Rainwater harvesting and storage need not be exclusive to parts of the world where water scarcity is acute. Collecting and storing water at the source takes the load off water distribution systems in towns and cities, besides reducing energy expenditure. And you save on water bills too.
There are many ready-made and customized water storage systems available. But make your own to save money. It doesn’t take much time and effort.
Open Rain-Fed Ponds
If you have a large yard, it is not only feasible but takes very little expense by way of materials to create a pond.
This project involves excavating the ground after marking the dimensions. A pickaxe, a round point spade shovel, a large rake and a wheel barrow are all you need. Line the bottom and the sides with a flexible pond liner. Inexpensive pond liners are available in garden centers.
You can use the dug up soil to make a raised border around the pond or use boulders or brick and mortar to build the sides. Your down spouts from rain gutters can be extended to the pond via underground piping.
Advantages of in-ground open ponds include practically unlimited storage capacity, lower expense, and aesthetics. A 6ft x 4ft pond with 2ft depth can store over 300 gallons. Digging it deeper by another foot will triple the capacity. With a small pump fitted in, you get plenty of water for the garden and for washing cars.
Disadvantages include algal growth and mosquito breeding, not to mention high evaporation rate, especially during the hot season when additional water comes most handy. All of them can be solved by covering the pond with a dark plastic sheet stretched taut across the top and weighted down around the edges, although it may mar the aesthetics.
PVC Water Storage Tanks
If you are ready to shell out $1 a gallon for rain water storage, these tanks come in capacities ranging from 300 gallons to 10,000 gallons. They are specially designed, with a food-grade interior and often a UV-stabilized black or dark green exterior that prevents algal growth in the tank by blocking sunlight. Another advantage is that in addition to a top lid, they come with precision-cut openings at the top and bottom that can serve as water inlet and overflow outlet.
You can direct the gutter downspout to the tank and fix it with a suitable coupling fitting the top inlet. A long flexible pipe attached to the bottom hole can be used to draw water whenever required, and then kept raised when not in use. It will act as an overflow pipe when the tank is filled to the brim. Your water storage capacity can be gradually increased by connecting several tanks in series.
The water stored in these tanks can be directly used not only for gardening, but for bathroom, laundry, and cleaning needs in the house. A home water purification system can render it potable too.
For a much less expensive option than PVC water tanks, you can go for sturdy plastic barrels with a fitted lid. Some may have one or two holes on the lid; otherwise you have to cut out a 2-inch wide circle. Attach a flexible tube to the gutter downspout and insert it into the opening in the lid. A smaller hole drilled close to the bottom of the barrel can be fitted with a tap for drawing the water.
Plastic barrels come in limited capacity, but you can connect many barrels in series with the help of PVC pipe sections. When they are attached close to the bottom, all the barrels get filled up simultaneously, and the outlet can be from any one of them. If you have a deck high enough, this arrangement can be kept out of sight underneath it.
Large-sized bins with a lid can be easily converted into rain water storage by cutting in a large hole on the lid and a smaller one near the bottom. Inlet and outlet can be fixed to these holes, but if the bin has built-in wheels, you can make a portable arrangement. Cut off the bottom end of the downspout to accommodate the bin. Attach a flexible hose to the bottom hole of the bin, as long as its height. Keep the hose raised by fixing it to the top of the bin with a clamp. Draw water by lowering the hose. When one bin is full, you can wheel it away and keep another one to catch the water. That way, you can store water at different areas for spot use.
If you have a problem with the use of plastics, clean, waterproof, wooden barrels can take the place of plastic barrels. Vertical kegs usually come with an opening at the bottom or a small tap already attached, but you may have to replace it with a larger one to increase water flow. Keep each barrel on wheeled wooden platforms to make them portable.
Points to Remember:
- All water storage systems should be cleaned out periodically
- Empty the barrels and the bins occasionally to dry and air them
- Prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the stored water by covering all openings with fine mesh