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You and your 55 gallon rain barrel...

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May. 18th, 2007 | 11:52 pm

Let me do the math...

I am at a party this evening and met up with a civil engineer who
does water storage and routing for King County (aka Seattle). We are
talking about how most of Seattle in theory could live off of rain
water.

Well, assuming our rain water was potable, which it is not...

...and even though it is not, you would think we could run our
toilets and laundry off of rain water but that too is a problem.
First obstacle is our own government which will not let us hook up
grey water systems in our houses. If we could get around this
problem, or just say screw them, we run into storage problems.

My house uses around 36K gallons of water per year. Now my roof is
about 1200 square feet, and at 26 inches per year this works out to
be around 28K gallons of water per year.

Sounds great!

But what about storage?

Well that is where we hit a wall. The 55 gallon drums people use in
the NorthWest are feel good. To last through our summer drought I
would need 9K gallons of water storage at a minimum.

Um... that is a big container. It would take up a good chunk of my
meager yard, or would require one large whole to be dug.

I am sure no one would notice if I dug a 31 foot deep hole in the
group that was 8 foot across. I could get a couple of friends to come
by one Sunday afternoon...

The concept that I could get all of my water needs from my own roof
sounds great, but... its just not going to happen.....

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Comments {18}

Jonathan M.

(no subject)

from: geothermal
date: May. 19th, 2007 07:01 am (UTC)
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Did they say what kind of water filter would be needed to make Seattle rain water drinkable or safe ?

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Brian "Krow" Aker

(no subject)

from: krow
date: May. 19th, 2007 03:32 pm (UTC)
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Nope. I spoke about this to one other CE... charcoal filter would get you to the point of shower water, but you would really need to make the water completely potable to even use for that.

Think about this though... the chemicals you use in your hot tub make it safe... so something on that order would be needed.

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Jonathan M.

(no subject)

from: geothermal
date: May. 19th, 2007 06:45 pm (UTC)
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Ok, do you think if dish washers were sold with external tanks, they could use rain water in them ?

I already catch shower water and use that in the toilet from time to time. Also I use shower water to water house plants and they seem none worse for wear. I have noticed cats drinking rain water outside, so they seem immune to ill effects I guess. Perhaps you putting a rain catch tank on the roof and sending that rain water into cat dishes and perhaps a spigot in the house for house plants and a spigot outside for to fill the hot tub up when it is routinely emptied ? I guess that would work to save money in the long run ? The roof tank would have to have a mosquito net perhaps, but perhaps putting a small tank on the roof and a small tank on the ground near the hot tub that looks nice or is the same color as the hot tub ?

Jonathan

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Purifying Rainwater for Human Consumption

from: richked
date: Sep. 19th, 2007 08:54 pm (UTC)
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I was at a RUST Conference in Albany this past weekend. The PhD in Civil Engineering that discussed water purification indicated that you need (1) an accessory to allow for a foul flush on your rainwater catchment system (so that you don't drink from the rainwater that runs off the roof in the first 5-10 minutres of a storm) and (2) a ceramic filter with 10 micron filter pores and activated charcoal (Dalton was suggested). Apparently, they ran simple tarp-based catchments systems and did the purification step in a 5-gallon bucket when they provided aide to folks affected by Hurricane Katrina. Other folks will tell you that its not possible. The other benefit of rainwater is that the absence of chlorine allows for prolific growth of beneficial bacteria in your garden soil. Chlorine in water kills these buggers and ultimately hurts your plants. But chlorine does have its place in emergency water treatments (e.g. when sewer lines or flooding contaminates potable water).

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inanna

(no subject)

from: inanna
date: May. 19th, 2007 07:56 am (UTC)
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True, you can't do it all... but the question then becomes how much is worth doing? If you could have a couple 55 gallon drums that your gutters ran into and you then didn't have to use as much to water your plants (assuming you water your plants), would that be any benefit. True, you can't do it all... but that doesn't mean that it isn't worth doing at all.

Think of recycling and food/yard waste. Bit here, bit there... doesn't really DO much, but it does add up over the course of weeks and months.

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Brian "Krow" Aker

(no subject)

from: krow
date: May. 19th, 2007 03:42 pm (UTC)
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We do very little gardening currently.... we are looking to get someone to come by and just clean up some of the yard right now.

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El JoPe Magnífico

(no subject)

from: jope
date: May. 19th, 2007 09:01 am (UTC)
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I am sure no one would notice if I dug a 31 foot deep hole in the
group that was 8 foot across. I could get a couple of friends to come
by one Sunday afternoon...


