DIY Water Storage
By Max Burns
With solid and easy-to-understand advice, Country & Cottage Water Systems (Cottage Life Books, 2010) is perfect for anyone who needs help comprehending the mysteries of rural water systems. From wells to outhouses, Max Burns, has the DIY projects and illustrations needed to bring the clean water in and send the waste out. The excerpt from “Water Sources: Assessing your options” shows that a DIY Water Storage system can be perfect when faced with drought or other water restrictions.
You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Country & Cottage Water Systems
DIY Water Storage
Cisterns, reservoirs, and rain barrels usually depend on rainfall for supply. Yet for those coping with low-yielding wells, or drought, the added reserve of a storage system can be a welcome relief, whether for household use, gardening, or even fire fighting.
To help keep pollutants out, the storage container must be watertight, the inlet and outlet providing the sole points of entry and egress. Its interior surface should be smooth and nonabsorbent to discourage various aqua-creeps (such as algae and pathogenic microorganisms) from collecting in cracks and crevices. Pay particular attention to the openings for cleaning, filling, and draining, as rough joints can be breeding grounds for the aqua-creeps. And any container should be easily accessible for cleaning.
Concrete, parged concrete block, steel, or plastic are all acceptable materials for water-storage tanks. Concrete-block tanks, and in most cases poured concrete ones as well, are constructed on site. Steel containers can also be custom fabricated to suit your particular need, or purchased ready-made. Plastic containers are ready-made, either in fibreglass or high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Wooden rain barrels, the choice of romantics, regrettably make swell homes for microorganisms. So treat any water stored in wooden containers before drinking it — even if you’ve collected the water from a potable source.
Because of its durability, affordability, and modest weight, the HDPE tank has become the preferred choice. It comes in a seemingly endless variety of shapes and sizes, and can be installed above or below ground. Some are designed to fit perfectly in the bed of a pickup, just behind the cab, for easy frequent transport of smaller quantities (e.g. American Tank Co.), while others store nicely in the usually wasted space under the typical 54″ mattress and box spring (e.g. Diverse Plastic Tanks). Because HDPE containers are often marketed for agricultural use, stores serving farming communities will sometimes keep a few in stock.
Unless they’ve been certified as food-grade containers, do not use recycled steel drums or plastic barrels for duty anywhere near water because of the high risk of residual toxic chemicals leaching into the water. (This warning applies whether the intention is to store the water inside the drum or use the drum to support a raft or floating dock.)
The size of the container required depends both on your water needs and on how quickly the container can be replenished. Some jurisdictions have a minimum requirement of 5,000 US gal. (19,000 L) for water storage containers serving full-time residences. Assuming your area isn’t governed by such restrictions, careful consumers not disposed to city-style water consumption should be able to cope quite nicely on a 250-600 US gal. (1000-2300 L) tank.
Regardless of container type or size, all outdoor water containers should be covered in order to keep out animals and their various droppings, not to mention natural debris with a penchant for drifting into any J container’s open end. This closed-door attitude also discourages enterprising mosquitoes from converting – your water supply into an insectile maternity ward. Outdoor drains and vents for water-storage containers should be non-corroding — brass or plastic for instance — and be screened to prevent nature’s non-micro miscellanea, such as rodents, bugs, and leaves, from getting into the stored water.
If you’re using a pump to move water out of the container, place the pick-up point for the intake line about 12″ (30 cm) above the container’s floor to avoid sucking in settled debris. It’s also a good idea to attach a float-activated shut-off switch to turn the pump off should demand exceed supply, thereby avoiding the ominous (and expensive) fragrance of fried pump.
Raised storage containers, such as water towers or reservoirs for hillside springs, can provide pressure for a water system, eliminating the need for pressure tanks and perhaps even a pump. Every 2.31′ (70.5 cm) up — measured from the tap to the water’s surface — rewards us with 1 psi (pounds per square inch) of water pressure. In other words, a 30′ (9 m) high water tower would yield 30 + 2.31 or 13 psi, enough pressure to fill a toilet or a sink or enjoy a pretty pathetic shower (but a shower nonetheless).
Read more: Explore your options when it comes to Facts About Groundwater.
Reprinted with permission from Country & Cottage Water Systems by Max Burns and published by Cottage Life Books, 2010. Buy this book from our store: Country & Cottage Water Systems.
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