Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rainwater: making the connection

So, when we last left off the saga of the rainwater harvest garden, I had the two water tanks in place, and the big one neatly on its pad. There was still plenty of work to be done, even so. Since they were predicting the first thunderstorm of the season for Sunday night, I figured I needed to get cracking on it. So on Sunday afternoon I took some time off from writing and course prep to do a little construction.

First I set the little tank up on pavers, partly to make it easier to work the valve for the hose, but mainly because I like the look of varied heights between the two tanks.

Next, to cut the holes in the tank for the overflow pipes, I borrowed a knockout cutter from my neighbor, Tom, who is the only person I know who owns more tools than I do. Here is Tom:

He and his wife Mandy are two of our favorite neighbors.

And here is me using the tool after a helpful tutorial from Tom:

I attached two overflow pipes. The first is one from the small tank, into which the water from the gutter flows, to the larger tank. When the small tank fills, it then overflows into the larger one.

You can see that pipe in this photo, and you can see the neat hole for the second pipe as well:

I offset the holes slightly, with the pipe that flows from the small tank into the larger one a little higher. That way when the big tank fills up, it will start to overflow into the garden instead of backing up into the pipe from the little tank.

The pipes attach by slipping a threaded end through the hole into the tank, and screwing in a thingy against a gasket. Here is a view illustrating that:

Slick. I found these flexible pipes in the plumbing/electrical section of Big Box Hardware. I have no idea what they are really used for.

Here is a view of the tanks with all the pipes in place, looking fairly unobtrusive:

And another view, this one showing the pavers under the little tank:

If I want to, I can attach a hose to the second overflow pipe and direct water further out into the yard during the heaviest rains.

I also took this opportunity to attach a shut-off on the hose that I'll use to distribute the water, as well as a shut-off valve on the big tank (the small tank already had one):

I still needed to make a cover for the big tank, but my break from "real" work had been long enough. The finishing-up will have to take place this weekend. So I left it at that and went on about my business. Later that night the rains came--a good 3/4 of an inch--and water poured off the roof.

After a short period of time, I ran outside to see if the overflow pipes were working:

Mind you, wind is howling, thunder and lightning are crashing all around me, and rain is pouring from the heavens as I take this picture. What I won't do for the blog!

The next morning, I saw this beautiful site:

It is filled right up to the big tank's overflow pipe, so it must have done its job and directed the excess water out into the yard when the tank topped out.

With these two tanks and the two more 75 gallon ones I have on the other side of the house, I collected 300 gallons in one moderate thunderstorm.

Think of all the water I didn't collect--water that rolled down that roof and got away!

I need more tanks. I am practically awash in greediness for them as I write this.


  1. You make me think how much water I lose with all the rain we have here in the NW. I collect some of it but certainly not enough. Thanks for remindidng, it looks like I have a new project!

  2. Oh, Susan I'm so glad that this is coming together so beautifully for you! It'll be wonderful to watch you enjoy the rainwater harvest garden this spring and summer.

  3. Susan, Fantastic and it clearly is successful! If I could have my dream rainwater collection system there would be a cistern for storage. We get our rains all at once and having a cistern to store it until needed would be wonderful! Thanks for the tutorial...gail

  4. What a lovely sight indeed. These both look good and will sure save water this summer. I need to get mine up and running. You did such a good job on yours!

  5. Hi Susan, you are so industrious and a bit cavalier with photo snapping during thunder and lightning! Do be careful, although we appreciate seeing how your set up worked so well. I got a rain barrel for Christmas and it is all set up too, but of course it fills up after one rain. I need more! Yes, greed is alive and well here too. :-)

  6. Tatyana--I'll bet you do get the rain up there in the NW. You might need several tanks for all of it!

    Jodi--I think I will get as much pleasure collecting the rainwater as distributing it.

    Gail--I've wanted a cistern for a long time, too. Those old folks knew what they were doing out here back when every farm had one.

    Tina--hope you can get yours up and running this year. What fun!

    Frances--I think rainbarrels end up being like a piece of chocolate. One is never enough!

