Conserving Water with a Rainwater Cistern Tank and Gravity Watering System


Water conservation seems increasingly important to my husband and me as we watch large Ohio farmers use water from aquifers to irrigate their fields. Instead of depleting aquifers, we’ve chosen to both conserve water and to water our garden during dry periods. To accomplish this, we put in a rainwater cistern tank last autumn. The project continued this spring by installing two elevated watering tanks for our garden’s gravity watering system.

This project began by hiring a friend with a back-hoe to dig a premeasured hole in the chicken yard, adjacent to the garden. A 2,500 gallon cement cistern was then purchased from a local septic tank company who delivered and installed it in two parts—bottom and top. This cost a total of $1552. A heavy plastic tank could also have been used.

In addition to the standard opening on top, it has an opening high on one side where water enters the cistern. Opposite this entrance is a hole where water exits when it nears the top of the cistern. This surplus water travels through a porous tile so water can be furnished to dry soil as it makes its way under the garden, through the pasture and into the creek in the lower meadow.

The rainwater cistern tank was filled with rain water by diverting water from adjacent roof-tops. The downspouts on the chicken house, garage, outhouse and house were attached to solid, four-inch tiles. Using solid tiles assures us that the tiles won’t be obstructed with tree roots. A rented trencher created the furrows to bury these tiles which were joined before entering the cistern.

The cistern was installed last autumn so it could be filled with this spring’s rain. We are able to check the water level in the cistern by putting a premeasured board into the tank’s top opening. I find it amazing that less than two inches of rain can fill such a large tank.

We began to assemble what was needed for the garden’s gravity watering system last winter. Craigslist provided us with two food-grade, plastic storage tanks. Each tank holds 250 gallons of rain water and is supported six feet off the ground by a base constructed of treated wood. We would have liked to avoid using treated wood in proximity to the garden, but this would have necessitated pouring a cement base for each vertical post. In truth, once spring milking began, there wasn’t much time for other projects.

3/16/2015 4:42:28 PM

I think it's a great idea to use a wind turbine as a pump for the rainwater tank. It seems to mesh better with the effort used to find a 'green' way of sourcing fresh water. Wind turbines would be much more sustainable over the long run as well (provided repairs could be limited). Thanks for sharing these options with us!

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