out building all the beds with cedar decking and that was going to cost about $16k with the lumber prices being what they are.  My wife found this used corrugated metal on Craigslist near us and we decided to give it a try as it cost basically pennies compared to lumber and I have some experience with metal work.  It looks like roofing but is 22ga so much more heavy duty than roof panels.  So far it's been easy to work with and we're quite happy with the results.


    The metal sheets are about 30" x 45" and it cuts pretty well with a steel cutting blade in a circular saw.  Using a clamped on rip fence I can get a clean 45 degree cut like this.


    This is the prototype, just made from full sheets to see how it was to work with.  This will likely be placed in the back of the garden so its height doesn't shadow other things from the somewhat limited southern exposure


    We decided that ripping off 2 layers of corrugations with the plasma cutter made the box a much more appropriate height, most will be this height going forward.


    Now it's time to make lots more of them!
     
    Jason Nault
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    Another weekend done and a bit more progress on the garden.  I was able to complete a few more of the garden beds and prep for a few more.  I'm going to push hard to get them completed in the evenings this week so I can get back to the irrigation plumbing next weekend.  The low voltage lighting should be here today so I'll be able to get those mounted on the boxes as I run the irrigation plumbing.  The design is really starting to come though, feels great after staring at it for the last 6 months.  Here are a couple pics.


    There will be 5-6 more beds on this side of the fountain, basically a mirror of the other side.  The strings are to indicate where the aisles between the beds will be.


    Once the plumbing is done it's go time, we will fill the boxes and can finally plant all the starts that are in the greenhouse.
     
    pollinator
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    Great work! I like to save on soil and get some hugel benefits (water retention, drainage) by burying a layer of brush at the bottom of beds similar to those. I am in a similar PNW climate, and beds about that deep with a bottom layer of woody debris will go at least 2 weeks between watering.
     
    Jason Nault
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    Awesome!  We are definitely filling them Hugel style, we've been saving yard debris, branches, compost, leaves, etc to fill them or we'd end up going broke trying to pay for all the soil to fill them!
     
    Jason Nault
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    After spending another weekend out in the shop building beds we getting closer to finished and even had time to get started on some of the irrigation plumbing.  One more bed to build then it's time to run the irrigation (and lighting circuit) into each bed.  My wife will be painting them at some point but the weather hasn't been very cooperative.  Once we have things growing in the beds it's time to build a fence around it all to keep the deer and other critters out.  More to come soon!


    The layout is mostly complete, just adding a bed in a spot that we planned on calculating once the others were done.


    Just another view, facing north.


    Starts are getting huge, really need to get them in the dirt soon!

     
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