Touring an 11,500 gallon, "wet pipe" rainwater harvesting system

wet pipe rainwater harvesting photo
Video screen capture Homestead Economics

I have a rain barrel by my backyard garden. But I am beginning to feel decidedly lazy after watching Joe from Homestead Economic's tour of his 11,500 gallon rainwater harvesting system in the Arizona Sonoran desert. Using a simple system of corrugated roof, gutters, buried pipes and gigantic cisterns, Joe says he collects enough rainwater to meet 90% of his family's needs.

A few specific things of interest here:

  • Even though the pipes go underground and then back up to the cistern, there's no need for pumping. In what's known as a "wet pipe" system, the buried pipes remain full of water. Because the cistern is lower than the house's gutter, when rain falls, it pushes water through into the cistern. (An electric pump can be used at times of low capacity.) It's worth noting that water quality and insect control issues can be a downside of wet systems—which is why Joe uses screens on all downpipes, and occasionally flushes the pipes and cleans out the tanks of sediment.
  • Joe still finds use for regular rain barrels too, catching every drop he can. (We shouldn't be surprised. This is the guy who built this awesome stormwater garden too...)

It's all very impressive. I guess I'm going to have to take shorter showers to make myself feel better.

Tags: Waste Not Want Not | Water Conservation | Water Crisis


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