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This water treatment train combines a few #DIYBMP devices for filtration or adsorption in a number of different water treatment applications:

- stormwater treatment

- pond filtration

- large aquarium filtration

- hydroponics & aquaponics

- aquaculture

- rainwater harvesting

- natural swimming pool


This Instructable details how to build a vortex clarifier, filter barrel, and an active media barrel.

Depending on your application and contaminants of concern, each piece could stand alone, be combined with another piece, or included in the full treatment train detailed here.

I work professionally in the water treatment industry and maintain some water-centric hobbies. Knowing that I tinker in small-scale, inexpensive versions of industrial equipment, friends have asked how they might build their own systems for their hobbies or businesses - for rainwater harvesting, aquaponics, aquaculture, aquariums, and even industrial stormwater treatment. My Instructables about DIY aquatics equipment are meant to share some of the hacks, science, and builds more broadly with others.

Step 1: Build the Vortex Clarifier

This is a hydrodynamic separator for pre-treatment in a number of different water treatment applications.


Target Contaminants - Total Suspended Solids

Estimated Flow- 25 gallons per minute

Action - Separates bulk solids that sink or float; approximately 2 minutes retention to settle bulk solids

Project Estimate - $45

Step 1: Gather Parts

(1) 55 gal drum from local reclaim or Craigslist

(2) Banjo 1.5" bulkhead from Amazon.com

Parts from Home Depot

(1) 1.5" x 2" PVC adapter (MPT x slip)

(1) 2" PVC stub (3")

(1) 2" PVC drop tube (28")

(2) 2" PVC Elbow 90

(1) 1.5" PVC Tee

(1) 1.5" PVC stub (6")

(1) 1.5" PVC adapter (MPT x slip)


Step 2: Prep Barrel

Drill holes for the fill tube and skim drain bulkheads, approximately 3" from top of inverted barrel.

Cut hole on top of barrel to receive stormwater from site downspout, diverter, or pump and to allow access for internal plumbing.

Step 3: Install Bulkhead Fittings

Install bulkheads for fill tube and skim drain.

Step 4: Install Internal Plumbing

Install internal adapters into bulkhead fittings.

Install fill tube and skim drain assemblies.

Step 5: Install External Plumbing

Install fill plumbing as desired from source.

Install drain plumbing as desired to reach next treatment step or discharge location.

Depending on the layout and application, elevating the vortex clarifier will enable gravity flow. Three concrete blocks makes a safe and stable platform up to 3 layers tall.

Step 2: Build the Filter Barrel

This is a slow sand filter for filtration in a number of different water treatment applications.

Target Contaminants- Total Suspended Solids

Estimated Flow - 25 gallons per minute

Action - Filters suspended solids

Project Estimate - $130


Step 1: Gather Parts

(1) 55 gal drum from local reclaim or Craigslist

(1) Banjo 2" bulkhead from Amazon.com

Parts from Home Depot

(2) 2" PVC adapter (MPT x slip)

(1) 2" PVC perforated underdrain (14") - pre-drill 1/4" holes or cut slits using saw

(1) 2" PVC Cap

(1) 2" PVC riser (34")

(2) 2" PVC stub (3")

(1) 2" PVC stub (6")

(1) 2" PVC Tee

(2) 2" PVC Elbow 90

(1) 2" PVC valve

(4) 2’ x 2’ section weed barrier fabric (separators between the media layers)


Step 2: Prep Barrel

Drill hole for the underdrain bulkhead, approximately 3" from bottom of inverted barrel.

Cut hole on top of barrel to receive stormwater from site downspout, diverter, or pump and to allow access for internal plumbing.


Step 3: Install Internal Plumbing

Install bulkhead for underdrain.

Connect internal adapter into bulkhead fitting. Install underdrain assembly.


Step 4: Install Discharge Plumbing

Install fill plumbing as desired from source.

Install drain plumbing as desired to reach next treatment step or discharge location.

Depending on the layout and application, elevating the filter will enable gravity flow. Three concrete blocks makes a safe and stable platform up to 3 layers tall.


Step 5: Install Media Bed

Install media, separating each type with a section of weed barrier fabric.

(4 bags) Drain Rock for drainage support (10" layer)

(4 bags) Pea Gravel for solids separation down to 300 microns (2 x 5" layers)

(6 bags) Pool Filter Sand for solids separation to 30 microns (15" layer) - best pricing at your local pool supply

Step 3: Make the Active Media Barrel

This is a modified slow sand filter for filtration and active adsorption of heavy metals and nutrients.


