Harvesting rainwater is something many of us do for our gardens as a way to save money and to make better use of a precious natural resource.
However, do you think you could run your home and garden almost completely off rainwater? What about if you lived in the desert?
A family who lives about 45 minutes south of Tucson, Ariz., does just that. In a video interview with the Life Inside a Box YouTube channel, the father, Joe, gave a tour of his system for harvesting rainwater.
“We got some well estimates, and it was way too expensive to drill a well, so we said, ‘Let’s try some rain water harvesting.’ And that’s what we live on for about 95 percent of the year,” Joe said.
Joe created a culvert system to collect roof and gutter run-off, and he has huge polyethylene tanks behind his home. Water from the roof drains underground through four-inch PVC pipe in what Joe calls a “wet pipe system.”
The sides of his home feature a network of downspouts that connect to this underground system. These pipes then connect with a 5,000-gallon tank behind the house. The 5,000-gallon tank is buried nearly halfway underground. As water fills the tank, most of the dirt and sediment stays on the bottom.
“I do not do ‘first flush,’” Joe said. “I use my first tank as a first flush and clean it once a year.”
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He explained that the water that flows into his other two “clean” tanks is free of dirt and sediment, and then he adds a small amount of bleach to kill any bacteria.
“Most municipalities use chorine, and I just do that to a lesser scale,” he said. All water that is used for drinking or cooking passes through a Berkey Water Filter system, as well.
The fruit trees on the property are watered exclusively by rainwater and gray water from the home. Other trees and his garden are watered by an extensive sloping system that carries rainwater and overflow from the gutters downhill.
One pool shown in the video is about three and one-half feet deep and holds about 500 gallons of water, Joe estimated. He uses a bucket to scoop water from the rainwater pools to water his garden and other trees.
Joe, who modestly calls much of his rainwater harvesting system “jerry-rigged,” said he got many of his ideas by reading books by rainwater harvesting expert Brad Lancaster.
At the time the video was made, Joe also was working on building a sunken greenhouse, which he plans to water completely with rainwater, and a new garden that is situated on a slope that catches rainwater and allows run-off to run downhill to other parts of the garden.