  7. Well done, Susan! I've watched short videos on how to set up this sort of collection system -- you've done a great job. :)

  8. I have really liked the updates on the rainwater station. I liked the renovation from the start, you make it seem so easy!

  9. Wow, I'm really impressed with your setup. Beautiful and functional. Will you get enough rain during summer to fill it up? We don't get summer rain, what I need is a fog collection system (I think there is such a thing).

  10. Now I've got the itch. I've been thinking about rain barrels for such a long time. Why haven't I gotten one? Or more than one? This is just the impetus I needed. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Lucky you to live in a place where such things are legal. Here in the Water Litigation Center of the Universe, we are not supposed to do such things. (The little water that falls on us "belongs" to other cities and states, so don't dare to touch it! Ridiculous is the kindest word I can think of....) Luckily we also live in a place where some people quietly collect and distribute their roof water, anyway. ;-)

  12. This is so stinkin' cool! This is one of my favorite blog projects right now...keep us posted on the progress. It is fashionably functionable (is that a word?!?!) - I absolutely love your project.

  13. Nancy--thanks!

    Daisy--you should try your own set-up. I'll bet they've got something going at Sibley,too.

    Michelle--it's full to capacity now. The real question is whether I will use faster than I can re-fill it...

    Jean--go for it! It's fun and enviro-friendly.

    Sherrie--I am speechless. Stunned. Can't believe the stupidity of the legislators...okay, I can, too, believe legislators can be stupid...You have my sympathies. :-(

    AG&HG--thanks. You should try making your own--it's a blast.

  14. Actually, you can blame Kansas and excessive growth on Colorado's Front Range. Kansas sued Colorado because not enough river water was getting across the state line, and they won. If you don't own a water right, you're out of luck. No "free" water allowed. Insane, really, but the result of too many straws in the stream.

  15. Sherrie--I'm always telling my students to not be fooled by the apparent "plenty" of turning on a tap. Water is the single biggest enviro issue we have west of the 100th meridian...

  16. That is a very cool water collection system!

  17. I'm thrilled for you that your project turned out so well! I'd love to have a rain barrel. Your system tops any I've seen so far!

  18. I love it. So cool that you "harvested" all that water from just one rainstorm! And that you risked electrocution to photo it in action. :) Also appreciate that, despite your handiness, you still have to use the word "thingy" in reference to unknown hardware once in a blue moon. Yes to the guest blog swap, let's keep that idea percolating. Or we don't have to, just so curious to see what your dad got up to!

  19. Susan, I love the tanks. They look so fresh and will give you much more water throughout the hot summer. Here's what I always wonder, what do we do with the mosquitoes we get summertime? I know you can use the mosquito dunks, but I've heard they don't work that well. Is there a type of screening you can use?~~Dee

  20. Susan--Thanks!

    Robin--you should get one. Even if you don't use it for the garden, house plants really thrive on rainwater.

    Karen--I believe "thingy" is an official hardware term. ;-)

    Dee--The short answer is a screen, but check back in a couple of days. I'll cover mosquitoes when I do a post on making the cover for the tank.

  21. Great set up Susan and a fantastic result so quickly. You must be dead chuffed as we say over here ;)

    You've helped me decide on a birthday present for next month - the biggest tank I can find :)

  22. I can just see you with a garden covered with water tanks (lol).

  23. Found via Greenwalks. You collect an incredible amount of water with a relatively straightforward system that you have illustrated (photographed) very well. Thank you!

  24. Magnificent!

    I will say though, what you need are bigger tanks, not more tanks. Those trough tanks do look great, but you'll empty one of those in a single day. Find a suitable out of the way spot and put the biggest, tallest tank you can fit in. I ended up with 2 1200 gallon tanks as that was the largest I could fit, even so I ran out of water mid summer.

    Also, if your water is for the garden, not for drinking, perhaps you would like to keep fish in it. They are easy to keep, and their wastes make great water-on fertilizer. The right fish will also control mosquitoes.

    I keep fish for eating in my open topped tank. (It also means I can't empty that tank all the way)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.