• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies living kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • raven ranson
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Julia Winter
garden masters:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • thomas rubino
  • Bill Crim
  • Kim Goodwin
  • Joylynn Hardesty
gardeners:
  • Amit Enventres
  • Mike Jay
  • Dan Boone

benefits of rainfall collection  RSS feed

 
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think the time has come for me to teach the known world about the benefits of capturing rainwater for domestic use.

And to start a discussion about why it should be used, anybody who suggests it is unhealthy, just has the wrong information.

I preface my discussion with a couple of notes I have learned on the way to writing this topic.
- I assume metal or terracotta tile roofing materials are involved, I have no ideas what effects would occur if those asphalt tiles common in North America are the roofing material and this maybe why people are cautious about rainwater collection
- I am now aware that external tanks may freeze solid in parts of the continent. I just can't imagine living in such a location. Anyway, I see that foundations need to go below the freeze thaw line and in some areas, that enables a basement to be established. Would it be practical to install large water tanks in any basement?
- Mercury in the rainfall and well water has been listed as an issue. From what I can see from posts lower, the level of Mercury in rainfall is not worth worrying about -see Peter VanDerWal

Within Australia, and I know little of what happens elsewhere in the world , capturing rain is the normal method of gaining access to water for domestic use, outside city centres where reticulated water is supplied.
Australia generally has high quality water anywhere and 98% of it comes from catchment dams from rainfall.
Limited subterranean water and river water is used. When towns use river water as the source it is treated with settlement tanks, flocculation and chlorine prior to entry into the town water supply as its known.
Many properties will also capture enough for gardens and livestock's well.
But my lesson deals only with domestic use.

TANK SIZE
The tank size is a function of the amount of rainfall and the roof area of you buildings.
And usage levels.
Most tanks holds about 4 months usage of water
MY TANKS
I have 18 inches of rain and a roof area of about 1760sq ft. with my home and a shed nearby.
I store it in a 5000 gal tank and a 1000 gal tank.
The contents of the 1000 gal tank are pumped over to the larger tank.
That supplies water for toilets, shower, washing machine, no dishwasher but limited garden, for 3 people and a dog!

I also have catchment from my farm sheds which give me a total storage of 300,000 Litres of water which by any standard is over the top as they say.
But I have a rural property and use that water for crops


Most tanks would be situated so that the gutters drain directly to the tank, and water is drawn from that tank by a pump for distribution to the household.
CLEANING THE WATER
The bigger the tank the longer the holding period, which can allow time for sediment to settle and impurities to die etc.
There are systems to draw the water from near the top of the water level, rather than the bottom which eliminates sediment being drawn out, and some say supplies oxygenated water.
The suction pipe is suspended by a float 6 inches down from the surface, and they are not prevalent.

CLEAN WATER IN
There are systems commercial or handmade which capture and divert the initial flush of water, which usually contains dust and dirt, away from the tank

OUTLETS
I use 2 inch outlets, one at the base to clean sediment out every 10 years and the other about 5 inches up to draw water for use. and keep the tank heavy enough if a wind storm comes by.

WATER TREATMENT
If designed properly, and that is not hard  there is no need for treatment.
I have read segments written by naysayers and people who panic or are just guessing.
The water is clean, unless you are in an acid rain area, when it lands on the roof.
Treatment is not needed if the tank holds about 4 months usage of water, you take care w.r to first flush .
You have mesh on all openings to keep mozzies and critters out.


Some homes within the townships have a smaller tank on a stand, say 1-2000Litres which is plumbed through to the kitchen and used solely for cooking and drinking.
In these cases the stand enables gravity feed into the house.

PUBLISHED INFORMATION

I found it amusing recently when I helped through kick starter to publish a book on rainfall collection systems around the world. Australia was not even mentioned and yet it is the primary source of water in rural areas.


I think compared with drilling a well etc, rainfall collection comes up much better financially.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1607
115
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am at $7000 right now in well maintenance over the last 7 to 8 years (when i bought my place). That could buy a very nice rainwater collection system.

