Saturday, 25 July 2015

Water, water everywhere... Rainwater harvesting

The rest of the world may bemoan the onset of rain, but anybody who lives off the land and still maintains an affinity with nature will appreciate it. Granted that occasionally it causes us problems but, to be fair, without it we'd all be dead!
Over the last 24 hours South Lincolnshire has experienced a mini deluge, which is a very good thing indeed, for it's been an overly dry spring and summer so far. Not particularly hot, but arid enough to open up a few serious cracks in the ground.

Last night's rain though may just save the few new fruit trees which were struggling with the dry conditions. It should get the pasture growing again, which in turn means that the sheep might fatten up enough to sell. And it should get the vegetables growing a bit faster, as they've been in a state of virtual suspended animation for the last few weeks.

When the rain does come, I make the most of it by collecting as much as possible. I've got three 1000 litre IBCs (don't ask me what that stands for - they're the big white containers you see in fields) as well as the normal array of green water butts connected to the guttering.

My biggest achievement is linking most of my water collection so that the linked containers all self-level. This is how I get water into the IBC in the polytunnel, which in turn means that my polytunnel plants can have harvested rainwater whenever they need it.

1000 litres of rainwater connected to...
About three months ago I did manage to fill this container up, but I then frustratingly left the tap on overnight after filling up a watering can. 1000 litres of precious water gone, soaked away into the ground!
But as of this morning all of my collection containers are full to overflowing, which equates to about 4000 litres of water.

A slight overflow problem, now sorted and made useful.
connected to...
1000 litres of harvested rainwater for the polytunnel crops.
It acts as a heat reservoir in the winter too.
A bathful of comfrey tea - a bag of rotting
comfrey leaves suspended in the bath
 ensures a constant supply of
liquid feed

Another 1000 litres,
used to top up the sheep's water

The bees like to use this one as a water supply
- hence the floating corks and polystyrene, to save them when they fall in.

Since the different containers all sit at different levels, when the lowest one fills up I have to shut off the tap linking it to the others, otherwise the higher ones would simply drain into the lowest, causing it to overflow, before they were full. Once I've used some of it up, I can simply open the tap again and allow everything to self-level again.
The only other minor alteration I had to make this morning was to fit an outlet hose to one of the smaller water butts which was overflowing and flooding the stables. But a simple overflow hose now means that all this water goes where I choose - at the moment to a soaker hose that runs through the herb patch. The other full water butt overflows to a soaker hose in the polytunnel so it becomes self-irrigating when it rains.

It's taken a bit of time to perfect the system and I've had to think carefully about where the water would go first and what happens when any one container fills up, but I've now got a brilliant water storage system and any overflow can be directed to wherever I want it to go.

I can't realistically water the pasture or the orchard, but everywhere else should be okay now for a good month or so, even if we get no rain at all.


  1. Intermediate Bulk Containers

  2. Thank you Philip. Not the most exciting name, but does what it says on the tin.


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