Rain water collection using Rain Barrels is the simplest way to self reliance with your water supply but until recently very few people in the suburbs took advantage of this resource. It’s actually amazing how much even a small roof can collect in a year’s time. Here is a link to many US cities average rainfall. The calculation below will allow you to figure out just how much you can collect.
• square footage of roof X .6 = gallons per 1 inch of rain.
• gallons per 1 inch of rain X average inches rain per month = amount available for collection
After you know just how much rain water you can collect, decide what kind of rain barrel you want to use. There are several choices; the 50 gallon plastic rain barrel from Tractor Supply Company costs $100 and is molded to look like an old wooden oak barrel. It is good to use in areas that are visible from the street or around the back porch since they look nicer. These come with the threaded hole for the spigot and a hole on the top already cut. Several other types are now being sold at Lowes and Home Depot. TSC also sells larger water tanks up to several hundred gallons. We can also help you make your own rain barrel for a fraction of the cost of buying one.
Finally you’ll need to install gutters and downspouts where you need to collect the water. This can be done by yourself but for our local clients if you need assistance we recommend Kelley O’Connor Inc. for all our gutter and rain collection installations. They are a Christian company and offer exceptional quality and value. Contact Kelley at (407) 221-5315 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free estimate.
We have been blessed that our Suburban Homestead is on a small 7 acre natural lake. In working with our local water management organization we learned much about the lake. It has an excellent water quality and is fed by the underground water table. Basically it is a sinkhole that is at least 50 years old but could be as old as 500 years. Even though a water source may seem to be excellent quality you must plan to filter the water for drinking (more on that in a later). It should be safe for all other uses without filtration.
We installed a 2 HP pump for irrigation of our yard, fruit trees, herbs and garden. This setup can be installed by yourself with considerable planning. Using a contractor will cost approximately $1,700 for a basic system. Self Reliance Strategies can also help you with the design if you prefer to do it yourself which can save you 30-50%. Using this setup saves us about 50% on our water bill plus our plants love it.
You can also prepare to supplement this setup during a “grid down” scenario. Using an 8500 watt gas powered generator you can run the pump to fill rain barrels to use to irrigate the garden or even for drinking. This saves on the valuable fuel as opposed to burning more fuel by using the generator to irrigate directly.
Wells can be used as a sustainable source for crop irrigation, other grey water applications and drinking if filtered. Keep in mind though that using a well without electricity will require pumping either using a hand pump or a solar or gas powered generator. A solar pump or gas generator can be used to fill rain barrels or cisterns if needed. A well is considerably more costly to install since most homeowners are not able to do it themselves. Most wells drill at least 180 ft. down. The costs range from $3,500 to $4,500. In Florida it is possible to drill a shallow well yourself but the water source is much less reliable. Here is a pretty good website that gives an overview of drilling your own well.
For logistics sake you’ll still want to use the rain barrel as a method to store all these collection strategies.. We talk more about that in the Water Storage Post.