Rain water as an exlusive water source?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by SouthernThunder, Feb 17, 2005.

  1. SouthernThunder

    SouthernThunder Well-Known Member

    Jun 2, 2004
    Well after several weeks of back breaking labor with my homemade cable tool rig I am officially calling it quits on finding ground water. I have pounded out several holes with a four inch by 10 foot solid steel beem and my dynamite and have gone from 100 to 170 feet in some areas to find no water. The only water is at 5 to 7 feet and is just setting under the topsoil on top of the clay layer.
    This property is in the hills and I believe the water just runs down too quickly to permiate the clay. Anyway, I'm happy to be walking away from this project with all my fingers and without blowing myself up so....

    I was wondering if anyone uses rainwater catchment as their only source of household water. Is this feasble in north eastern oklahoma? I will be using a 1500 sq foot metal roof. Could it be done with a huge storage tank? Any other options?

    By the way... no way am I paying those unreasonable prices for a proffessional well driller and I can't get a tap out here.
  2. superduperchickenman

    superduperchickenman Well-Known Member

    May 14, 2003
    rain water & a water wagon, I've a few friends that have depended soley on rain water, but, you need a large cistern and I'd advise a water wagon if & when you run out. There's a guy in my local that will deliver water. maybe where you live too??? might you find a guy like that for when it stops raining?

    hope this helps.


  3. tyusclan

    tyusclan Well-Known Member

    Jan 1, 2005
    You collect about .6 gallon of water per sq. ft. of roof surface per inch of rainfall. If you can find out the longest time between rainfall then you can figure about what size cistern you need. Then give yourself a fudge factor and go a little bigger for below normal years.
  4. Shazza

    Shazza Well-Known Member Supporter

    Nov 20, 2004
    Victoria Australia
    Our only source of water is rainwater...we have a 20,000lt tank...I WILL afford to sink a bore one day. We have 3 dams though which helps with watering stock and the vege garden. We had a friend come out with his water diviner...well 2 bits of wire...and he found underground rivers all over the place. We are on hilly ground too and I would've thought all the water would be down in the creek. Have you had a diviner tell you where and how deep the water is at your property....be a believer, it works. :)
  5. Sedition

    Sedition Well-Known Member

    May 30, 2003
    We’ve got a shallow well on my site, so I haul my fair share of water from the ‘town well’. It is close for me, about 5 miles, so I can make a couple trips with 325 gallons in the pick-up whenever I need for $.75 in water, plus gas (and damage to the truck’s springs – I really need a 2-ton).

    Due to this problem, I did look into what it would take for a rainwater system. They can work pretty well as long as you keep an eye on what you use. Rain water systems are the norm for much of the world south of the U.S. border.

    The key is to know when you get rain, and how much water you’ll use. The big water wasters in your house are electric washing machines, dishwashers, showers and toilets- depending on family size. Your water can also be classified as ‘black water’ (waste and sometimes the kitchen-sink) or gray water (tub and dishwasher).

    If you are smart about it, gray-water can be recycled for other gray water uses. For example, when you take a shower, you push about 4 gallons a minute down the drain. That water is mostly clean, just a little bit soapy – unless you’ve been shoveling out the barn. If you have a secondary gray-water cistern, you can collect that bath water and pump it to your washing machine for clothes later. That gray water can be collected and ‘settled’ in a 3rd cistern, and used on the garden after bacteria has a chance to digest the soaps. A benefit of this is that gray water contains some level of organic matter and is more alkaline than the rain or ground water it came from. In most of the country, Oklahoma included I believe, the soil is somewhat acidic, so watering your garden with ‘settled’ gray-water is more beneficial than rain water.

    In another couple years, DW and I will be building our ‘retreat in the hills’ and selling the farm. The home that I’m sketching out uses such a rain-water recycling design. The only problem is that such a system is somewhat electricity dependent – because you generally need to pressurize that secondary water collected to reuse it. Water flows downhill after all, and it needs a little push (a pump) to move it back up to where it will do some good.

    If you have a modern house with all the contrivances, you can expect to burn between 3,000 and 5,000 galloons of water a month for a family of 4. A single guy will still probably use 2,000 gallons. The more primitive and ‘green’ your home, the lower the water use. Low-flow shower heads and toilets will save you a lot. If your groundwater is unusable anyway, I’d dig me an outhouse, and save on flushing all together. Build it in a hillside, and after a couple years, the humanure down underneath can be used to grown some fine veggies just like hogmanure.

    I don’t remember my conversion rates that good, but 1 inch of rain is about .15 gallons per square foot. When using metal roof, you should set up your collection system to ‘dump’ the first inch of rain to prevent pollution and dirt contamination. Because you’ll be pressurizing this rain water, you don’t want soil mucking up your pump.

    In my neck of the woods (Iowa), we average 5 rainfalls a year greater than 1 inch. We also have about 10 weeks where it rains ‘every day’ for less than an inch, and you can collect this water as well. So out of the average 32 inches of rain I get a year, I only calculated about 15 inches was collectable. I don’t know if you get more or less rain in your neck of the woods, but just look at the long-term rain charts from your nearest airport, and figure out ‘thunderstorms of more than 1 inch’ and ‘weeks when it kept raining every day’.

