Collecting Rainwater, Rainwater systems

Collecting Rainwater instead of a Well or City Water

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(In the photo, my west 1550-gallon collection and 2,100-gallon use tank.) I don't think most people have any idea how much rain water is shed by their roof, I know I didn't. In short, .62 gallons per square foot of roof per inch of rain; that is 303-gallons a year per square foot of roof where I live. Managing the system isn't all that complicated either. I am now going into my sixth year of living off the rain, and it is great!!

Tidbit: Most people think that you need multiple pumps. INCORRECT, you can run multiple tanks and other lines from a single pump. My entire system works on a single 1/2-horse shallow well pump.

I was always curious as to how effective rain water collection could be especially the last time I had to repair my well pipes at a cost of $1200. Then when I moved to my new property I didn't have the money to drill a well, and I decided to put in a rain system since it is far cheaper than drilling a well. I spent $400 on my gutter system, and another $375 on my first 1550-gallon water tank which collected off of one 1250-square foot side of the roof. I had an old 1/2-horse shallow well pump someone had given me that I had packed around for twenty years which I put to good use on the system.

In talking to people about the system, I found it interesting how many people have no idea where their water comes from, and they have no knowledge about rainfall nor its potential. Some people to whom I have mentioned that I was collecting rain water, asked how I deal with the acid. Cripes, it has been so long since I had heard the acid rain crap that I had forgot about it. Well here is the answer... It's so much of a lessor concern than what's in well water and city water that I just don't even concern myself with it. 

Don't forget about all the scams either, when those lines start (like acid rain), there is always someone who is going to make a lot of money on it. For example... In the '70's it was how we were going to deal with the next ice age.  Then came acid rain.  Then in the '90's came the y2k scare, remember that one and how many millions got spent on it?  Then came the global warming scare which when winters turned cold, they changed to 'climate change'. There is always someway that someone is going to try to scam you, and the government don't care one bit about the scam. 

Back to the water, how about some pros and cons... yeah, lets cut to the chase so-to-speak... Let's begin with some Pros:

  • Free water - The water is FREE; no well or water softener to maintain.
  • Soft water - The water is soft, and I mean really soft. It does not contain any of the hard minerals found in well water like Iron, Sulfur, and numerous other minerals and things that make well water hard.
  • Low soap use - Because the water is so soft, it takes very little soap to do your laundry, dishes, and to take a shower.
  • Small pump - You don't need any deep well equipment, all you need is a single shallow well pump no matter how many collection and storage tanks you have.
  • Clean water - It's not polluted by fertilizer and other chemical runoffs (it is derived from evaporation and precipitation).
  • Purified - Since before it falls back to the earth after in hangs out in a cloud for numerous days where the sun and consequently ultraviolet light has nearly purified it. I say nearly because each droplet of water is formed on a tiny paricle of dust.

Okay, so you haven't bought it yet and you want some Cons...

  • Management - You have to manage the system, therefore it is not for the the lazy; it is not an install it and forget it until it breaks system like a well or city water. I tend to mine in the way of treating and transfer every 7-days.
  • Treating - You do have to minimally treat the water to prevent fungus and bacterial growth.
  • Installation - The initial installation is a little more complicated than a well or city water since you are using storage tanks.
  • Multiple Tanks - You may find it necessary to have more than one tank which means that you have to manage the system a little more.
  • Large Tanks - Storage tanks need to be large, and they are ugly unless you bury them which you can do.
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(In the photo, debris ejectors that I made to test by epoxying the screens in place, they worked so good, I am still using them today, five years later.) Okay, here is the skinny... You will need at least one storage tank of adequate volume to do whatever it is that you want to do. Keep in mind that you will have the capacity to collect a lot of water, even with a small roof. Any given roof sheds .62, yes, that is more than one half gallon of water for each square foot of roof per one inch of rain. That is a lot of water! Where I live, and with my 3,483-square feet of barn roof, I could collect 103,624-gallons of water each year.  That's an average of 8,635-gallons per month; enough for two average families of four who don't make any effort to conserve water. Of course there are wetter seasons, and drier seasons storage to get through those various conditions is necessary. I have learned that if I only utilize the water for normal events, not the farm, 2,000-gallons storage is adequate barring any leaks. At least two tanks will be necessary so that there is always a backup supply in case of a leak or extended dry period. I have four tanks, two collection, and two storage totaling 5,800-gallons. This capacity far exceeds my needs even though I use it for watering my livestock and watering my gardens.

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(In the photo, the water valves I started with and still use today.) Don't ever think that a 55-gallon barrel will collect enough rain to do much more than water a plant or two, it won't. To be of any use you will need at least two 1,000-gallon tanks as a minimum though I started with one 1,550-gallon tank which sufficed until I got my second. A third is necessary if you want really clean and pure water. I collect in two 1,550-gallon tanks, one on each eave; and treat and use out of the third 2,100-gallon tank. You will need to know how much annual rain you get where you live, and plan your tank size accordingly. Of course another part is your willingness to reasonably conserve water. We are not stingy with water, but we don't waste it.

You must be attentive to water leaks and repair them promptly; a single lightly dripping faucet can leak 400-gallons overnight. The biggest consumers of water are:

  • Leaks - Easy to keep repaired, but high water consumption when they develop, a reason for the need of a back-up tank (more than one tank). One faucet drip can exceed 400-gallons in 12-hours.
  • Garden or lawn watering consumes enormous amounts of water especially when done during daylight hours since the majority is instantly evaporated. One sprinkler can use 1500-gallons in less than 12 hours.
  • Farming - If you will use your water as the source for your animals, you need to know what they need and ensure they get theirs before you get yours:
    • Cattle: 12-gallons per day per head
    • Horses: 8-gallons per day each, less when on grass as opposed to hay
    • Pigs: 5-gallons per day each
    • Chickens: .07-gallons per day each
  • Washing clothes wastes a tremendous amount of water, especially the newer fancy washing machines that take nearly an hour to wash. The older twenty minute washers aren't as bad, but still use a lot of water.
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(In the photo, my water filter system, I use a 10, 5, and 1 micron filter.) Watering lawns on rainwater is not realistic, it takes to much. Watering gardens works just fine if it is done at night on a timer. We have two gardens totalling 800-square feet which more than adequately supply our needs and that of many of our friends. I have 5-lawn sprinklers on a timer which water these gardens in their entirety for 30-minutes every night at midnight. My gardens thrive, and my water consumption is minimal. Watering at night wastes no water as it all soaks into the ground where the plants can use it. Watering during daylight wastes the majority of the water since most of it evaporates.

The solution to the clothes washing is simply not to waste the cycles; wash only full loads, and not on a dirtier cycle than is really needed. Stay with the cheaper washing machines, they are really better in a lot of ways; they last longer, use less water, and are much cheaper to fix when they break.

I have researched significantly the average water usage by American's, and I can hardly believe that the average family wastes so much water! I have come to the conclusion with reasonable reliability that the average per person usage rate is 69.3-gallons per day. That is for every man, woman and child.  that means that a family of four will use 207-gallons per day; that is 101,178-gallons per year; incredible waste. The same studies indicate that 42% of water usage was for indoor, while the remaining 58% was outdoor usage. Most likely lawn watering and car washing. With that kind of waste, city water should cost exponentially; make the people wasting it, really pay for their waste, while rewarding those who conserve. END