You had mentioned sediment in the past and led me to a question. Is there a downside to pulling from the bottom? My thought was get the sediment out through a filter quickly vs letting it build up. Granted mine is a smaller system (1000 gallons). While i got some junk in the filters the first couple of months, the filter has been pristine after that. Maybe i still have it building up, it was just suspended in the beginning and is now settled to bottom. Anyway, more insite would be appreciated.

Basic specs: 1000 gallon ss storage. Aussie first flush and leaf eater. Spindown filter.
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sediment build up from rainwater will occur if dust on the roof is flushed into a tank.
Generally its not an issue.
BUT, some people do draw water from the top of the water level, I draw entirely from the bottom.
Stainless steel is considered an overkill here generally there may be one SS tank to 10,000 poly or steel tanks

I am hoping to open peoples mind to an alternative collection system.
From what I read about ground water pollution or potential from it, sulphur smells and even sediment, it may be worth investigating.

If you live near a chemical plant etc that may be different, but then again, if you live in such situation you can't really complain, since there were alternatives at the time you moved there, I hope.
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
An extra point that needs to be covered, 5000gal tanks are a good idea to have set aside as a source of firefighting water. There is an argument about whether ploy or steel tanks are better, but poly ones full do not melt, and they all can be located away from radiant heat with either a wall or fire resistant plants.
We sometimes have a Fire Department fitting on the tank, and in some areas now its compulsory to have the tank and the fitting.
That is in part why a minimum of a 2 inch fitting is used, so a fire pump you may own can draw and be useful from that tank.

I looked up some tank suppliers in Texas;
There were a few and one had these comments, which I have edited, on their site
5000 Gallon Rain Harvesting Tanks – Our short 5000 Gallon Rain Harvesting Tanks are a great size for storing collected rainwater in rural backyards and is very popular for rainwater harvesting systems used for consumption or irrigation in commercial or rural residential homes. The low-profile design measuring at only 93″ tall will fit below virtually any roof line! Rain Harvesting or Rainwater Collection is the catchment and storing of rainwater for use at a later date.
There are numerous reasons for collecting rainwater.
Rainwater collected from roofs of homes or buildings can make an important contribution to the general availability of water as well as household water cost savings.
These tanks are also great for commercial stormwater harvesting systems.
Rainwater is great for watering plants, gardens, home foundations, or having an outdoor water source for things like hand washing or pressure washing.
Rainwater is FREE and you should collect it. If you don’t, we use energy to pump it back out of the ground!

Collecting rainwater is a self-sufficient way of getting water but also provides a net positive impact on the environment.
Whether your motivation is one or all of these, a Rainwater Harvesting Tank is arguably the most important component of your system!

We provide flat surfaces on the tank skin, for installation of additional outlet/inlet fittings, Tank Over Flow Fittings, Float Switches, Tank Gauges and other Rainwater Harvesting Accessories.
Your installer or contractor will love having flexibility when needing to install additional fittings where you need them most in your application.
Tanks come with a 16″ Stainless Steel Mesh Tank Screen installed on the top of the tank.
The Tank Screen is the rainwater entry point of the tank.
It’s primary job is to keep mosquitoes out of the rainwater tank and allows a large entry point of pre-filtered rainwater to enter the tank.
Large debris like sticks and leaves should be filtered out prior to reaching the Strainer Basket by using a Rain Head and/or a First Flush Diverter.
There is also a stainless steel mesh screened Overflow Assembly, Outlet Bulkhead fitting and a 3/4″ Bulkhead Fitting for a water hose spigot.
The stainless steel mesh screened overflow assembly is designed for directing overflown water during large rain storms while doubling to keeping pests & mosquitoes out of the tank.
Our 3/4″ Bulkhead Fitting is placed at a height that enables you to install a spigot and fit a watering can underneath for filling.
I recommend 1 1/2 inch or 2 inch as a minimum.
Collected rainwater is technically non-potable. Do not drink collected rainwater without proper filtration. Please contact your distributor for proper filtration methods.

The issue of not being potable is obviously a widespread view and I will search for data to establish why that view exists, or how to disprove it.
But, at least they refer to the use of filters to make it potable, so that does not exclude its potable use.
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
TANK MAY FREEZE
The tanks do not have a minimum temperature rating. However if you’re in an area that will expose your tank to a freezing temperatures for long periods of time
and you plan to keep water in the tank, make sure that you leave room for expansion as water expands when it freezes.
The most likely place to crack on the tank is the bulkhead fitting which can be easily replaced.

