Harvesting Rain for Drinking Water

Robert Foley explains how a master plumber created his own methods for harvesting rain for drinking water.

| August/September 2003

  • Learn how the author created methods for harvesting rain for drinking water.
    Learn how the author created methods for harvesting rain for drinking water.
    MIKE CARDENAS
  • To purify the water for drinking, it is pumped from a 5-gallon pressure tank (bottom of photo), through 25- and 5- micron filters (blue cylinders), then past a high intensity ultraviolet light (cylinder second from left) before flowing through a final carbon filter and into the house.
    To purify the water for drinking, it is pumped from a 5-gallon pressure tank (bottom of photo), through 25- and 5- micron filters (blue cylinders), then past a high intensity ultraviolet light (cylinder second from left) before flowing through a final carbon filter and into the house.
    COURTESY ROBERT FOLEY
  • The roof gutters carry water down into a series of interconnected storage tanks. (The tanks must be impervious to light, otherwise algae will grow.)
    The roof gutters carry water down into a series of interconnected storage tanks. (The tanks must be impervious to light, otherwise algae will grow.)
    PHOTO: COURTESY ROBERT FOLEY

  • Learn how the author created methods for harvesting rain for drinking water.
  • To purify the water for drinking, it is pumped from a 5-gallon pressure tank (bottom of photo), through 25- and 5- micron filters (blue cylinders), then past a high intensity ultraviolet light (cylinder second from left) before flowing through a final carbon filter and into the house.
  • The roof gutters carry water down into a series of interconnected storage tanks. (The tanks must be impervious to light, otherwise algae will grow.)

Learn how this master plumber devised ways for harvesting rain for drinking water.

My subdivision's water originates from a typical Texas well, and it is hard with a capital "H" It also is expensive, and so heavily chlorinated that water from the kitchen faucet smells like that of a swimming pool. That's why I decided to start harvesting rain for drinking water by build my own water system, trading in hard, chlorinated well water for soft, free rainwater. With our average annual rainfall of 31 inches, I knew I could collect 20,000 gallons a year from the rooftop of my small house.

I am a retired master plumber, so I had piping knowledge. I went to work to design a low-cost rainwater harvesting setup.

Building the Water Harvesting System

Rainwater harvesting begins with a simple idea: Rain gutters already are collecting the water that falls on your roof. To harvest that water, just set up the gutters so that instead of running onto the ground, the water flows into a storage tank, or cistern. It also is a good idea to put in a roof washer to divert the first few gallons of rain coming off the roof, along with any dust or bird droppings that water might be carrying. (For more about harvesting your rainwater, see page 42 in this issue.)



I was lucky enough to acquire some free storage tanks. A friend of mine is a water well contractor, and always has plenty of used pressure tanks. I was able to take eight of them off his hands for my project. Of course, they all had small holes in them, which meant they would no longer hold pressure, but for my use, that wasn't needed. All I did was patch the holes with a little metal epoxy so they would hold water.

Full tanks of water are very heavy, so I needed a good, solid foundation, or pad, to keep them stable. I used 8-foot landscape timbers to create a square form. and covered the area inside the square with plastic. I mixed one shovel of Portland cement to five shovels of sand, filled the whole area with this mix, tamped it, and then sprinkled it with water. It worked perfectly as a foundation for my tanks.

Robert Foley_3
5/29/2010 5:44:48 AM

By mistake Mother Earth News printed the wrong more information address. The correct address is: 283 Big Rock Dr. Bandera, Texas. 78003







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