Rain Water Catchment

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From: Y2K, ` la Carte by Dancr near Monterey, California

This thread is categorized under Water & Water Storage. It has been redirected from the discussion forum at Something New at Walmart This Weekend?

I don't live in Texas, but I found this book to be a very good (free, I think), resource: Texas Guide to Rainwater Harvesting, by Texas Water Development Board in Cooperation with the Center Maximum Potential Building Systems (1997). It is available at 8604 FM 969, Austin, TX 78724 or (512) 928-4786.

The main thing I noticed about your roof catchment plan is that you may be able to get very good drinking water if your shingles are not made from asbestos, and you include what's known as a "roof washer." What you need to do is provide some method to ensure that the first 10 gallons or so from each downspout at each rainfall episode does not end up in your catchment containers.

There are ways to do this that don't require you to be humanly present at the beginning of the rainfall. One fairly simple method, which probably wouldn't much affect the appearance of your home is to insert an additional downspout just after your current one, which will be the one leading into the collection container. The current downspout can be blocked off at the bottom, with a way to open it back up after each rainfall for clean out. The old downspout will thus collect the first 10-gallons or so, and once it is full, the gutter water automatically flows over to the catchment spout.

The other thing I would recommend, and someone else touched on this, is that it will be important to purchase a heavy-duty tarpolin. The $5.00 ones fall apart if you sneeze on them. Seriously consider something more in the $25.00 range. If you're going to attach the high end to your house, don't forget hooks.

Using a rain catchment system in my location is less worthwhile than it would be in Texas, because we typically have seven straight months without any rain at all, each year. I only have the ability to store only about 2,300 gallons at this point. That works out to only 3 gallons per person per day, which is really cutting it close, considering I want to do some sprout irrigation!

I'm also hoping to stash enough solar panels (and other paraphernalia such as an inverter to A/C electricity) to be used to bargain with nearby well owners who will need them to power their wells. I'm thinking we could rent them out for water rights. But, of course, hauling the water would be a pain.

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage.neener.autospammers--regrets.greenspun), August 30, 1999


I'll get my DGI husband to do the water hauling };->

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage.neener.autospammers--regrets.greenspun), August 30, 1999.

From: Y2K, ` la Carte by Dancr near Monterey, California

I purchased six wine barrels (each of which holds approx. 50 gal). These are available around here used for only $30. New ones cost in excess of $350 each! They work just fine for this purpose, and are more easily hidden than new ones (especially plastic ones). I may paint some to match my house and park them behind big bushes. I'm already working on getting architectural approval for a few from my neighborhood association on the pretext of mosquito abatement. Six is the most that I can store in my garage for now. I may get more later on, if I manage to clear out more junk or consolidate more of what I have (or move it offsite). If I come into some more money, I think I'll rent a storage locker and fill it with some more barrels. I think these would not initially be recognized as something that anyone would wish to steal. If Y2K amounts to only a BITR, I would continue to rent the locker and hold on to those barrels for possible future water emergencies.

These six wine barrels, along with bathtubs and the community swimming pool, will serve the bare minimal drinking, cooking and sanitation needs (no showers), of about ten families through our annual seven-month summer drought. This is only about 1/10th of what the neighborhood needs. If difficulties extend beyond this timeframe, we could double our catchment in subsequent years (since 2000-01-01 is mid rainy season), but we would need to greatly improve our storage capacity.

Hopefully, we can make up the rest by collecting from our seasonal creek (which is actually more like a drainage ditch, only huge), and trading with a ranch across the street for water from their five acre lake. We may also be able to score some more barrels, especially if any neighbors GI before the end of the year, and I happen to hear about it. We might be able to make use of a 50,000 water holding tank belonging to a private water company which now serves a few thousand homes in this general region. That tank is 600 feet above the location of 100 of our 140 homes, on a hill at one corner of our property. Hauling water up to this location would be a huge chore. We would have to arrange things so that nobody could draw from that tank by merely turning on a faucet. Right now, I'm thinking that that tank should be filled and then held in permanent reserve for fire emergencies.

The more neighbors I have who are able to harvest rain, the more able I will be to hang on to the water that I harvest myself. Rather than plunking a few barrels down on each side of my own home, my plan is to offer five of the six barrels that I have to selected homes spaced evenly throughout the neighborhood, favoring locations where they can be hidden behind fences or other visual obstructions. But I won't reveal that I have any barrels right away. First, as soon as anyone begins asking for any y2K help or advice, I will mention where I saw some barrels, and recommend that they go and get as many of them as they can. I'll even give them some cash to go get them. If they use my cash, though, the barrels would belong to me. I will be the one who will have to make the hard decisions about how much we will deprive ourselves today in order to have something saved for the dry months. Each of my barrel holders would be responsible for keeping records as to how much water is collected during each rain event, and how it is distributed. (Note to self: stock up on record books.)

Determining what is equitable is a bit tricky. Unmeasured amounts of water should be distributed in the event that a fire goes out of control. Rations should be very generous for those suffering from wounds or illness, and for pregnant women or lactating mothers. Children should receive proportionately less water by body weight, but more consistently, since they're not responsible for their parents' having failed to plan for them. We might also provide water for certain animals, if they could be useful down the road. We'd want to be paid for that in some manner, though, such as being granted partial ownership of the animals. It will be hard to know at what point we would let a human go thirsty in order to save our community's last breeding pair of chickens. Well have to explicitly consider these questions, taking into account the difference between neighborhood members and outsiders, too.

The biggest problem is that folks will not believe that the crisis will last into summer, and thus they will not be inclined to save three quarters of what we collect. This will be particularly true if we don't manage to devise a way to collect a gallon per person per day for the entire neighborhood.

Hopefully, the six barrels that I already have on hand (that nobody has yet seen), will appear to have been a part of this process of last minute rush preparation, (just like everyone else). Spacing my barrels throughout the entire neighborhood will help in avoiding constant interruptions by the needy, and will also make me look like everyone else. If many houses in the neighborhood have what looks like a "rain barrel," then it will seem to have been a design feature of the neighborhood, and not the result of people having "prepared." I may also stock a can of paint in each of the colors of the neighborhood pallet, if it seems as though the barrels will be less noticeable that way.

If the phones and transportation are still working, but water is not, I'll recommend that the neighborhood band together to place one huge order for 200-gal water storage containers one for each person. watertanks.com should be more easily inclined to supply one huge order than several hundred little ones. (My son and I will have already recommended to everyone that they get such bags by going door to door as part of the local Neighborhood Emergency Response Team [NERT]. That, in combination with having anonymously distributed pretty good Y2K flyers from our state's Office of Emergency Management, and the Utne Reader piece will help us to not feel as guilty for not sharing our water to the point of our own deaths.

The efficient use of the wine barrels for roof rain catchment relies upon good downspouts to feed directly into the barrels. I'm making six of them from PVC, which I may later paint in the colors of my home if that turns out to be where they will be used. I will provide photographs of this when they become available, and will link them here.

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage), October 04, 1999.

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