TANKS OVERHEATING
All Polyethylene Water Storage Tanks typically have a maximum constant storage temperature of 120 degrees F.
Stored water that is heated to a constant temperature higher than 120 degrees F can weaken the tank’s structure and potentially make it subject to deformation
and/or failure.
In desert climates, sometimes stored water can reach temperatures of 120 degrees F, however it likely cools at night so it is not considered a “maximum sustained temperature”.

Also by simply shading the tank, and using that area as catchment heating will be reduced. Further larger tanks will not have time to heat up, before the temp. starts cooling. down.
IS POLY SAFE
The resin used to manufacture these tanks meets FDA specifications for safe storage of water.  All our Natural, Black, Light Blue, Dark Blue and Dark Green tank colors are in
full compliance with current FDA Standards for polyethylene tanks.
Please specify with your distributor on tank orders if FDA compliance is required for your application.
 
Posts: 8
Location: Tampa, Florida
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hmm, I may get into rainwater collecting as well. I'll take note of these for future use.
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
All I am encouraging is an open mind, doing the research and think outside the common practise.
If it works in Australia and New Zealand is must have merit.

I amended my initial story to include a note that I assume metal or terracotta roofing material is used, and since you have other materials
used as the roof surface, this may be the reason why some talk about the water being unpotable. IE Shingles etc
 
gardener
Posts: 719
Location: Manitoba, Canada
167
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi John, I've been thinking of this lately. I am wondering about the mercury in the rain and what to do about that.
 
wayne fajkus
pollinator
Posts: 1607
115
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There is a pocket in Texas where rainwater is common, and a few businesses have come along to furnish the products. I read a book from one of them years ago. One of the themes is his frustration that people that collect rainwater "use the good stuff (rainwater) for their plants, and use the bad stuff (city water) for their drinking needs". That always stuck in my head.

If you shop around, stainless in houston is as cheap as galvanized tanks in that pocket area. But both are severely higher than poly tanks. The problem seems to be  the size limits of stainless tanks.  If i am correct, the larger metal tanks are plastic lined. Im talking about tanks that hold 3,000 gallons plus. At that point, i see little benefit to a metal tank vs a poly tanks wirh the exception of aesthetics.

I currently have 6000 gallons of poly tanks providing water for my cows as well as light irrigation. I have 1000 gallons going to my hot water system in a stainless tank. I have another 1000 gallon tank going in now to water my garden. It may be silly to have several systems, but my place is pretty spread out (16 acres). It would take a lot of trenching to work off a centralized system.
 
wayne fajkus
pollinator
Posts: 1607
115
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Shawn Klassen-Koop wrote:Hi John, I've been thinking of this lately. I am wondering about the mercury in the rain and what to do about that.



Is it too simple to think that if its in the rain, its also in any other water supply?  My other thought is the other water supplies have a heavier concentration as it accumulates. Kind of like salt accumulating in the ocean. The higher up stream you go, the less salt. The sky being the most upstream you can go. Just a first thought on my part.
 
Posts: 77
Location: Southern New Hampshire (Zone 5)
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I had a 2000 gallon rainwater collection tank when I lived in Arizona and it worked quite well.

Main reason I don't collect anymore is because in my present climate (New Hampshire) any water left outside is at risk of freezing 7 months of the year.  No problem if your main use is crop irrigation, but 7 months without domestic hot water would be challenging, to say the least.
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have never heard of Mercury in rainwater, until I read it here. Its not an issue in Australia.
But I have followed it up now and am amazed. More later

Freezing of water pipes or tanks is something I have no experience with.
BUT, how do you prevent the pipes from the bore / well from freezing, did them down below the freeze line?
Insulate them?
Do 5000gal tanks really freeze?
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I found this onIFLSCIENCE REPORT

A study by environmental toxicologists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has suggested that the increasing mercury levels are due to emissions from other parts of the world seeping over the Pacific. Their findings were recently published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

The long-term study collected samples of rainwater from 19 separate sites across the United States and Canada between 1997 and 2013.

