Intro: Rainwater Collection & Distribution System
This is a custom system I designed to collect the rainwater coming off my roof and have both the ability to store the water and distribute it without attaching any temporary piping. My apologies in advance that I don't have pictures showing the step by step construction - I only discovered this site last night!
Step 1: Get Your Materials and Tools
It's a pretty simple collection of materials - most of which can be found at your local hardware store. I did a little hunting around to find an appropriate rain barrel - ended up getting one from an eco-store here in Calgary.
6 - 2x4 studs (each 8 feet long)
Approximately 100 - 3" long deck screws
55 gallon rain barrel
Sections of 2" central vacuum tubing (could substitute plumbing PVC or ABS pipe, but they cost 2x or 3x the price). Length determined by the distance you need the water to travel - I needed 6 sections.
Assorted couplings, end caps, 90 degree elbows, 2" ball valve, 1 'Y' section, and two threaded adapters to connect into the rain barrel.
2" plastic straps to affix the pipe to fence.
1 10' length of 3" pvc pipe & assorted 3" couplers/elbows
Optional stainless steel screws (or substitute the deck screws)
'C' shaped straps - number depends on the length of your delivery pipe
Saw (I used a mitre saw, but a hacksaw would work)
Step 2: Build the Stand
I didn't have any set plans, but I knew I wanted to build something that wouldn't fall apart under the weight of the water-filled barrel. A 55 gallon barrel of water weighs over 200 kilograms. Also, if the base sags, the connections will be stressed, so make the base of the legs wide to support the weight.
I built mine out of 2x4's, roughly 2'x2'x2'. The barrel I purchased (side note - these can be obtained quite inexpensively, just make sure what they used to contain wasn't toxic) had a spigot attached, so I had to accommodate that during construction. I had to be careful to make sure the lengths were correct (measure twice cut once), and that the joints were square. Take a bit of extra time and it will stand up much longer.
Step 3: Prep the Pipe
In this step I prepared the lengths of pipe by drilling a 1/2" hole every foot along the pipe - be sure that they are all in line.
Step 4: Determine Your Fall Line
I have a 40' section of fence I wanted the pipe to travel, so I put a screw in the fence at the level the water would be exiting the barrel, and then a second screw in the fence where the pipe would end. I then took a string and attached it to both strings to find out what the fall would be from the barrel. From this line I put marks on the fence where I would attach the pipe using the straps.
Step 5: Attach the Pipes to Fence
I attached the pipes to the fence with some plastic 'C' shaped straps - found them in the electrical section of the hardware store. Then, using the ABS/PVC glue I connected the end cap, and then pipe-to-pipe with couplers - almost all the way back to the barrel.
Step 6: Plumb the Barrel
This step proved to be a bit more complicated than I expected, mostly because I was using vacuum tubing/connectors on one side, but to connect to the barrel the only pieces I could find were for plumbing. Problem was, they were about 1/16th of an inch smaller than I wanted them to be. So after a bit of cleaning out the inside with a dremel, I was back in business.
I designed this system to be able to store rainwater, but have a spillover pipe that would take any excess into the pipe system and away from the house. This spillover pipe enters the main pipe on the opposite side of the valve (see pictures).
I cut holes in the barrel, as I was concerned that the small spigot wouldn't be able to handle any volume of water. I then attached the plumbing fixtures at the top and bottom and used some silicone caulking to seal the connection. I then measured, cut, and glued the pipes, elbows, and valve assembly.
Step 7: Connect the Valve Assembly to the Watering Pipe
Pretty straight forward - helps to have a bit of leeway in your watering pipe (the one you drilled holes into). Use couplers if needed and the ABS/PVC glue.
Step 8: Connect to Your Eavestrough
I did this step a day after I did the other steps, and from one day to the next I learned that the 2" pipe capacity was just barely enough to handle any real volume of water coming from the barrel. So, I opted for a 3" diameter abs pipe to handle the water coming from the roof. It was a little tricky getting the oversized fixture to attach to my aluminum eave, but with some minor modifications I got it to work. Again, I used some silicone caulking to seal the connection.
Step 9: Test the Connections for Leaks
Finally, if you have a rainstorm nature will do this for you, but if not (as in my case) I used my garden hose. I learned that I had a small leak coming from the eave connection - which I fixed once it dried out using some more caulking.
We haven't had any real rain as of yet, but I anticipate this system working just fine. I have some other rainwater collection and distribution ideas to try out - and will document each step.
Feel free to email me if you have questions: firstname.lastname@example.org - let me know if you have suggestions regarding float activated, solar powered pumps that I could attach to another rain barrel to distribute water.