April 20, 2024

(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)

I used 30 amp Anderson Power Pole connectors with 12 AWG (American Wire Gauge) stranded ‘zip cord’ for the connections. I did this so that replacing any potentially failed components would be quick and easy. Do however note that 12 AWG wire, while versatile, is considered slightly large for a pump that might use only 8 amps, intermittently.

The inlet of the Shurflo RV pump was connected from the outlet of the storage tote using a fitting which adapted the IBC outlet to a garden hose thread. The outlet of the RV pump was in turn connected to another “Rain Fresh Whole House Filter” this time with a 5 micron filter cartridge. From there I ran a hose to the water faucet in the garage at which I opened the cold water side and left the hot water side closed.

Because both input and output sides of the pumps were male garden hose threads, I had the option of creating a special hose with two female barbs, or using an equivalent adaptor obtained from the local farm store.

The standard 50 foot lengths of garden hose are not always needed and can become cumbersome, so for hoses of varying lengths I used ‘food grade’ vinyl. The transparency also allows one to visibly detect a vapour lock, which is one of the problems you can expect to run into from time to time.

The food grade plastic hosing from the tote to the RV pump is 1/2” inside diameter (ID) and 3/4” outside diameter (OD). This is a thicker wall than typical, and it reduces the chance of the hose collapsing on the suction side of the pump.

If you are using rubber garden hose, consider the possibility that it might be 5/8” ID. This might become relevant when it comes time to replace the corroded pressed brass ends of the garden hose. Either way, your collection of spare parts ought to include both 1/2” and 5/8” barbs – males and females.
Once the hoses were all connected and snugged, I plugged in the pump and we were operational. Now we had pressurized pipes once again. Toilet and shower were both back in short order.

In addition to several 50 foot rubber hoses, I used about 100 ft of food grade 1/2 inch hose. I also used a large number of male and female hose barbs and stainless steel hose clamps. The best US made barbs came in a male female pair package that I acquired from the building supply store – Sioux Chief “3/4 FHT x 1/2 ID”.

Also as a contingency for hot water, I acquired a 4 US gallon low tech electric hot water tank that could be powered either directly off the solar panels, or could be plugged into grid power. Low tech is key. These water tanks are purely resistive which allows the needed flexibility to be able to switch between DC and AC power.

Challenges

The collection system was reasonably resilient in recent -27 Fahrenheit (-16C) cold snaps. The 800 watt stock tank heater from the local farm store was able to keep the water liquid near the bottom and after more than a week of cold weather we had about 8 inches of solid ice at the top of a very full collection tote. Amazingly the tote did not develop any leaks. As we progressed into a mild spell the ice began to diminish and we were able to transfer water once again. We do somewhat rely on the fact that we get a mild spell about once a month between December and March.

It is critical that the bottom of the tote remain liquid. The valve on the outlet is plastic, if it freezes, one risks breaking it.

The one thing that the freeze-up does destroy – the mosquito screen at the top of the collection tote inlet. This is easily replaced.

In summer, the hot weather was often greater than 86 Fahrenheit (30C), and with bright sunshine it caused at times a monumental problem with algae bloom. In spite of the fact that the water got filtered using a 30 micron filter before storage, the algae growth also became a problem in the dark, cool storage totes in the garage.
I learned that following a rain event, it became imperative that as soon as possible the collected water be transferred to cool, dark, clean storage – ideally within 24 hours. Longer than that, is asking for yet more algae problems.

Periodically, it became necessary to rinse out the totes using a pressurized hose. This might seem like wasted water, but it was a worth while exercise. A small amount of sodium hypochlorite (non-deodorized bleach) was also used when rinsing the totes.

The effect of the algae on the Berkey drinking water system was interesting. For those that do not already use one – the Berkey is a gravity based drinking water filtration system which consists of two stacked stainless steel tanks with the filter cartridges in the top tank threaded in place with plastic fasteners.

As the algae became rather noticeable, the top tank and the filter cartridges became slimy and the filtration rate fell dramatically. During summer I was taking apart the Berkey monthly to use a Scotchbrite pad to clean off the cartridges and to wash out the inside of the top tank. I re-primed the cartridges each time.

The repeated threading of the filter cartridges also caused the threads to fail and I needed to replace several over the course of the summer. So, it was handy to have had a few spare Berkey filter ‘candles’ on hand. Between October and June, no extra cleaning of the Berkey was required.

The algae also left a distinct smell in everything we did in late summer. Showers took on the distinct odor. Even the drinking water had hints of the algae that had been filtered out. I joked that everything in this house smells of latest cologne – eau d’algae.

Another challenge worth considering is what to do with excess rain water during a storm. Water collection implies channelling the water to where it is most useful. However, in a torrential rain, or heavy spring snow melt – you will be dealing with flooding. Where is excess water directed and have you considered the downfalls of doing so? Spilling it onto the still frozen ground means that it won’t be infiltrating any time soon. So, think about what you are creating: A huge skating rink where you might later need to walk? A pond, where you can’t have a pond? A flood right next to the house could result in a very wet basement, high humidity and possibly mold? In our case the local topographic low is right over our recently installed cistern.