Mercury ends up in rainwater primarily through the burning of coal and industrial activities, as well as from small concentrations produced through natural processes. The researchers believe the east-west discrepancy is caused by emissions from industrializing parts of Asia – primarily China – that have been traveling across the Pacific through the upper atmosphere. Weather systems around the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains then allow the mercury to be deposited through rain in the central and western states.

"A lot less mercury is being emitted to the atmosphere in the U.S. and Canada than 20 years ago as a result of regulations, efforts by industry, and the economic realities of cheap natural gas," study author Peter Weiss-Penzias said in a statement. "In spite of that, there are other factors, including emissions from other parts of the world, that are causing an increase in the amount of mercury being deposited in certain locations in North America."

This is problematic, because bacteria in the environment can convert this elemental mercury into something far more dangerous – methyl mercury, which builds up in the food chain and can therefore represent a health hazard if humans use affected animals as a food source.

Jeez, you blokes are doing it tough there, the rains poisoned and the ground water is no better!!!
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is a link to a Government document

Guidance on use of rainwater

I hope it clears issues for you
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
From  Potable Rainwater: Filtration and Purification in the USA


Before investing in filtration or purification equipment, invest in removing particulates before they enter into the system by installing gutter screens, leaf screens and roof washers. Removing materials before they enter the system is far easier and less expensive than dealing with them afterwards.

"There is no perfect solution for disinfecting water, as all solutions have some environmental cost. Some require substantial energy, some create harmful by-products and some waste water. To save money, test your water (have you heard that before?) and get the right unit to solve your specific problem. Generally, the smaller the capacity the less expensive the unit will be overall, so get only what you need.

Lastly, remember that as the owner of a water system, it is your responsibility to maintain it. When you pay for utility-purified and -delivered water, maintenance is included in your bill. But when you own your water system, it is your responsibility to maintain it on a regular basis.

Rainwater can be safely used outdoors and indoors if the correct steps are taken to handle, store and clean it. Although not yet common in the US, indoor use of rainwater is practiced worldwide. As population growth continues, water rates increase and the desire to be “more green” and self-reliant increases, rainwater use will become more common here in the United States."
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
REMOVAL OF MERCURY FROM RAIN OR WELL WATER
FromUWEC paper on mercury web site
Removing mercury from the water can be achieved using four processes: Coagulation/Filtration, Granular Activated Carbon, Lime Softening, and Reverse Osmosis.
Coagulation/filtration is a common treatment which uses AlSO4 that reacts with the mercury to form a solid which can precipitate out of the water.
There are many commercial operators offering mercury removal systems and from what I see thay are not expensive compared with digging a well,
but I also note that well water often has mercury as well

Activated carbon filtration is very effective for the removal of mercury. Reverse osmosis will remove 95 - 97 00 of it.
 
Davis Tyler
Posts: 77
Location: Southern New Hampshire (Zone 5)
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

John C Daley wrote:I have never heard of Mercury in rainwater, until I read it here. Its not an issue in Australia.
But I have followed it up now and am amazed. More later

Freezing of water pipes or tanks is something I have no experience with.
BUT, how do you prevent the pipes from the bore / well from freezing, did them down below the freeze line?
Insulate them?
Do 5000gal tanks really freeze?



Yes all the well infrastructure is buried below the frost line: 3 feet below grade here....some places in the Upper Midwest have to dig 5-6 feet deep to ensure thawed soil.

I've never seen a 5000 gallon tank around here, but I can tell you that when I go ice fishing in January through March, I drill through a solid 8-10 inches of ice to reach the fishies...Lake Winni is a lot bigger than 5000 gallons
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Fair comment about the Lake, but would the whole volume of a tank freeze?
 
Davis Tyler
Posts: 77
Location: Southern New Hampshire (Zone 5)
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

John C Daley wrote:Fair comment about the Lake, but would the whole volume of a tank freeze?



Unfortunately yes, anything above grade will freeze solid.  By December/January we only have 10 hours of daylight and temperatures hover around freezing.  Even the thermal mass in a 5000 gallon tank is no match for four months of freezing, and it would be April before you'd get new liquid water (a.k.a. rain instead of snow) coming into the tank. 
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
WOW!!!
So how far across the continent does the freeze action take place?
Is there a map I can look at?

