Rainwater recovery systems??

Discussion in 'Water Filtering & Storage' started by Chieftain, May 30, 2009.

  1. Chieftain

    Chieftain Citizen, At Large

    Rather than reinvent the wheel, I thought I'd see who already had the best ideas on this subject linked.

    I'm living in the Pacific Northwest, and we get a substantial amount of rainfall here every year. Like many areas nationwide, untreated stormwater runoff has become a major issue, and we are billed for stormwater treatment as a percentage of our water bill. It adds up significantly when we have to resort to using our sprinklers, which are currently fed with City water.

    I am ready to do a small rainwater recovery demonstration project here, that initially will provide a water supply for the drip irrigation system that waters our kitchen garden. I want it to be 55 gallon plastic barrel based, and I intend to install a new length of gutter on the back roof of my shop to catch rainwater and divert it into the barrel.

    I'm looking for resources that show a number of things:

    ** Best way to route the gutters into the top of the barrel.

    ** Best leakproof method for tapping the bottom of a plastic barrel

    ** Best method for connecting additional (expansion) barrels

    ** Best pre-filtering method

    ** Projects that show how to re-pipe your house in an emergency in order to utilize captured rainwater

    ** Above ground, barrel based cistern projects

    ** Methods of freeze prevention

    Of course, the object is to build a small project that identifies the considerations for eventually assembling a larger system that would capture and recycle all of the rainwater from my roof. If we can completely disconnect our downspouts from the Storm Sewers here, the savings on our waterbill would more than pay for the supplies we would need for the system.

    Barrels are easy to find here, and I have already identified several sources for good condition, clean, used plastic barrels. I've been plumbing with PVC for decades and I have no problem plumbing this. I realize that many folks object to the use of plastic barrels, but in this application I don't.

    Now it's a matter of finding the best design that will also be flexible enough to be converted to an emergency drinking water supply should things ever go really wrong.
  2. NaeKid

    NaeKid YourAdministrator, eh?

    Sorry - I just realized that no-one else has replied.

    From the research I have done on the subject, it looks like the plastic rain barrels with a "closed" top and only a breather works best. The breather could be similar to what is used on 4x4 vehicles as a diff-breather - it allows pressure to equalize as the water is used or put back into the barrels.

    For a cascade system - you will need to decide if you want all the barrels to have the same amount of water equally or if you want the barrels to be independant of each other.

    In the case of independant, then each barrel will need to be fitted with a spigot at the lowest point and some form of tubing attached to bring the water to where you need it to drain. Each barrel would also have a tube near the top that will allow the water to flow from the first barrel to the second (all connecting tubes will be within 1" of the top).

    What that means is that the second barrel will not start to fill until the first barrel is fully topped up. You will be able to drain any barrel at any time without impacting any of the other barrels.

    The second method is to join all the barrels at the bottom with a tree-pipe. Basically, you will have all the barrels lined up and all would be joined at the bottom and there would be a single spigot on that tree-pipe (middle, left, right - doesn't matter where) and you will drain all the barrels equally when the valve is opened.

    There is a good side and bad side to both of these.

    Cascade: Cost more to setup initially, but, there is redundency built into the plan. Also, you can expand or change your setup quickly without loosing all the water in the whole system.

    ExpandedTank: Cost very little to setup compared to a cascade system, but, if there are any leaks, you loose all the water in one spill. It will take more "playing" to expand the system as you will need to drain all the tanks prior to adding in more.

    If I would make a recommendation, use a cascade system w/ flexible connecting hoses (chopped-up garden hoses) and the bottom drains could be made from hard PVC pipe / fittings / etc. Seal up all the lids of the barrels, place a simple breather valve in so that bugs do not use the water as a home and you would have a nice setup that is easily expandable as required.

  3. Drumrunner

    Drumrunner Drumrunner


    Perhaps this may be useful, a pdf file on my site
    http://www.drum-runners.com/Water - Rainwater Harvesting.pdf
  4. 5stitch

    5stitch New Member


    Thorough and simple. Good source of water. Would tend to want to keep it on the most shady side of the house for the summer, but sunny side on winter. Maybe there's room along the side of a wide garage.
  5. CulexPipiens

    CulexPipiens Still waiting for the zombies.

    We got a couple of barrels that came already tapped with a spigot at the bottom and an open top with a mesh screen. We keep them elevated with some construction blocks to make the gravity usage easier.

    Coming off the gutters on the house I use a flexible gutter to direct the flow into the barrel through the screen. For outdoor/grey water uses it has been fine for us for years now. I would not use these for drinking water, however, as almost every year at least one mouse somehow gets in and drowns. We have never figured out how but usually see a corpse in the bottom in the fall when draining them out for winterization.