Target Contaminants - Total Suspended Solids

Heavy Metals (Zn, Cu, Al, Fe)

Nutrients (COD, BOD, Ammonia)

Estimated Flow - 25 gallons per minute

Action - Actively adsorbs heavy metals and nutrients

Project Estimate - $240


Step 1: Gather Parts

(1) 55 gal drum from local reclaim or Craigslist

(1) Banjo 2" bulkhead from Amazon.com

Parts from Home Depot

(2) 2" PVC adapter (MPT x slip)

(1) 2" PVC perforated underdrain (14") - pre-drill 1/4" holes or cut slits using saw

(1) 2" PVC Cap

(4) 2’ x 2’ section weed barrier fabric (separators between the media layers)


Step 2: Prep Barrel

Drill hole for the underdrain bulkhead, approximately 3" from bottom of inverted barrel.

Cut hole on top of barrel to receive stormwater from site downspout, diverter, or pump and to allow access for internal plumbing.


Step 3: Install Internal Plumbing

Install bulkhead for underdrain.

Connect internal adapter into bulkhead fitting.

Install underdrain assembly.


Step 4: Install Discharge Plumbing

Install fill plumbing as desired from source.

Install drain plumbing as desired to reach next treatment step or discharge location.

Depending on the layout and application, elevating the filter will enable gravity flow. Three concrete blocks makes a safe and stable platform up to 3 layers tall.


Step 5: Install Media Bed

Install media, separating each type with a section of weed barrier fabric.

(4 bags) Drain Rock for drainage support (10" layer)

(2 bags) Pea Gravel for solids separation down to 300 microns (5" layer)

(2 bags) Pool Filter Sand for solids separation to 30 microns (5" layer) - best pricing at your local pool supply

(10 bags) Active media - Zeolite for adsorption of metals & nutrients (25" layer) - may be locally available as "horse stall deodorizer" at farm or feed store

Step 4: Assemble the Treatment Train

Depending on your application and contaminants of concern, each piece could stand alone, be combined with another piece, or included in the full treatment train detailed here.

Step 5: ...or Assemble a Hybrid Treatment Train

Note that for some applications, combining the large and small DIYBMPs may work well for isolating active media into a separate container for easier change-out or recharge. See the "Hybrid Treatment Train" examples attached to this step.

Check out the DIY Water Treatment Tower for details on constructing the larger DIYBMPs.

