2011 Drought Prompts Texas Homeowner to Build A Rainwater Storage System

Rainwater storage systemAn Interview by Brad Kunkel

My friend, Larry Kinder, who lives in Waco, Texas, is an avid gardener and landscaper.  Larry’s gardening activities were severely hampered last year by his area’s worst drought in over half a century.  He decided to install a rainwater storage system to help with the problem.  I decided to interview Larry about his experiences and offered to share it here on Greenspiration Home.  Hopefully Larry’s experience will give you a “leg up” on your own rainwater storage endeavors!

Brad: Larry, you had a very hot, dry summer last year in Texas…how did that impact your personal home water usage and consumption?

Larry: Actually I stopped watering altogether.  I didn’t have my rainwater system in place for last winter’s rainfall. My idea was to see what survived.  These survivors will be drought-tolerant plants, which I’ll use in my landscape.

Brad: What gave you the idea to build your water storage system?

Larry: Seeing all the “wasted” rainwater flowing off my carport roof—storms turn it into a mini Niagara Falls.

Brad: How have your neighbors reacted to the system?

Larry: If I don’t show it to folks, they don’t even know it’s there.

Brad: OK, so how did you construct your storage system?

Larry: I needed to remove the corrugated metal carport roof to do repairs on our house, and did so. Once it was on the ground, I modified it to repair leaks in the metal channels and prevent leaves from blocking it.

When my home repairs were finished, I reinstalled my modified roof, added a downspout and hose, and diverted it into a 55-gallon plastic drum.

Brad: How long did it take to build and what was the total cost?

Larry: My system is sort of complicated, so it took a few weeks; but a simpler system could be done in a weekend. The total cost was less than $120.00.

Brad: Just curious…what was the skill level needed for this project?

Larry: Not high at all.  If you use standard gutter fittings and already have your storage container, you could do it in a day.  I just needed something unobtrusive, low maintenance and near the place I would need the water.

Brad: Is there anything special you do to keep the system working as it should?

Larry: I use a screen on the downspout, to catch any debris before it ends up in the container.

Brad: How long did it take till your container was full?

Larry: The first rain we had overflowed the 55 gallon barrel; I had to go bigger, so I added a 300 gallon plastic container, often referred to as a “tote.”  With the tote in place, I caught over 100 gallons of water from 1.25 inches of rainfall. The next storm dumped 5 inches, and that overflowed the tote.

Brad: How much has the system helped you with irrigation?

Larry: I have my planting done for this season and so far I have not used any city water at all. I have 4 raised garden beds and some containers and all are watered with the rainwater I have collected. I have also used it to refill my garden pond.

Brad: You know where I live: “mosquito central” in Key Largo, Florida.   What should people who live in areas where mosquitoes thrive know when building a system?

Larry: Keep the system as tightly closed as possible. Using a fine mesh over the receptacle can help keep mosquitoes out.  If it’s a large receptacle like mine, you can even add mosquito fish to eat the larvae.  There are also commercial mosquito dunks that will kill the larvae but won’t harm anything else like pets or plants.

Brad: What advice can you give for planning the system?

Larry: First, make sure it is legal in your area to catch rainwater. Some states have laws against it. Make sure your container is level and stable. If you already have gutters and downspouts on your home, just let the downspouts run into the container, but be sure that any overflow is carried away from your foundation. There are commercial rain barrels that already have fittings for a hose; if you use a plain barrel, you can buy the fittings at any home improvement store. If it’s conspicuous, make it attractive—use plastic spray paint to make it any color you want, and be creative. I am working on a blue plastic barrel that will become black with a hammered finish. I may add iron filings to give it a “rusty” look when it weathers. If you are in an area that has hard freezes, you may want to partially drain the barrel, to keep it from rupturing.

Brad: Water shortages are now showing up on a global scale.  Many areas of the world are already finding the need to import clean water.  In Texas, the shortage has affected energy exploration and production, and in the Waco area, future expansion has the projected water needs exceeding the current supply distribution system’s capacity.   Simply by building a rainwater storage system, you benefit your family, your community, your state, and your planet. How does that make you feel?

Larry: Anything that I, as an individual, can do to help the environment is very gratifying. Of course, the lower water bills won’t hurt (chuckle). With the climate changing as it is, we will all have to adapt. It’s what humans do best. Making little changes like this right now, is a lot easier than trying to change our entire lives later on.

Brad: Is there anything else you would like to say concerning this project?

Larry: Here’s my opinion:  Everyone should try gardening, even if it’s just a container garden. Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you have an idea that might be useful, give it a try. Build a greenhouse, a wind powered generator. Lots of things can be done with recycled materials. If your garden makes more than you can eat, consider food banks in your area.

Brad: Thanks for taking the time today, Larry!

Larry: My pleasure, bud.

Brad Kunkel, a past contributor to Greenspiration Home, is a Commercial Sales Inspector for Truly Nolen in Key Largo, FL.  He has extensive experience in the sales and design of energy efficient HVAC systems and has been an avid supporter and participant in Habitat for Humanity projects.

2 Responses »

  1. I think it is great that Larry built a RHS, but he need to do a little home work.
    Opaque tanks to reduce alea bloom and some type of system to filter the organics. Roof washer and first flush help reduce the organics.

  2. It is ‘illegal’ to collect rainwater. Sad, sad state of affairs in this country when you need approval to catch rainwater. But I see it all the time. Once we as a nation can get past all this gov-run-amock then it is full speed ahead with rain containment systems. There is an ever increasing cost of turning on a spigot, running water and flushing it- where in my part of the country it costs twice as much to flush as it does to open the tap. These containment systems I believe have a great future, especially for gardening which is seeing a resurgence in popularity.

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