Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Guest Post: Rainwater Collection

(Editor's Note:  This article was submitted for our writing contest.)

Rainwater Collection
by Levi E. Groenendael

Do you have concerns about the availability of water during civil unrest?

Are you worried about how you’ll get by if there’s a problem with the public water supply?

Do you simply want to save some money every year on your water bill?

Let me share with you how I’ve addressed all of those concerns, by setting up a rainwater collection system.

First, let me start off by explaining that I recently had to have my gutters replaced, and along with that I spent a little extra to have covers put on the gutters. This means I never have to worry about tree leaves or pine needles (both a significant concern in my yard) blocking the gutters – or, for purposes of this discussion, getting into and contaminating my water supply.

I started out doing some research on the connections I’d have to make. I didn’t want to put together something that I’d have to replace – I’d rather build it once and build it right. I eventually came across this website: . (Wow, what a difficult search!)


The base kit comes with:
  • the diverter (the thing that goes into your downspout)
  • the hose that goes from the diverter to your barrel
  • the hose seal (the part that you put into the hole you’ll drill in the rain barrel)
  • the three-piece hole saw set you’ll need for drilling holes in the down spout and the rain barrel
  • two threaded seals, one for the spigot and one for the drain hole
  • the spigot (which you’ll use to get water out of the rain barrel) 
  • a drain assembly.
The instructions that come with the rain barrel are quite good, although there are a few key considerations that, should you choose to implement them, will make your life a little easier.

This diagram illustrates how I installed my first rain barrel, instead of the instructions that provides. Doing it this way means I can use almost ALL of the water in the rain barrel, not just 2/3rds, as would be the case if you assembled your rain barrel like suggests (in their example, the spigot is a third of the way up the side of the barrel, above the drain assembly).


Another perk of this system is that it means my rain barrel is set up to be a cascaded rain barrel. If you want to add another rain barrel, you simply buy a hose to connect the two rain barrels (much like the same hose you would purchase for a clothes washer feed line), two more threaded seals, two more drain assemblies, and one more hose seal (if you used both of the ones in the original kit).

To easily and quickly cascade the second rain barrel:
  1. Take the spigot out of the first rain barrel, and replace it with a drain assembly and a drain cap.
  2. In the new rain barrel, drill two more holes, just like how you did the drain and spigot on the first barrel.
  3. Into one of these holes goes the spigot you removed from barrel #1, and into the other one the drain assembly (but not the drain cap). 
  4. Using the new hose you purchased, connect the two drain plugs in the backs of each rain barrel.
  5. Important Note: due to gravity, you’ll want to have the last rain barrel in the cascade set up to be lower in height than the one before it. 
  6. Also, if you want to cascade multiple barrels, you’ll need a “Y” adapter for the back, to allow you to connect two hoses to the drain plug on any rain barrels that aren't first or last in the cascade.
That’s it! You have doubled (or more!) your rain barrel storage capacity.

Now, you ask, what can I DO with this?

In my case, I have yard-based gardens (some people grow flowers, some grow shrubs; I grow food I can eat) that are all positioned so that they’re lower than my rain barrels – which means I can use simple gravity-fed hoses to move water from my rain barrels to my gardens.

I further simplify this by using quick disconnects on soaker hoses – when I want to water the gardens, I click a hose onto the soaker hose, and screw the other end of the hose into my rain barrel.

A note of caution

You should always purify water that you intend to cook or drink before you use it. The simplest way to do this is to boil the water for a full minute for every thousand feet you are above sea level – which is to say, at least two minutes if you live in Ohio. This should remove most potentially harmful bacteria; however, it may not catch viruses. To address that, sterilization through various means is also a good idea. I use a Steripen that uses UV rays to disinfect water before drinking.

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