I don't know how you live with it
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am now aware that external tanks may freeze solid in parts of the continent.
I just can't imagine living in such a location.
Anyway, I see that foundations need to go below the freeze thaw line and in some areas, that enables a basement to be established.
The thaw line being from 6 to 72 inches.
Would it be practical to design a basement to hold large water tanks in the basement?
Would the benefits of rainwater collection be greater than the issue of going underground?
Poly tanks could easily be installed during construction and I have been involved with concrete tanks that have been set in the ground and had a house built on top [ in Australia ]
to save space on a house block or create a taller building for a view.
 
pollinator
Posts: 574
Location: Southern Arizona. Zone 8b
75
bee bike fish greening the desert solar woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
FWIW, the papers make a big deal about mercury in rain water, but their job is to sell papers after all.

EPA has decided that 2 part per billion is a safe upper limit for mercury in drinking water. The mercury in rain water is measured in parts per trilllion.  Even the highest sample was still only about 1/10 of the safe limit for drinking water.

I think the reason the EPA set the limit at 2ppm is because it's difficult to get the mercury levels lower than that, even using the methods mentioned above.  Since the levels of mercury in even the worst case samples of rain water are far below 2ppm, it's probably not worth worrying about it.
 
Shawn Klassen-Koop
gardener
Posts: 719
Location: Manitoba, Canada
167
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Peter VanDerWal wrote:FWIW, the papers make a big deal about mercury in rain water, but their job is to sell papers after all.

EPA has decided that 2 part per billion is a safe upper limit for mercury in drinking water. The mercury in rain water is measured in parts per trilllion.  Even the highest sample was still only about 1/10 of the safe limit for drinking water.

I think the reason the EPA set the limit at 2ppm is because it's difficult to get the mercury levels lower than that, even using the methods mentioned above.  Since the levels of mercury in even the worst case samples of rain water are far below 2ppm, it's probably not worth worrying about it.



Thanks for this info. I guess the bigger concern is bioaccumulation then. Which if I take rainwater and put it in a cistern... chances are that I won't be growing fish that can bioaccumulate methyl mercury. Thanks for helping me feel better about this.
 
Davis Tyler
Posts: 77
Location: Southern New Hampshire (Zone 5)
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

John C Daley wrote:I am now aware that external tanks may freeze solid in parts of the continent.
I just can't imagine living in such a location.
Anyway, I see that foundations need to go below the freeze thaw line and in some areas, that enables a basement to be established.
The thaw line being from 6 to 72 inches.
Would it be practical to design a basement to hold large water tanks in the basement?
Would the benefits of rainwater collection be greater than the issue of going underground?
Poly tanks could easily be installed during construction and I have been involved with concrete tanks that have been set in the ground and had a house built on top [ in Australia ]
to save space on a house block or create a taller building for a view.



How do we live with the cold?  Study the seed catalogs and drink a lot a bourbon by the wood stove!  Honestly it is a nice respite after working hard all through the warm months.  There's plenty of outdoor activities like skiing, skating, snow-shoeing, hockey, ice fishing etc. when you want to get some exercise.

On construction methods, yes all the houses around here have basements.  Ours has some extra finished living space, storage space,  plus all the mechanical systems for the house.  You could certainly put some large water tanks down there and they would stay thawed all winter, but I've never heard of anyone doing that around here.  Ground water is so plentiful, digging the well is a one-time cost and then the house has water forever, without any need to stockpile for the frozen months.  There are houses in my area with shallow hand-dug wells from 200 years ago that are still producing.  If groundwater recharge were a problem here, I could certainly see the benefit of supplementing with rainwater.

This has got me thinking about how the Colonial farmers in this area (1700s-1850s) managed their water supply.  They had no electric pumps, no poly tanks, just dug wells and buckets I guess?  And a fair amount of livestock that needed thawed water a couple times a day year round...
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I guess shallow hand dug wells are great.
When I was hearing about wells 100M deep, I realised capturing rainwater may be a better alternative.
Thats why I created this topic, to get people to think of alternatives when a well becomes very expensive, or even for the short term
at the start of a build or settlement on some land.
 
gardener
Posts: 1758
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
187
forest garden urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Depth of wells has ceased to shock me. It's things like large sections of California actually sinking because of underground water being pumped out that freaks me out. That and the number of states that have laws limiting or outright banning rainwater harvesting.

