My water collection system: Solution based problem
Understandably, the PP community has focused on vaccines over the last couple months but I briefly wanted to share my solution to a different problem: Water.
My water bill is my highest annual bill and after last year’s moderate-severe drought conditions in my area, I needed to generate a solution for watering my garden. So I thought I’d share what my wife and I worked on over the last few days- a water collection system. There are a few different ways to accomplish this, but after discussion and compromise-this is what we came up with.
– Two 325 gal IBC totes with metal cages for $10 each
– We drained and partially filled totes with some dish soap/water and tumbled them throughout the backyard to cleanse the interior
– I then filled the totes with about 25 gallons of water and let them set for a few days to ensure there was no perforation in the tote
– We painted the metal cages with metal tractor paint for looks
– To prevent algae growth we wrapped each tote (exactly like a Christmas present) with 6mm thick black poly and black gorilla tape. We opted not to paint the totes
– We dug a hole about 2/3 the depth of one tote
– We then wrapped the outside of the metal cage with 3x thick poly and zip tied the corners. We did this to prevent dirt or small/sharp rocks from getting wedged against the tote as things shift and move around.
– We then dropped her in the hole (the tote not my wife) and attached a flexible downspout into the top of the 4″PVC with a single screw to help keep it in place against strong winds and heavy downpours
– We have two filters in place. One in the gutter itself and then at the beginning of the flexible tubing.
– The pictured opening of the 4″ PVC is where the overflow will be. I have not completed it yet. 4″ PVC will come flush with the edge of the metal cage, turn down towards the rock and then out towards the grass with a screened cover for mosquito protection.
– The second tote is our holding tote… as pictured below. After using it a couple times I realized I need to add a second layer of cinder blocks for increased water pressure.
– I use a 1/2HP transfer pump to extract water from the collection tote to the holding tote. 325 gals takes about 10-15 minutes
– When both tanks are full (~650 gals) I simply unscrew the flexible spout, cap the PVC so bugs don’t get in and lay the flexible spout so water runs away from house.
– The flower pots are on the corners to keep my 3 kids from running into it and damaging the system or themselves (more likely themselves).
– Ignore the white rope… I seeded some white dutch clover/grass mix and it is a kid-deterrent.
– I can’t explain the joy of having fresh clean water at your disposal for your vegetable garden
With water comes new life.
That is awesome!
Belize is one of those places that has a “wet” season and a “dry” season.
Between those are fairly short spans of time, what you might call “shoulder” seasons. The “wet” season here coincides roughly with the hurricane season, but it can remain remarkably wet well into December and occasionally half of January. Then, it’s absolutely bone-dry until (usually) late May to mid-June.
When we had our house built, we put gutters all around the roof and led them to a 4 inch PVC pipe that drained into a 600 gallon unlined concrete cistern. It came “ready-made” as a pre-cast septic tank, to save labor cost, mainly. We installed a pressure pump along with 3 outdoor spigots to allow us to do things like water the plants, wash the car, pressure-wash the building, and so on.
We also designed our landscaping along the lines of “Dry landscaping” with only a small area of actual “lawn”. We planted trees to provide shade, to reduce moisture loss during the heat of the day. We found that white marble-chips were locally available, and used an inch or so of that over the “Desert” part of our lot.
That really helps, because it reflects the sunlight and helps hold water in the soil, and it means we don’t have to trek through mud all through the wet season.
I quickly found out that 600 gallons was woefully inadequate.
It would run out of water only two months into the dry season.
Later I had an outbuilding about 16 by 24 feet constructed, and under it (rather than a concrete slab) we made a concrete cistern that would hold about 60″ of water before it would drain to its overflow tubes.
Later, we came to find out that there are some durable plastic liners that can actually go under an existing house (if one can do the excavation work without bringing down the house, of course). I wish I had known that when our house had just started construction. It’s really too late for us to do that now.
Alas, that’s how things go sometimes. Hindsight is always great, but not very useful.
So between the tiny cistern and the one under the outbuilding, we have a capacity of about 12,000 gallons. That’s enough to last quite a while. We don’t have a purification system for it, but it’s fine for bathing, laundry, etc. if our “community water” failed us for some reason (which it actually has, a few times over a decade).
I’d be happy to run it through our Big Berkey and drink it all day long.
We are considering having the Mennonites come out and drill us a well, which would allow us to completely stand on our own, water-wise. The only issue would be that if it were for whole-house use, a “serious” purification system would have to be installed and maintained. That’s really the only thing holding me back.
Whole-house Reverse Osmosis systems with UV, multiple filtration, and so on are definitely not maintenance-free. Parts are notoriously hard to get quickly here.
So, I am hesitating before taking that plunge.
I’m waiting for one of the neighbors try it, and see how it goes for them.
Hopefully someone else’s mistakes can save me some money and grief. 🙂
The Maya came up with their own ingenious ways to get through the dry season.
Here’s a recent local article about what archeologists have been finding out.
What we want to do is make drinkable water, but without destroying the ecosystem or impacting the community system by a private well of our own.
That’s kind of a tall order.
As for other things along these lines, I sure would like to find out about
truly affordable desalinization systems. That would make a huge difference, not just here but globally as well.
I’ll be following closely what I read from other Peak Prosperity members.
Great post, SYF! Living in the high desert of Western Nevada, water is my #1 worry. It’s our Achilles heel, if you will.
We have our well pump on a propane generator and could run that for a couple of days continuously or a few weeks on and off if need be. I was able to obtain four 55 gallon food grade barrels a while back and the plan is to fill them first if/when the need arises in a disaster. But in a true case of TSHTF, that will be woefully inadequate. I’d feel much more comfortable with your setup, and I’d love to have what Chuck has. You all have inspired me to give this some more thought. I hope others will chime in here too with more ideas.
Thanks TW. I’m heading PP/CM advice and really trying to focus on what I can control and improve on within the 8 forms of capital to become more resilient. A more solution orientated focus. Water was never an issue over the last few years here in SE South Dakota. It was either too wet or just right. But water is like ammunition or canning lids – you don’t realize you need more until you can’t get it
Here in Australia, most rural houses have at least a 50,000L rainwater tank (a little under 12,000 gallons), even in pretty wet areas where it rains every week or so. That allows for a 20,000L bushfire fighting reserve and the rest of the water is used for gardens, indoors and drinking. Most people drink straight out of the tank, minimal or no filtering, let alone treatment, but we don’t have much air pollution in those areas. Personally, I do like a strong tank guard over the inlet to keep out the corpses. In somewhat drier areas with good but variable rainfall or for a bigger fire fighting reserve, people generally install concrete 100,000 to 300,000L tanks. Arid areas people mostly have bores, of course, but the water from those is normally pretty awful. Even in cities, for good or ill, green regulations now require fairly good size poly tanks on all new build houses or significant extensions.
It’s interesting to compare the situation with the US, where I understand in some states you aren’t entitled to capture any of the water that falls on your house or property. That seems insane to me, in the short term maybe you are boosting stream flows in low rain years, but long term it discourages restoration of upstream catchment areas which would mitigate flooding and slowly release the excess water during dry years. Not to mention massively decreasing general resilience in what are often drier states. But hey, different systems for different folks.