    Anything above grade should just work while below grade applications will need a pump to utilize the contents.
  6. fat_frog

    fat_frog Member

    ...What exactly do you do for "winterization"?

    I'm thinking about setting up those barrels at home as well, and I was reading through old threads....and have been wondering about what people who have those "plastic" barrels above the ground and who live in the area where the temp goes below freezing in winter are doing with their barrels (and water, of course) in winter.

    I'd like to be able to have some extra water available when the power goes out for days in the winter (we use well water) when bad storms come, but I wasn't sure what to do...not to let the water in the barrel freeze.
  7. kilagal

    kilagal Well-Known Member

    We drain our rain barrels in the winter. We do use them all summer. And have even gotten a couple of the big 250 gallon square ones with the metal pipes around them. We got them from a place that makes herbal medicine. They had food grade glycerine in them before we got them. We have put spikets on all of our barrels so that we can put a garden hose on them. We also have a small electric portable pump that we use to drain them while using them. It takes about 10 minutes to use the pump and the tiny sprinklers to drain one 55 gallon barrel. We have several of the 55 gallon barrels as well as the bigger ones. We used JBWeld to hold the spikots on that as well as 2 self tapping screws. This was our third summer with some of the barrels.
  8. gypsysue

    gypsysue The wanderer

    You're set up almost exactly like we are, Kilagal. We even have a pump like you describe, to use while watering the garden or transferring water to the stock tanks in the garden that I use for spot watering. We have rain gutters and barrels on our outbuildings as well as the cabin. The barrels by the cabin automatically siphon into a 400-gallon stock tank behind the house, from which they're pumped to the garden.

    We dump the barrels in early November and set them upside down, and a piece of metal roofing is placed under the downspout at a 45 degree angle funnel water (mostly snowmelt at that point) away from the house. Sometime in late March or early April we start collecting rainwater again. In the winter we use snowmelt for laundry, dishes, and showers. It takes a LOT of snow out here to get much water, as kilagal surely knows! :D
  9. Nadja

    Nadja Well-Known Member

    I connect my barrels together with pvc pipe and silicone. You just drill a hole near the bottom , just slightly smaller then the pvc pipe (3/4") and screw threaded pvc pipe into it with a little bit of silicone. Same on the next barrel, and then a simple collar to connect them. They will all fill at the same level. Then you need only one spigot to drain or use all of them at the same time.
  10. kilagal

    kilagal Well-Known Member

    We have several and like Gypsysue we even have them on the barn on both sides of it. I use the ones on the one side of the barn for critter water in the summer. And the other side of the barn waters the fruit trees. The house rainwater then does the raised beds in the back yard. And the upper garden well we kind of cheated. We have an old hot tub that we have water in from the gutters off the shed. We had ran out of barrels at the time and found the hot tub at the green cans (dump). We did keep gold fish in it in the summer though because of mosquitoes.
    But here is a big caution::::::::: And please learn from our mistake. We went to a farm auction last spring. We had wanted to get some more of the 250 gallon tanks and there was one there. They said it had only had water in it. It didn't smell off. And there was nothing in it. We filled it with rainwater and watered the garden. Now the garden was already up and growing well when we did this. It killed our garden.........so whatever had been in that tank was some pretty bad stuff considering that we had 250 gallons of water in the tank to water with. So always use caution in buying tanks that are used. It was to late in the year for us to replant this year when it happened. We have a small growing season here. So I have had to buy potatoes , squash and stuff that you take for granted of getting from the garden. Not a good thing to happen. So please take caution on used tankssssssssss.
  11. cqp33

    cqp33 Supporting Member

    Just curious here but has anyone though of putting them (barrels, totes, cisterns) in something like a root cellar? I am just looking to be able to store some water through the winter without the worry of it freezing. What do you guys here think of this idea?
    I am getting four 285 gallon totes on metal pallets and am going to connect them together. I am going to get a 12VDC pump, maybe 2 not sure yet because i am looking at pushing water 150 feet horizontal and about 30 feet vertically (head) so that would be a lot for most 12VDC pumps, most i have seen are rated for a 40' head but adding the distance might push it to much. looking at running the pump off of a solar panel/12 Volt deep cycle battery. I am going to set up one of the totes on a mound i am building up above my garden/raised beds, this will have a float switch in it that activates the pump. then i can use gravity to water my raised beds/fruit trees through soaker hoses.
    I will have to drain the tote by the garden to winterize it, also the line that i feed water to that tote with so i don't damage the pump and keeping the three totes in the root cellar to keep them from freezing.