<p>I think that this is a MUST if you have room for it.. Here in South Africa it is a must</p>
Too right Boet... (Sussie?) but check out your municipality's bye-laws. There are some weird things in some areas as regards grey and even rain water harvesting... <br><br>But hey, in the drought we're in (and even thereafter) &quot;it's going to be easier to ask forgiveness than get permission&quot; <br><br>
<p>Slow sand filtration is used around the world in small to large scale installations. For drinking water applications, it's only a step in the whole process. A final sterilization step is needed to kill off biota that cause waterborne illness.</p>
Not to nit-pick, but at 25gph on the barrel being used, the surface overflow rate (SOR = flow&divide;surface area of filter) will be about 0,16gpm/sf, which is way out of range for Slow Sand Filters, which operate in a very different way (in a range between 0.05 and 0.1 gpm/sf - see reference below) and provide advantages beyond those of Rapid Sand Filters, which is what this actually is. <br><br>http://iaspub.epa.gov/tdb/pages/treatment/treatmentOverview.do?treatmentProcessId=-1306063973<br><br>SSF's were used as far back as the mid 1400's and have been credited with being the single biggest health improvement factor in the European cities which used them (my post graduate studies in water treatment happened a long long time ago so I forget the reference :-! ). Very probably, how they provided their microbiological benefits was not realised at the time, but they worked wonders... <br><br>One of their biggest problems is the space SSF's need to be effective. As can be calculated from the SOR's above, they would need about 30 x the surface area - and another 30 x for use when the time came for cleaning the first set. Not good for a backyard setup... <br><br>There are all sorts of other problems with SSF's and I don't want to set myself up as any sort of expert (besides being long-windedly off-topic) but I'm a bit passionate about water supply and I do think terminology is important. I would not want someone expecting the benefits of SSF's as set out in the EPA reference to install this system and be disappointed. As someone else has commented, a post filtration disinfection system should be added if you are going to put the water in your Scotch... <br>
<p>very cool!</p>
<p>Do you have to change out filtering meduim, if so, how often?</p>
<p>The filter media cleaning, replacement, or recharge (for zeolite) would depend on the quality of the water going in and the water quality goal for the discharge.</p>
<p>Just as an add-on, in the UK, when stricter waste water treatment regulations came in during the 1990's, companies fell over themselves to devise new systems to clean up effluents. Sand filters were very popular and were automated by blowing compressed air through to dislodge build up of solids - some worked, some didn't. If you are treating water with high levels of solids, flocculants like alum are added, but some of the most innovative methods used &quot;blown&quot; or aerated clay granules to harbour the aerobic bacteria and micro-organisms that digested the organics and compressed air kept the whole mix in suspension. My system for self-cleaning filters also used compressed air as the cleaning agent and sintered plastics to do the filtration. The target was for two weeks use before a manual clean - they actually worked for months and years.</p>
<p>Sounds really neat. This system would require manual cleaning since there is no system described ere for backswing or air-scouring the media. It would be really cool to see what you could come up with for a backwash system retrofit for this type of slow-sand filtration in bars or IBC totes.</p>
<p>I live in the PNW under many fir trees and have tried rainwater catchment to flush our toilets. The pollen from the trees clogs any filter I've tried and is very fine. It eventually rots in the cistern and makes the water smell real bad. Perhaps some type of gravity sand filter? Never come across a design for this problem.</p>
<p>I also live in the PNW and struggle with this same issue of the pollen dump from the fir trees around my house. Usually, the weekend after that big pollen dump I'll do the annual drain and clean on the system. It keeps things pretty clear for the rest of the year. </p><p>If there was some of pollinated water that made it to my rainwater storage, sometimes I'll throw in a touch of liquid chlorine bleach to the storage tank to oxidize any of the biota or funk starting to establish. The chlorine is in low enough concentration and will degrade to gas off so it's not harmful for irrigation purposes.</p><p>I'll be publishing an Instructable with more info about rainwater harvesting, storage, and maintenance. The PNW does present a unique set of challenges on the topic, many of which are also relevant to other parts of the country.</p>
<p>You can also recycle barrels from car washes, it takes some cleaning (rinsing), but very useful</p>
<p>Certain industries utilize more barrels than others, it's really important that you're able to get residual product out. Food manufacturers, car washes, dairy farms and many others usually have barrels and totes available, or you could check Craigslist. </p>
<p>I assume you invert the barrels so that they will rest on the stiffened rim of the actual top for more strength and stability. True?</p>
<p>Yep, that's true... And it leaves me the option to easily install a valve on the bottom, through the 3/4&quot; threaded plugs on the bung caps.</p>
Can this be made to filter whole house water?
<p>What do you mean by whole house water?</p><p>If you mean the potable water supplied by the water utility, then obviously not. For starters, the utility water is going to be at pressure (4 bar where I live) and this is not a pressure vessel - then for effective filtration (shouldn't really be necessary if you are talking about particles), you need to filter to micron levels. </p><p>If you have utility water that would benefit from this sort of treatment, you have a supply problem.</p><p>You could use it for utlity water, but not at pressure (a thin-walled plastic drum would pop sooner or later), then you have the problem of repressurising.</p><p>Sand filters for potable water filtration are huge pressure vessels (I used to work with them). I use a whole house potable water filter about 30-cm high, 10-cm diameter which takes the pressure and the activated carbon sediment filter takes out grit etc., plus organics, but leaves the vital calcium minerals.</p><p>If you are off-mains and use a borehole or surface water, it might work for non-potable use i.e. washing etc., but you still need to get the filtered water up to a usable pressure.</p><p>It all depends on what you are using the water for in the end.</p>
<p>Nicely put together, with some decent fittings for a change.</p><p>I use a similar, but smaller system to feed a 500-litre tank with rainwater. The first stage uses three layers of fish pond foam filters on top of 10-mm (pea) gravel. I actually use the water in the house, so it also goes through a UVC disinfection device, also used for fish ponds, plus a small amount of bleach (sodium hypochlorite).</p><p>The vortex principle is used on large scale separators for things like waste water treatment and on a smaller scale for central heating circulating water clean-up.</p><p>The surface skimmer is also from the waste water industry to make sure that suface scum doesn't get into the next stages.</p><p>Years ago, I developed a self-cleaning filter (too complicated to describe here), but it filtered sewage effluent to produce really clear water.</p><p>Rainwater harvesting and systems like yours will become increasing important as the pressures on jighly purified potable water increase. Using rainwater to flush WC's is just one use, plus washing clothes and dishes. The soft rainwater considerably extends the life of all pipework, including underground.</p>
<p>how does this work</p>
<p>Wow, very good info! I really enjoyed both of these instructables you shared.</p><p>These systems look impressive and your documentation is so thorough. Very well done, all around.</p>

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