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Affordable rainwater collection?  RSS feed

 
Liz Gardener
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Hello!
Just in from making space in my weedy garden for some fall veggies!
My question: I live on a small income. I would like to set up a rainwater collection system, but the cost of containers seems cost prohibitive. Do you have any ideas for free or affordable somewhat permanent rainwater collection system for the mid atlantic region of the US? (mosquitoes and algae are issues). Fortunately my garden and orchard are downslope from the roof and i believe the fall is enough to create pressure for good flow. Many thanks! and I can't wait to see the book!
 
Aranya
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Location: Seaton, Devon, England
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Hi Liz,

Good to hear that you're still 'allowed' to collect rainwater where you are, I believe that some states have actually made it illegal. Just shows you what a crazy world we live in!

Here in Britain, we have good access to containers used to transport liquids like orange juice concentrate and other less drinkable substances. These come primarily as blue barrels in the region of 55 gallons, or as caged cubic metre tanks (International Bulk Containers - IBCs) in the region of 1100 litres. You'd need to get food grade to be sure they weren't used for transporting dodgy substances and they usually have a code on them that refers to their contents. Here, many of us only have room for the former in our gardens. Unfortunately they are dark blue & don't blend in very well. Perhaps as a country with a lot of coastal ports they are easier to find here. In Kellogg & Pettigrew's fine book 'Toolbox for Sustainable City Living', they show a grey water system that they make using those 55 gallon barrels so they must be available in the US.

Mosquitoes are a problem here, but only when we don't cover the surface of the water. One thing that I tried a few years ago that seemed to work well was to grow Azolla, a floating fern on the surface. It both coners the surface so the mosquitoes don't lay their eggs in the water and soaks up any fertile material (e.g. bird droppings) that wash off the roof into the tank. I then harvested small amounts from time to time & mulched with it, putting the nitrogen around the crops that would most benefit from it. The experiment ended when the tank stand collapsed one winter and the Azolla got spilled.

Best way to store water in the garden though is in the soil, so time spent building that will pay off in lower watering needs. Then you can make even better use of what you have using drip irrigation (or the cheap version which involves a bit more walking), perforated plastic drinks bottles buried next to plants.

Hope that helps!
 
Marianne West
Posts: 131
Location: Lemon Grove, CA
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i recently was about to buy and install a big plastic tank- not feeling really great about this because of the material it is made off, the limited lifespan and the expense - when I found out about ferrocement tanks. I am fascinated by the potential of building a large tank for not so much money. Here is one link, but if you google it, many images and sites come up http://ecobites.com/diy-recycling-projects/736?task=view. this is not free, but not very expensive either.

I live in southern California, and we have many month without rainfall. All my hugelbeds are new - less than one year old and need irrigation, so does everything else. In addition, city water is filled with chemicals, including fluoride. So, water for plants and animals (and us) is a must. I am planning on building a smallish tank to catch the water from half of the garage to "get it right" and follow up with a large one, hopefully holding ~ 5000 gal I want to build so it can double as a fence - an L shape which will enclose a patio and create a warm microclimate there as well. this would be the patio which would have been filled up with one of the round large tanks.

The plastic barrels are a good idea if free. But they don't hold much water. Here, people caught on that they are useful and they pretty much cost at least $ 20, usually more. If you want to collect a lot of water, just connecting them would cost a bit and they take lots of space. I think they make a lot of sense in a climate where it rains more often and one just needs to use some extra water in between rainfalls.
 
Aranya
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Location: Seaton, Devon, England
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If you have the space a pond will give you ten times as much water storage for the same money, though perhaps without the head you can get with a tank. Not sure about ferro-cement costs compared to secondhand tanks as we don't generally use them here in the UK. Then again we don't often get long periods without rainfall...
 
Marianne Cicala
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Location: south central VA 7B
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Aranya wrote:Hi Liz,



Best way to store water in the garden though is in the soil, so time spent building that will pay off in lower watering needs. !


Hey Aranya - can you elaborate on this a bit more please.
thanks
 
Marianne West
Posts: 131
Location: Lemon Grove, CA
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ponds are great, but they do dry out here - lots of water loss to evaporation. And yes, they do need space. Obviously, a watertank is only one way to catch water, much more can be stored in the soil. We do live in earth quake country, so a tank is a good idea when there is no more water coming in through the pipe (most of Southern California's water is imported from other states. Of course, a tank could brake and having a pond would be handy then. I guess here, we want to catch and store as much water as we can on site, one way or another. i haven't seen any second hand large storage tanks around here. I think the sun destroys them after a while. I know, that is not a big problem in England or - whichever way you look at it.
 
Liz Gardener
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The garden is just two years young, and I am doing alot of mulch and cover crop. This year I also got a little bit of biochar to work into a few beds. I decided to sell my rototiller, and start gardening the Ruth Stout no till method (my modification). This year was a good year for rain, so I only watered few times.
Blue barrels around here are up to $27 each. I can also get some of the big plastic cube tanks with the metal frame, but they are pretty pricey too. Guess I will look into some ferrocement/ pond and hope I can get a liner or fish pond on craigslist or freecycle. Maybe an old hottub for a pond.....people give koi away around here.
 