In Texas you can harvest rainwater off structures that aren't specifically built for that purpose and you can pump as much water from below ground as you can reach. Don't touch any water flowing on the surface, though. That's all government property.

In my particular city we have a limit on how many rain tanks we're allowed (1). I have to admit, I think at some point in the future I may donate our current tank to a neighbor to replace with a larger one. We need to hook the system back up to the new gutters and that requires specialized fittings that we haven't built yet. We didn't have it hooked up long enough to get in the habit of using it before replacing the gutters.

It might be interesting to note, when we emptied the whole tank into the garden for cleaning, the mulch absorbed all the water before it was more than halfway down. After seeing that I am even more inclined to focus energy on capturing water in the soil because it holds so much more than I can afford to buy a tank for. But then, I am one of those people who wants the rainwater for the garden. Not only does that prevent chlorine from killing the soil biology, it also prevents even more lime from building up in already alkaline soils.

 
wayne fajkus
pollinator
Posts: 1607
115
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My well is over 400ft deep (tx) which is why my costs are so high. Had to pull it twice in 7 years. Both times the wired had rubbed raw 10ft above pump. So last time we lifted the pump 20ft higher to avoid whatever was rubbing it raw. We also converted all the fittings to stainless.  My well water is so alkaline it eats galv metal.

Having duality has its benefits. Since i have a rain tank (3000 gallons) for the cows with an ample pump attached, i simply ran that water into a hose spigot and it fed backwards into my house.  It got me thru the downtime.
 
Posts: 74
Location: San Diego, California
9
chicken forest garden woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here in East San Diego county(very dry chaparral/high desert), we had to drill ~900 ft down to get reliable to get water! The older wells at 400-500ft were starting to go dry, and now I've heard about 1200 ft wells in some areas.

Unfortunately, almost no one is working on, or cognizant of, recharging groundwater, they just seem to assume it's an endless supply and that eroding runoff is what is supposed to happen to rain - they're heading for a cliff with their eyes closed...

Fortunately rainwater harvesting is getting more affordable and is promoted by the government/awareness groups, so that may help decrease well use.
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What would a well 900ft down cost
Cities that ban tanks
We had a ban on tanks in big cities because prior to the establishment of town water, people used wells etc and there were issues with typhoid, cholera etc because the cess pits were nearby.
Also, pollution from industry was shocking.
So once water was laid on, wells and tanks were banned to improve public health.
Trouble is those laws just sat there and by the 1970's when people started to capture rain in the cities the old laws were an issue for some.
Modern cities had issues with lead from petrol use etc as well.
But in rural zones there has never been a ban.

RECHARGING GROUND WATER
That always seems to be somebody else's job. But realistically, if too much water is taken, levels drop and people do not reduce consumption, they want somebody else to do that.
Rainfall collection may help.
MULCH ABSORBING RAIN

An advantage of capturing rainwater is that it magnifies the volume of water for the garden, in that the roof of the buildings adds to the area of rain retention and can be added when needed later.
 
gardener
Posts: 1244
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
241
books cat dog food preservation hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

John C Daley wrote:I am now aware that external tanks may freeze solid in parts of the continent.
I just can't imagine living in such a location.
Anyway, I see that foundations need to go below the freeze thaw line and in some areas, that enables a basement to be established.
The thaw line being from 6 to 72 inches.
Would it be practical to design a basement to hold large water tanks in the basement?
Would the benefits of rainwater collection be greater than the issue of going underground?
Poly tanks could easily be installed during construction and I have been involved with concrete tanks that have been set in the ground and had a house built on top [ in Australia ]
to save space on a house block or create a taller building for a view.



Most Australians can't imagine living where it freezes - even Californians struggle with it. 
Which explains why neither Tim Barker nor Art Ludwig have provided fully optimized designs for freeze-protected water systems: hot, cold, nor greywater.

Gutters are not common in the mountains here, because they fill with ice, then slowly rip themselves off the building (sometimes taking shingles along).