    1,500 sqft of shed-roof would give me (at 15 inches a year) – only 3,375 gallons of water. I actually have over 4,500 of steel-shed roof and 1,100 of asphalt shingle roof on my farm. For me, this would provide 12,600 gallons of rain water a year – plus about $2,000 in pumps and buried pipe out at the barn and chicken-coop to move this water to a centralized cistern.

    This wasn’t enough water for my wife, so I didn’t do the project. We have a ‘modern’ living. My wife doesn’t like stiff shirts or dry skin, not only do we have an inefficient washing machine, but I’ve got a dang $1,200 water softener in the basement that wastes 600 gallons of water every two weeks removing iron and calcium from my well water. We use about 5,000 gallons a month for our family of five, so rain-water only at 12,000 gallons a year won’t hack it for me. Even if I could collect all the rain water (32 inches), that is still just over 20,000 galloons, or 5 months of water use.

    What I am looking to do is add a supplementary rain-water cistern. My 32” – 30’ deep well is directly between my garage and house. The garage is a steel shed with 900 sqft of roof space. This spring, I’m planning on putting in about $200 in UV-resistant PVC, repainted white, and using a 3-tank settling system (sand – charcoal – French drain) made out of recycled and buried Coke-Syrup barrels. This will collect the rain water off of my garage, and recycle it into my well. This should supplement my well water to the tune of 2,000 gallons a year. Right now, I have to haul water from town about 1x a month for 300 galloons, so I hope to cut back on a few of those trips. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to scavenge the PVC, but the UV resistant stuff is not normal in the waste bins at construction sites, and usually needs to be purchased.
  6. Cosmic

    Cosmic Well-Known Member

    Jan 19, 2005
    As mentioned rainwater is an excellent source of water, provided you build in some prior flush mechanism to ensure only clean water makes it into the storage. A very common method for water source in many places in the World in particular on many islands and places with horrible quality or no ground water. Just keep those birds off or away from the roof.

    One other thing to do is not accept the conventional thinking about how water is used. A big one to eliminate is the flush toilet. Maybe get a composting toilet. I live in a big city, just me and my dog and have reduced my use to ~600 - 700 gallons a month and I do all the normal things and use water in a conventional way. The dog sucks up two big bowls per day. One neat trick is simply have a pee bucket and only flush for #2. In fact the bucket can do the flush followed by a toilet set up for a very small flush to clear the bowl. The number of flushes per day can be quite nominal. You can save a lot of money per year even if the amount of water possible to use is limitless. Many city water system rates have gotten quite expensive. 600 gallons a month is a huge amount of water per person. Talking 20 gallons a day. I should be able to cut that in half with no loss of quality of living standard fairly easy. Ten gallons per / person day should be a very easy standard to meet with the right techniques.

    So first do some sort of analysis of what your usage should be and attempt to trim those numbers into something acceptable. Then compute the total amount of storage needed. You can further cut the amount needed by building a large plastic / glass covered area and routing all the grey water into it. The solar still concept can recover a good portion of prior water use, clothes, shower, dishwashing, etc and recycle it for uses that are not directly related to human injestion. In effect having a two grade water system. You would replumb to make these systems separate. Again if you build a two grade system even your rainwater pre-flush can be collected. The lower grade water can recycled indefinitely.

    You might even consider recycling your "Dry Hole as a form of lower grade water storage tank. Route your rainwater pre-flush water and recycled greywater into a well that you install a pump. Compute your volume in cubic inches. 231 cubic inches = 1 gallon. Example [ 175 foot of 8 inch Sch 40 pipe would store 454 gallons]. Quite a bit if you can use grey water recycling. Assuming 10 gals / person / day that is 45 mandays worth in a system that is constantly being recharged in some manner.

    The real name of the game is learning how to "Close the Loop". Plus it is not correct that high quality lifestyles must use thousands of gallons of water / person / month. Your typical nuclear submarine allots 3 gallons per man each day (~90 gallons a month). That is enough for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing his clothes. The old diesel boats made do with something like a quart per day. A nuke boat sailor enjoys a very high standard of living.

    Women and the modern flush toilet may very one day determine the living capacity that this planet can carry. :haha:
  7. YuccaFlatsRanch

    YuccaFlatsRanch Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 3, 2004
    Hill Country, Texas
  8. Pony

    Pony Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 6, 2003

    I really enjoyed your post about rainwater, but honestly! Such a comment!

    In our family, I'M the one who did the research on water catchment, I'M the one who lobbied for our very own homemade composting toilet, and I'M the one who is always seeking out ways to save/utilize water.

    This is not to say that DH isn't interested in this stuff, but the catalyst was ME -- and I'm a woman!

  9. idahodave

    idahodave Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    SE Idaho
    Google rainwater catchment.....I've property where it rains but you
    can't afford to drill a well and have been looking at catchment systems
    for sometime. If it rains enough, they work