Heh, at one point shortly after moving in, I had grand plans of digging myself a cistern. That was before I became acquainted with the hardpack a foot below the surface. Quickly I started envisioning the end of Jean de Florette, where Gerard Depardieu's character kinda loses it, brings out some dynamite, then gets killed by a hunk of cement on the way back down.

I do agree with comment about a smaller barrel still being capable of making a big dent. Remember, our rainfall is not spread evenly throughout the year, but household usage is. So even if a tiny buffer only covers you for half the year, that's still potentially half your annual usage that's not coming from the municipal system. That at least makes good economic sense for you, even if the environmental benefit is less substantial due to lack of super-sized reservoirs being part of the municipal system.

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Brian "Krow" Aker

(no subject)

from: krow
date: May. 19th, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC)
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The only non-system uses I have are hot tub and gardening. The hot tub might make sense... but that is about it. We don't do enough gardening for it to matter.

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El JoPe Magnífico

(no subject)

from: jope
date: May. 19th, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC)
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Toilets, for sure. (I'm really surprised the city doesn't allow this!) Washing machine, possibly. And as mentioned in another thread, showers. In order of increasing potability.

I honestly wasn't really considering gardening (and houseplants) as much of a contributor, because it didn't seem fit my "small buffer" logic so well, i.e. that you wouldn't want to subvert your toilet water to the lawn during the months when your tank is most likely to run dry. But I guess in practice that exemption doesn't hold, because if a single household tank were being shared by everything like that, and some things are non-optional, that would necessitate a tie-in of the municipal water, which kicks in at the low-water mark (or empty, depending how tolerant the system is of that state).

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professor_mom

(no subject)

from: professor_mom
date: May. 19th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
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I think it would be possible to bury large water containers in the ground. After all the city is always digging up yards and streets for sewer lines, why not dig a big hole for a water storage container? It would be a bitch to repair though. I've thought about this type of arrangement before, but always wondered what kind of an effect asphalt would have on the water. For toilets it wouldn't be an issue unless it left a residue on porcelin or affected the rivers somehow. But I'm not sure I would want asphalt residue in my clothing. Wonder how the plants would like it?

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Brian "Krow" Aker

(no subject)

from: krow
date: May. 19th, 2007 03:36 pm (UTC)
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You can buy good underground water containers for about a $1 per gallon.

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El JoPe Magnífico

(no subject)

from: jope
date: May. 19th, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
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Regarding residue: I expect a decent filtration system woud take care of that. Alternatively, switch to (or I guess layer over with) cedar shingles; that would pricey though, unlike during the previous half of last century.

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(no subject)

from: a55hole5
date: May. 19th, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC)
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jesus! so build a fsckn roofed over car port or patio that are 8K square feet! Stop whining Oh - and by the way - Also dig the underground storage tank any way- where are you going to keep the water until you need it? It wont rain every day you know.. :-) In the farnhouses that I grew up in/live in they are called cisterns. Finally - as water gets more and more expensive do think you are still going to use 38K gallons per year? How about more/better conservation techniques and technology?

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Brian "Krow" Aker

(no subject)

from: krow
date: May. 20th, 2007 01:53 am (UTC)
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I live in Seattle, it seems like it rains every day :)

Small yard, so the hole would take up quite a bit of it. It would need to be dug straight down.

38K of water divided by 5 people... we are already below average. We could probably do a little bit better, but not by a lot.

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tjewell

possible link of interest

from: hydrolagus
date: May. 19th, 2007 11:36 pm (UTC)
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American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association

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Lumiere

(no subject)

from: lumiere
date: May. 20th, 2007 07:24 am (UTC)
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Let's turn this around. How many gallons are in the city's reservoir system? If every house had one 55-gallon drum that was filled with rainwater each winter and replaced reservoir water for gray-water-suitable purposes, how many gallons of gray-water reservoir space would those drums represent?

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Roy Corey

(no subject)

from: xerhino
date: May. 20th, 2007 05:12 pm (UTC)
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In the water conservation dept I've seen a rather innovative sink-to-toilet water system . It would replace with one of those right away if they built a somewhat more ergonomic model (sink off to the side and a little bit higher). All told I'm pretty sure I could rig that sort of thing upwith my curent sink and some creative plumbing.

Also, good to know that back of the envelope style calculating is still done. Where I work they would have formed a commitee to create project codes to procure human resources to ....

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Brian "Krow" Aker

(no subject)

from: krow
date: May. 20th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
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Be a bit cold :)

That is a clever idea for a very small bathroom.

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