Other challenges people have proposed, include what mitigations against the ‘chemtrails’ have we considered. I do know that cloud seeding does occur and that the military has taken out patents on weather modification ideas. I have not thoroughly researched this topic, so I don’t really know how to respond to this potential threat.

Why We Chose to Filter at 30 and 5 Microns

The pumps we use are not full size jet pumps and do not produce that kind of pressure. Rather than risk wearing out the pump I chose to first filter at 30 microns as I transferred into storage, then subsequently filter at 5 microns as we pressurized the pipes.

Filtration is essential to minimize the contaminants in the storage tanks. It did not however, eliminate algae growth which produced its own class of contaminant.

You do want to prevent contaminants from entering the household piping. Contaminants in the piping would be very difficult to subsequently clear.

In addition to the 5 micron filter on the pressurized pipes, we used the submicron Berkey filter for water used for drinking and for cooking.

For water used for washing dishes, I raised the thermostat on the water heater to be above 140 Fahrenheit (60C). Many contaminants are destroyed at these temperatures, although theoretically there are some that might survive. So, if you are getting water from a surface water source, you might want to go beyond what we used for rainwater catchment.

The secondary benefit of hotter water was that we tended to waste less water waiting for the tap to get warm.

How Much Water Do We Really Need?

Many ‘prepper’ videos talk about a gallon per day. Okay, but did they forget about hygiene?
Our 500 gallons (2000L) of storage in the garage relied on periodic rainfall and/or thaw cycles. Of course, you could roll a dice and be more accurate than your estimate of when the next water would arrive. So, we had to measure how much we actually use.

The two of us, empirically, consumed about 100 gallons per week as long we were in extreme conservation mode. If we were more normal in our more normal consumption patterns we would consume closer to 250 gallons per week.

Activities which consumed a lot of water: baths, washing machine loads, toilet flushes. During dry spells, we tried to schedule baths and laundry for days when we received rains, and other than that we mastered the 3 minute shower – and, only when absolutely necessary. In summer it was not an option to shower less frequently because physical work left us quite sweaty on a daily basis.

The washing machine we use is the most water efficient European front loader we could find. However, we still needed to be extremely careful.

One challenge with consumption patterns and unpredictable precipitation events really came to a head when we had visitors who were completely unaccustomed to water conservation practices.

Another such challenge came to us when we acquired an eastern European German Shepherd pup. These high energy working dogs are smart and seem to like water. In any case, she liked to jump into the bath tub and splash. And when there was no water in the tub, she would figure out how to turn on the taps. The one time this happened was during the middle of the night when we were all sleeping. By the time I got up at 5 AM, we had already lost more than 100 gallons down the bathtub drain. Somethings, you cannot plan for.

Legalities

In some locales it might be technically ‘illegal’ to capture rainfall on your own property. So you had best check with your local regulations and proceed with caution in this political clown world we find ourselves in.

Other Adventures

In the spring of 2023, I ordered a 1,150-gallon cistern. That installation project was yet another adventure which might be described in a separate submission.

If there are other questions that arise as a result of this account, then perhaps I will be motivated to sit down and write about a few other things.

SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

Given the political situation on this continent, in the USA and Canada, it seems a significant strength to be quasi-independent and self-sufficient as possible. Municipal water distribution systems have been in the news over the past decade often for having contaminants which can seriously compromise ones health. Bully tactics are never ok, and being in a position to say ‘no’ is always a strength.

Expending resources to capture and filter rainwater, resources that might have been used elsewhere, might be construed as a weakness. Depending on a collection system is more vulnerable to the vagaries of weather patterns than perhaps we would with a good well.

Although it could be argued that capital costs of a rainwater capture system have driven costs somewhat higher, the overall costs are somewhat offset by a much lower monthly water bill. While a minimum charge still applies, we now save about a $100 per month. Water rates have been rising much faster than inflation, so this is expected to become a more significant opportunity with time. If this independence can be sustained for a period of years, the net benefit would be to reduce overall cost, and significantly reduce monthly cashflow demands. And as I pen this, I receive notification that water charges, including stormwater tax, have gone up 7% in January 2024.

Threats abound. An extended drought could easily exceed the capacity of stored water. Water delivery services are available in this area, but to be cost effective would require significant improvements to the storage capacity. We are never entirely insulated from the arbitrariness of bad politics.

Conclusion

Samuel Clemens said, “It’s not what you don’t know that kills you; it’s what you know for sure that isn’t so.” Always, take the opportunity to test what you think you know while the opportunity to make inexpensive corrections exists.

Even though we have been consuming none of their water, we still pay a minimum fee for water each month in addition to a tax on ‘stormwater’. Our net savings of about $1,200 per year funds our preparedness education.

Our daughter mentions that she likes the taste of our drinking water so much better than her own. What possibly could be the difference?

It has been entirely possible to live well in this locale without artesian well, spring, or water main connection. By God’s grace he brings rain and he accomplishes his purposes and sometimes that purpose is simply to build faith. As for the water commission folks I would refer them to Genesis 50:20: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”