Basement or below-ground cisterns might make sense if the building is built with them in mind.  If not, that could be a lot of weight to add after the fact. 
There is a chance of cracking the foundations, causing all manner of structural problems and increasing the likelihood of leaks and flooding.

Then there is the question of how to tie the frozen world above down to the tank below... do you continue to collect rainwater/snow melt water as it becomes available?  Any receiving pipes will plug almost instantly in very cold weather, probably crack... and then you're leaking near-frozen water into your basement as the thaw cycle starts.
On the other hand, it's not hard to bring water indoors to cook ... you just break off a chunk and carry it inside.

If you're going to do that much work underground, with that much risk of costly leaks, a drilled well does start to look reasonable. 
The water way down there stays liquid year-round, and a well casing and pump provides access to near-infinite water.  Well housings are below ground or insulated (and sometimes heated); pipes are buried below frost depth, which can be 4-5 feet in some areas.  Protecting those pipes within the building can be a challenge too, especially if you go on vacations in winter.
The most common outdoor farm water fitting in the northern US are "frost-free" hydrants, which have a pinhole below ground at a below-frost depth, that drains the pipe when the handle is turned off, so the upper parts don't freeze solid and bust the pipes.

It doesn't take much to set back your plumbing in expensive and frustrating ways.
A few of my neighbors still use an outdoor 'tap' or pump to a cistern in the house, rather than deal with digging in plumbing and freeze-protecting it.

Solar water heaters are another problem for freeze protection.  Some use less-freezable liquids like ethylene glycol or oil as a heat-exchange medium, but even so, most have a thermostat-controlled "drainback" system that allows the liquid to drain to a protected tank (underground or insulated)

Dealing with frozen water is a reality in much of the US and Europe.  Even the sunny inland areas can get extreme cold at night, and in season. 
So if you were wondering why more people here don't collect rainwater, or for that matter make solar water heaters and greywater systems, this is one big part of the design problem. 
A solution that's almost universally workable in Australia, turns out to need a lot of TLC to work even halfway effectively in the northern and western USA.

Soil-based water collection neatly avoids this problem.  Frozen, wet soils just squeeze water out into nifty frost art, they don't "break" and need "repairs."

...

Regarding the asphalt shingle water collection - in areas with low rainfall, I've noticed my runoff water from an asphalt roof has a yellowish tinge.  And sometimes an unappealing smell.  I think it would be wiser to stick with water collected from metal, tile, or glazing, even a plastic greenhouse roof membrane would be more palatable.  I still use it for some of my gardens, though.  It has to go somewhere.
 
Posts: 8
Location: Perth, Australia (temperate coastal)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for posting this, John! I only recently joined this forum and your info here is so helpful.

I'm currently building in WA in the coastal suburb of Alkimos. The block is only 500sqm, but we've kept the house smallish (1/3 of block) and plan to use the rest to grow fruit and veg, raise chooks and collect rainwater. We've actually designed our house to include a shaded 'nook' where a water tank can go, and plan to get some slimline ones for the side of the house as well.

You mention that bought or handmade gadgets can be used to divert the first bit of rain away from the tank, to avoid dust and dirt getting into the tank. Would you recommend any in particular?

Also, would you recommend any particular tank types or brands? I'm looking at poly ones at Bunnings -- any suggestions/tips?

Thanks again for sharing your expertise!
 
wayne fajkus
pollinator
Posts: 1607
115
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ash, you might take a look at my build thread. It covers stuff like pumps and filters that can save money longterm. Pics of the first flush are there also.

https://permies.com/t/76631/Waynes-rainwater-harvest-start-finish
 
Shawn Klassen-Koop
gardener
Posts: 719
Location: Manitoba, Canada
167
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Erica Wisner wrote:Most Australians can't imagine living where it freezes - even Californians struggle with it. 
Which explains why neither Tim Barker nor Art Ludwig have provided fully optimized designs for freeze-protected water systems: hot, cold, nor greywater.

Gutters are not common in the mountains here, because they fill with ice, then slowly rip themselves off the building (sometimes taking shingles along).

Basement or below-ground cisterns might make sense if the building is built with them in mind.  If not, that could be a lot of weight to add after the fact. 
There is a chance of cracking the foundations, causing all manner of structural problems and increasing the likelihood of leaks and flooding.

