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Using rain to water our garden…our solar driven rain collection system takes shape

The water tote being connected to the diverter spout

The water tote being connected to the diverter spout

Our tanks still sitting on the truck in front of the barn waiting for us to unload!

***We have more updated pictures at the end of this post from installing the totes.

It’s a beautiful sight to us!  Two bright and shiny 275 gallon water totes that will become the backbone of our barn’s rooftop rainwater collection system.  They will be used to water our entire garden, grapevines, and flowerbed areas – and let us attain our goal of using 100% reclaimed water for all of our gardening needs.

Thanks to another craigslist find this past weekend – we picked up the two used totes for just $40 each from a manufacturing plant.  They were used initially to hold molasses syrup for the food plant – but they are in pristine condition, completely washed, cleaned out and ready to start holding our rainwater.  These tanks have a huge 6″ cap opening on top for filling – but more importantly – with just a little modification using simple garden hose adapters – we can turn the 2″ bottom outlet into a standard garden hose hookup, complete with a shut off valve.

Recycled water totes are a great way to store and use rainwater – just make sure your totes are clean and were not used to hold harsh chemicals that could leave harmful residues.

We will finally be installing our gutters on the barn in the next few weeks . Instead of directing the downspout into regular run off drains –  the rainwater from the metal roof will be carried by a small diverter installed in the downspout to fill the water tanks.

Our system is really pretty basic and very simple.  When both tanks are full – they will hold 550 gallons of fresh water – enough to water our garden every day for nearly a month if mother nature decides to send a drought our way.  We will keep one tank at the top of the back hill above the garden hidden within the compost bin fence.   The other tank will be installed at the back corner of the barn, hidden behind a decorative fence and large grasses. That tank will be connected to the downspout to catch the rain water coming off the metal roof of the barn.   A simple overflow tube will be installed on the main rainwater tank that will send all excess water to the regular drains when the tanks become full.

The biggest hurdle to overcome was how to get water to our top tank.  It makes sense to have the usable water up above the garden.  It’s the highest point of the property – and if the tank is there, we can simply use gravity to water all of our plants.  We first thought about using the tractor and a small wheeled trailer to move the bins when full – but we decided it would just be too difficult to do – and probably end up damaging our tanks with the constant movement.  So after a lot more thought and a little research – we have settled on pumping the water from the bottom tank to the top tank  when needed,  using a permanently buried hose and a small water pump powered by an inexpensive solar energy system

We will use a simple downspout rain diverter to take water to the tanks

How does it work?  – It starts with the use of a small solar panel that will attach on to the back of the barn roof.  The panel collects the sun’s energy and charges  a small battery panel in the barn.  That battery power can then run the small electric pump and push the water up to the second tank with a simple flip of a switch.  A great way to get all of our future watering needs at no cost!

So – hopefully with a little good weather and some luck – we can at least have the gutters and main tank connected within the next week or two and begin filling the main barn tank – with the solar pump and panel installation following shortly thereafter.   Our goal is to have the system operational by the main planting of our garden in mid-May.  We will be sure to post updated pictures when we have it all up!

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Filling Up With Rain


Filling up about half full after a rain,,,

Filling up from a good rain

Filling up from a good rain

Back Barn Gutter

Back Barn Gutter