FARMERS TALKING TO FARMERS.
THE CISTERN! We city dwellers have no idea what these CISTERN thingies might be. Theyíre big l00 gallon plastic bottles. Or subterranean buried water HOLES. Or WATER towers on LEGS. Theyíre out in wild places where folks need water. The water is brought to them by a truck or they collect rain water. Of course the whole thing needs filters and †PURIFYING as thereís dust everywhere.
TURN to this wonderful graphic, then come back.
In that one picture you can see† the many fine points one must master to get good H20 into your glass when you live out in the wild and can see why this is a theme of endless converse with Gentleman farmers.
Now, †I'm on my homesteaders list and read this exchange: Anyone know how dirty rain water is? If you have your eaves arranged so that four water barrels catch all flow, what is best way to purify it? GO TO THE FARMERíS† MICKEY MOUSED TOOL WEBSITE. (Donít worry I repeat the URL below at end,) THEY Have a DESIGN there, among other interesting designs.
†Which ROOF type poisons the water worst? GOOGLE around using keywords like toxic roof rainwater. Asphalt roof shingles canít be good for water! Then, what about roof pollution. Itís a big dirty surface. First rain, you get SLUDGE in your water. Maybe someone should design a water welcoming roof surface. You hose it off the day before it rains. And consider how much filth is in water due to city nearby polluting the air. Did anyone hear the recent bellow about MTB or something? Some gasoline additive thatís getting into the water supply and which is lethal?
TIV, the genius ANSWERS: Not to worry unless Monsanto has a factory upwind or a gaggle of grackles has leased the trees whose branches overhang your roof. A standing seam metal roof works. (All others but grass roofs ought to be outlawed anyway) SSMR is the safest and best in all other respects too, but only the first flush of water in a rainstorm has any hazard potential. You avoid that by installing any one of a variety of gravity-powered diverter valves in the downspout to your cistern. Where air-pollution is serious, the grackles or turkey-vultures abound, it would be prudent to install below the diverter-valve a filter system---the size and sophistication depending upon the type and amount of pollution.
A grass roof will prefilter, and its soil organisms deactivate a fair amount of organic contaminants, leaving only the heavy metals as a matter of concern (youíve got to pick up and move your house downwind of Monsanto, or move Monsanto a couple hundred miles East!) Itís not hard to filter out.
We have a drinking water filter that removes metals... though it was the possible e-coli bacteria that prompted installation. And donít forget to toss a few chlorine tablets in your cistern on occasion to quell restive amoeba sharks. I donít worry about my sharks any more, the killer-whales ate them all. Gravity water drinkers go ho hum when the lights go out and go take a shower.
You want self-sufficiency or you want utility grid servitude? Okay, so letís say I get 150 inches of rain here in western Washington every year. I want to catch that rain so that Iím not robbed blind by a well driller.
QUESTION: Anyone have ideas on how to go about effectively catching rain water in large quantities? It literally rains year round here, so Iím not worried about having to get water during dry spells in the summer. The storage part I understand, so we can deal with that, but how do I catch all that wonderful fresh water in the first place?
TIV the FARMER: You got a hillside of some kind? Near the bottom, but above where you want a house or barn water-spigot to control water-flow, dig a swale across the slope of the hill (shallow, deep---your choice). Use the dug out dirt to make a mounded-lip (berm) on the downhill side and ends of the swale. You can seal the bottom of the swale with fine clay, bentonite, soil-cement , or a big piece of black builderís polyethylene sheet. You could run a pipe through the berm to the bottom of the catchment and attach polyethylene tube to carry the water to buildings, but it would be easier to syphon the water out---run the tubing up over the berm and down to pond-bottom---weight it down with a concrete block, and tie a piece of window-screen over the tube intake to keep out snakes, polliwogs and the like. If you have any kind of a self-priming pump, attach its intake to the lower end of the tubing and it will pull a vacuum and start the flow, after which the syphon will work by itself as long as the pond has water in it. If you donít have a pump, you will probably have to plug the lower end of the tube, pour water in the upper end through a funnel, immerse it in the pond (weighted down), unplug the lower-end, after which water will run out the lower end---again until the pond is empty or you turn off the flow with a valve at the lower end.
The storage part I understand, so we can deal with that, but how do I catch all that wonderful fresh water in the first place? Just gutter your house, run the downspout into a cistern, with a device in between to exclude the first, dirty water. Various ways to do that, a simple one is a large vessel, like a ten-gallon plastic bucket that has a small hole in the bottom, your cistern supply line near the top. The first, dirty water runs into the bucket, the bucket fills, then clean water flows through the pipe to your cistern. After the rain stops, the bucket empties through the little hole in the bottom, readying itself for the next rainfall. That system requires a way to lift the water, typically a hand pump for kitchen use, but a pressure pump system for taking showers. While that pump could be solar-powered twelve volt, I prefer an elevated roof/tank system that is high enough above the house to provide gravity pressure. A hill is ideal, otherwise you need to build a high roof and tank, still cheaper than a deep well and pump and tank and switch and electric bills. If elevation is too little for good pressure, oversize your pipes so you get abundant flow, which somewhat makes up for lack of pressure.
You turn on that cistern-on-the-hill shower November through February and nothing comes out but ice-cubes or a mini-snowstorm---br-r-r-r! The cistern is of course at least partially buried, preferably totally buried into the hill and stays pretty much the same temp year around. BTW, a cistern buried up there on the hilltop or hillside also allows a nifty from-the-bottom-up stone/gravel/pea gravel/filter agent built just downhill of the cistern. Plumb top and bottom valved pipes so you can backflush it. And have two overflow pipes in the cistern, a serious one at the top, a smaller pipe a foot down that will feed a waterfall/stream/pond near the house. The waterfall will be your visual indicator of water level in cistern. Put a valve on the line so you can regulate volume of flow to keep the waterfall flowing longer into the dry season. Iíd love to have a cistern - there was a cistern in the 150 year-old farmhouse I grew up in (in the basement) - but Iím afraid of how much it will cost to build one. All that cement . . . Why? Cast a few cement blocks, dig a hole and build up your walls. Paint or plaster same with a marine plastic coating or the product our ancestors used, silica gel, I think it is known as sodium silicate. If I remember right it used to be called water glass, possibly still available. It used to used for egg storage, I think, maybe still. This and a sand filter should make a cistern a viable part of your homestead. Anyway, a little elbow grease and a very few bucks you will have your cistern, and a hand pump should not cost much.
For interesting INVENTIONS along these lines,† THE FARMERS MICKEY MOUSED TOOL WEBSITE. Is fun.
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