Then there is the question of how to tie the frozen world above down to the tank below... do you continue to collect rainwater/snow melt water as it becomes available?  Any receiving pipes will plug almost instantly in very cold weather, probably crack... and then you're leaking near-frozen water into your basement as the thaw cycle starts.
On the other hand, it's not hard to bring water indoors to cook ... you just break off a chunk and carry it inside.

If you're going to do that much work underground, with that much risk of costly leaks, a drilled well does start to look reasonable. 
The water way down there stays liquid year-round, and a well casing and pump provides access to near-infinite water.  Well housings are below ground or insulated (and sometimes heated); pipes are buried below frost depth, which can be 4-5 feet in some areas.  Protecting those pipes within the building can be a challenge too, especially if you go on vacations in winter.
The most common outdoor farm water fitting in the northern US are "frost-free" hydrants, which have a pinhole below ground at a below-frost depth, that drains the pipe when the handle is turned off, so the upper parts don't freeze solid and bust the pipes.

It doesn't take much to set back your plumbing in expensive and frustrating ways.
A few of my neighbors still use an outdoor 'tap' or pump to a cistern in the house, rather than deal with digging in plumbing and freeze-protecting it.

Solar water heaters are another problem for freeze protection.  Some use less-freezable liquids like ethylene glycol or oil as a heat-exchange medium, but even so, most have a thermostat-controlled "drainback" system that allows the liquid to drain to a protected tank (underground or insulated)

Dealing with frozen water is a reality in much of the US and Europe.  Even the sunny inland areas can get extreme cold at night, and in season. 
So if you were wondering why more people here don't collect rainwater, or for that matter make solar water heaters and greywater systems, this is one big part of the design problem. 
A solution that's almost universally workable in Australia, turns out to need a lot of TLC to work even halfway effectively in the northern and western USA.



Thank you for this. Up here we need to bury our pipes 8 feet down.... and even then some winters the frost gets down there. We hit -40 degrees numerous times a winter.

I am torn between going the well route and the rainwater route at this point. In my opinion, plastic cisterns aren't really an option and neither are metal. It has to be concrete to bury it deep enough. But then that's using concrete. On the other hand there's running a well pump off grid. That isn't great either and if the pump ever breaks there's nothing to drink. At least with a cistern I could pop the cap and dunk in a bucket.

In some ways it would be so easy to live where it's warm... but I was born here and I like winter.
 
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: wanderer
48
bike fungi tiny house
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I really like Brad Lancaster's rainwater + grey water setup:
 
pollinator
Posts: 328
Location: SF Bay Area
38
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Casie - they are pumping treated greywater back into the aquifers in some areas of Southern California, they just don't talk about it much because greywater freaks out much of the general population.

Living in California, I agree that living somewhere with harsh winters does seem crazy to most of us.

Looks like I will be moving to Southern Oregon, and I will include rainwater collection into my new system.
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Erica for filling the gaps of my knowledge.

Tanks built during a house build in the basement will not cause any problems with the foundations.
The design and building techniques eliminate any.

I can understand gutters being overloaded and broken off.
Could swing down gutters be installed. They would be swung down in winter so they don't collect rain nor snow.
And be pushed / rolled back up when the snow has passed?
Swing down gutters are used sometimes as a method of cleaning leaves out, easily.

For what length of time is the freezing condition around, could you store enough rainwater to tide you over the snow period?
 
Ash Dalton
Posts: 8
Location: Perth, Australia (temperate coastal)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just saw this and thought others might find it useful too: https://www.supadiverta.com.au/



Thoughts?
 
John C Daley
Posts: 571
Location: Bendigo , Australia
19
dog homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Look under Rain Harvesting, that may open your world to stuff
 
Posts: 60
Location: Durham, NC
homestead urban woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is a great topic!  Has anyone from the southeast US done this? I'm planning a concrete dome house and I could build this into the design if it turns out to be a good idea.
 
The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts -Marcus Aurelius ... think about this tiny ad:
It's like binging on 7 seasons of your favorite netflix permaculture show
http://permaculture-design-course.com/
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!