Coming from the desert of Wyoming, perhaps I appreciate rainy Ozark days more than a native does. It’s sort of a miracle to me to see water fall from the sky. I love the smell, the way the leaves shiver with each drop, the joyous sound of water running off the roof, even the grumble and crack of the thunderstorms that so often come with it. It seems to me such a waste to allow that precious liquid to flow away down the hill to end up in gutters. The desert dweller in me wants to store it up for later dry times. Now we can.
We debated on the best way to implement our water storage plan for quite a while, discussing the merits and disadvantages of several options. The first was to purchase a few 275 gallon totes and link them to achieve the amount of storage we wanted. The advantages of this are that it could be done for under $200 and the tanks are easy to find and move. However; we were concerned that the tanks would be very hard to clean and it is inevitable that muck and algae are going to happen in a rainwater cache system. Our next option was to build a ferrocement tank. This was attractive to us in that we could size it to exactly fit the site, as well as custom build it with a manhole to allow for cleaning. Unfortunately we don’t have any experience with this medium and, while inexpensive, it is time consuming.
The last option we considered, and ultimately chose, was to purchase a large poly water storage tank with a manhole cover. This was the most expensive of the three options, but we felt it was the best for us. The local farm supply store carries 500 gallon tanks like this for just under $500. That certainly isn’t cheap, but good water is priceless. As luck would have it, we found a deal on a 1000 gallon tank on our local Craigslist shortly after we made this decision. They wanted $450 for the tank – half what it would cost new. So we hitched up a borrowed trailer and made the two hour drive to pick it up, only to discover it had been broken by a rock. They did have a 750 gallon tank, which actually fit better in our chosen space.
Our plans are to set the tank on a gravel pad next to the house with rain gutters to funnel the water in from the roof. There will be a roof washer and a sand/gravel filter to make sure the water that goes in the tank is as clean as possible. The water will then be plumbed into the house where it will go through another filter and a UV sterilizer before coming out of the tap. We’re planning on using the tank as a stand alone system, but it can be filled with city water if we don’t have enough rain.
I suppose it seems strange to go to all the trouble of setting up this system when we have easy access to city water. After all, we can just turn on the faucet and clean water comes streaming out. While this is certainly convenient, we don’t have any real concept of how much water we are using. Those little numbers on the water bill just don’t seem to connect to the real world. By using the tank, we have a three dimensional picture of our water usage. We can easily set goals and track our progress day by day.
We are well aware that it is impractical to live off grid and maintain the wasteful lifestyle that the average American has. We just consider this one more step toward self-reliance….