December 2015
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Water Catchment and Storage on a Larger Scale

In my earlier post Water Catchment and Storage with IBC Totes, I described how we built a system of tanks to catch and store about 800 gallons of water for the garden. This was great for short term use. But if we really wanted to ramp up our production, we needed a lot more water than 800 gallons. Since we were only catching half the water from our garage roof, one idea was to route the water from the other side using a gutter. This would just fill the tanks faster, but would not give us any more capacity. If we really wanted to make an impact, we needed to increase our catchment area as well as our storage capacity.

When we moved to this property, it had an in-ground swimming pool. It was not something we were looking for, but we loved the property so we considered the pool a bonus. At the time I had no idea what that would eventually mean.

For years, I did the maintenance on the pool so our kids could use it. I never really liked doing the work. It seemed like a lot of time and expense for something unnecessary. Eventually the kids got older and used it less, and I grew more tired of doing the maintenance. In the meantime I had contemplated many times the idea of wanting a pond on our property. Ponds are great but can be complicated to put in. Dams need to be constructed very carefully, and the local authorities can have a lot to say about putting in a pond.

Then it occurred to me that the solution was right there just begging to be used. Two things influenced my thinking. First was the guy in Phoenix who converted his in-ground pool to a greenhouse and aquaponics system. It’s very cool and caught my attention a few years ago. You can see it at the Garden Pool web site. Second, of course, was the “cement pond” on the classic TV show, The Beverly Hillbillies.

Swimming Pool with 20,000 Gallons of Stored Water

Swimming Pool with 20,000 Gallons of Stored Water

Our pool has a capacity of 20,000 gallons. To get water into the pool, we diverted downspouts from the back side of our house and one side of our garage with black corrugated pipe. This gives us a catchment area of about 1200 square feet. With an average annual rainfall in our area of 50 inches, that’s a potential of 37,500 gallons of water – almost enough to fill the pool twice every year.

To get the ecosystem established in the pool, we added about 75 goldfish. This past summer, frogs showed up. Mosquitoes are not a problem. We use a pond aerator on a timer to oxygenate the water a few times per day.

Corrugated Pipe from Downspout to Pool

Corrugated Pipe from Downspout to Pool

To move water around, I use energy-efficient pond pumps like this one: Smartpond DP330 Pond Pump. Garden hoses can be attached to the pumps to move the water where it is needed. When our water tanks get full, I drop a pond pump into the tank with a hose running to the pool. Turning the pump on for about 30 seconds gets the flow started. Since the tanks are higher than the pool, I turn the power off and let gravity do the rest of the work. To move water to our swale, I do the same thing with a pump in the pool and a hose running to the swale. If the pool is full, the water will continue to siphon by gravity. When the level in the pool is too low, I leave the pump running to keep the water flowing. The pump I use only draws about 40 watts, so it could run for 2-3 hours for about 1 penny of electricity, moving more than 500 gallons. This is a very energy efficient way to move water.

40 Watt Pond Pump

40 Watt Pond Pump

We use the pump to fill the swale during dry periods. The aquatic life makes the water more nutrient-rich, so it benefits the trees in the swale with more than just water. If our tanks run dry, we can water our garden from the pool. In a time of emergency, we could filter and boil the water for drinking. Whatever need arises, having 20,000 gallons of water storage is a great asset. Water is the most precious resource. Everyone should store it. Even if you have to start small, start catching and storing some water today.

Resources for this post:
The Garden Pool Website
Smartpond DP330 Pond Pump

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