Thursday, September 15, 2011

Harvesting rain

It feels like spring again... not because of the weather, but because of the wetness of our land. We are eager to dig six more vegetable beds before the season is over to get our total to 40, but it would be a mistake to get into the ground right now. The vegetables that have already been planted are surviving this soaking, but we don't want to destroy the soil structure by pick-axing and forking the land.

So as we wait to dig, we are planning our rain harvest system. After witnessing a stream in our backyard, not once, but twice, this year, it pains us to think about how much water we could be storing for the drier summer days (although there weren't too many dry ones this year). A sustainable water system will help decrease pressure on the existing well supply of water, protect against drought days, and treat water as a precious instead of unlimited resource.

The basic elements of a rain harvest system include:

·      Catchment surface: the collection surface from which rainfall runs off
·      Gutters and downspouts: channel water from roof to tank
·      Leaf screens and diverters: components which remove debris from rainwater before it goes to tank
·      One or more storage tanks or cisterns
·      Delivery system: gravity-fed or pumped to the end use

At this stage, we are siting our catchment surface and storage tanks. We hope to build a "rain barn" (for storing tools and fire wood) and use its roof as our catchment surface. The rain barn and storage tanks should be on higher ground than our demand site for water to use gravity to convey water from tanks instead of more expensive pumps. This will require some math, taking land slopes, distance, pipe diameters and tank sizes into account. Then, once we source our materials, we can start digging post holes and sinking them in with our old-fashioned rock-and-crobar method (as opposed to using cement). Let the land dry and the construction begin...

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