Aranya
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Location: Seaton, Devon, England
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One way to reduce pond evaporation is by using floating plants and also by planting shade / windbreaks. Of course a relatively shallow pond with a large surface area will evaporate more quickly than a deeper smaller one - using nature as a model we could use a protective pattern, a sphere being the ultimate, but often a dome is used (think turtles, beetles etc.) where a flat surface is involved - which the surface of a pond could be approximated to. Well mulched soil will evaporate far less of course. Tanks can still be an important element in a redundant system, especially if you wish to keep some water fairly contaminant-free. They may be pretty pricey right now, but costs can rise when demand increases, so they could still be a wise investment.

Liz, it sounds like you've made a good start anyway!
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Here is a link to a thread describing our "flexible" cisterns (pics toward the end of the thread):
http://forums.sustainablecountry.com/forums/showthread.php?6572-flexible-cisterns&highlight=flexible+cisterns

Straw bales are used for the frame and an epdm liner is placed over them. total cost to set up two of them is a little over $1000. They hold 5,000 gallons each. Not exactly inexpensive in total, but pretty cheap per gallon.

We have just about finished using ours for the orchard this season and will set them up in the next spot in a couple months.
 
Marianne Cicala
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Location: south central VA 7B
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Very good site KB - thanks. We found a 5000 tank a few years ago, out of TX where they were clearing out inventory and had free shipment. It's above our orchard, so gravity irrigation works pretty well. & yes, 5000 gallons isn't very much here either with 100s for a few weeks during dry season.l Thanks for an interesting site that's new to me.
Marianne
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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here's ours: http://www.velacreations.com/blog/item/280-barn-tank.html

less than $1,000 for 7,000 gallons. If you didn't need that much water, make a 3,000 gallon one for less than 1/2 the price.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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if I'm repeating I apologize as I didn't read all the posts (in a hurry)..however..Mother Earth had a cool rain barrel set up in their last magazine..they took square trash cans and lined them up under the eaves and installed hose systems to them..really wouldn't be very expensive and each would hold 40 to 50 gallons depending on the size of the trash can..probably would freeze in Michigan temps like we have here so would have to be covered and drained for winter though..but it would be great in summer..if there was a slope they could also be hooked together to drain from one to the next..but it would work ok without that.
 
Levente Andras
Posts: 177
Location: Harghita County, Transylvania, Romania
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Aranya wrote:Here in Britain, we have good access to containers used to transport liquids like orange juice concentrate and other less drinkable substances. These come primarily as blue barrels in the region of 55 gallons, or as caged cubic metre tanks (International Bulk Containers - IBCs) in the region of 1100 litres. You'd need to get food grade to be sure they weren't used for transporting dodgy substances and they usually have a code on them that refers to their contents.


Aranya:

I'm trying to set up a rainwater collection system for my project(s) in Transylvania, Romania. I need to think in terms of thousands of litres of water. I've been looking at several options - cubic metre tanks IBCs (2 or 3 of these overground), self-made underground cistern from concrete, and large ready-made cisterns designed specifically for rainwater storage (the most expensive option).

IBCs overground would be the most convenient solution, but I suspect IBCs will not withstand extreme temperatures (I'm talking -20...30 Celsius in winter, and 40+ Celsius in summer - both common in my area), and will also be damaged by UV light (maybe I'm wrong on this last one). If filled with water and exposed to direct light they become green with algae. So if I decide to use IBCs overground, I may need to empty them in winter, and cover them to protect them from UV light in summer and from extreme cold in winter. I'm also concerned that even when the tank is empty and protected by some sort of cover (e.g., wood), the severe cold can still damage the plastic...

I'd be very grateful for any thoughts on these issues !

Levente
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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Levante, look at my post above. we built a 27,000 L tanks for under $1,000. You could easily bury it to help with the temperatures.
 
Aranya
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Location: Seaton, Devon, England
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Yes, if you are looking at any significant volume, you might find bigger tanks more useful. You can get black IBC tanks that keep the light out, but I don't know how well they perform at low temperatures. Freezing water can of course shatter rocks...
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I am blessed with a container over 300000liters, but here it lasts 2 or 3 months, and we have much longer drought season...
so I look for more.
I use about 150 m3 per month (sorry for those who have to translate into gallons!)
I plastic container cost 120€ here... I have one for a few plants higher than my tank.
With slope, I can water without pump.

Here i will not b allowed to build ferrocement but I would love it!
 
Paula Edwards
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A guy around here tries to fix old rain water tanks. ( the metal ones). He has rendered one with cement from outside, but it leaked and he had to put something in the inside to stop it. He has another one laying around and he wants to fix it with bitumen from the outside. There are as well methods to build one yourself with ferrrocement, but I myself would not be able to do that.
 
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