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tomseeley 01-29-2011 11:16 AM

Rainwater harvesting websites
I'm planning on installing a rainwater harvesting system this spring, to collect runoff from our home's roof and eavestroughs and use the water to water landscaping. We're thinking about a system that uses a buried cistern, not an above ground one.

I have Googled the subject but the few sites I've been sent to so far do not have much info at all. I'd like suggestions for websites any of you have seen that I could go to.

Like I said: please don't just suggest that I Google the subject. Been there, done that. I'll continue doing that, but I'm asking here for other suggestions or sources too.


Bondo 01-29-2011 12:21 PM


I have Googled the subject but the few sites I've been sent to so far do not have much info at all.
Ayuh,... It would Help if you narrowed down Exactly what Info your lookin' for....

In a nutshell,...
Water flows Downhill....
If ya want it elsewhere, ya gotta Pump it.....

tomseeley 01-29-2011 12:59 PM

What am I looking for in rainwater harvesting
I've got a landscape architect's conceptual design that connects downspouts to buried 4" pvc pipes that feed roof runoff into a buried cistern. From there, it would be piped through buried lines to up to 8 zones throughout the yard, to feed a combination of sprinker heads and/or driplines. These details have not been provided yet; we're still in the prelim design stage. About half the yard would be downhill from where we'll probably locate the cistern and the rest uphill a bit. Probably no more than 3-5' total change in elevation either direction from the cistern.

I like the idea of an underground cistern more for minimizing visual intrusion than anything else, even though I believe some of the cistern would still be above ground (access hatch, perhaps a water line siphon breaker or backflow preventer, etc., since we'll also connect a line from the public waterline to the cistern, to cover low rain levels).

On the few pages I've found online so far, I've seen references to low voltage power for isolation valves, all the up to a recommendation that a pump fed from the cistern be powered from 220v! That sounds like gross overkill to me, but what do I know?

Beyond that, I don't have any detailed info at all. That's why I'm trying, independently of the architect (who has his own captive installer/subcontractor in mind) to find out all I can by myself.

Does this help you suggest sources of info? I hope's about as far as I can go right now!


Bondo 01-30-2011 06:41 AM


On the few pages I've found online so far, I've seen references to low voltage power for isolation valves, all the up to a recommendation that a pump fed from the cistern be powered from 220v! That sounds like gross overkill to me, but what do I know?
Ayuh,... Low voltage is used for valving as it's abit safer to string around the yard,...

For Pumps,... 220v is usually more efficient than 110v...

Jackofall1 01-30-2011 08:15 AM

I would think that if you are trying to look for ways to capture water for landscaping, other than the city water feed, have you considered a brown well, I am sure you could have a well punched for less than buying a cistren, digging a hole to put it in and then running the piping to and from it.

texastravis 02-08-2011 07:04 PM

Before diving into this project, know that in the long run it will probably NOT be more economical due to the cost of installation, pump maintenance, and the minor elec costs.

If you are however doing this to go "green" and accept the added costs then great! Record all costs involved with this green upgrade project and you can use it as a tax ride off.

With that said I am confused on what questions your asking? Below ground cistern is the route I would take. Consider saving costs by using a simple 320 gallon tote or a CMU structure with pond liner. You can even put a bottom drain/flush valve on it to dispel all the solids that have settled.

The best thing to do would be to intstall a french drain system in your yard if you dont already have one. Not only are they great but they will catch surface water as well as water from your gutters. If the grading of the yard is done correctly for these french drains you wont even need to connect the gutters directly to the french drains.

Install the cistern inline with the french drain or underground piping right before it dumps off to waste.

If you use a submersible pump I would make it a foot or so off the bottom to allow for solids retention.

As for power to isolation valves I cant help you there, electricity is my weakness!

Good Luck.

zircon 02-09-2011 10:07 AM

The best rainwater collection system I have seen was at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin Texas. You can take a virtual tour online but if you have a chance it is well worth seeing in person. They have the cisterns above ground so they are gravity fed off the roofs and then gravity sends the water to the flower beds. The cisterns are disguised as stone towers.

texastravis 02-09-2011 02:40 PM

Yes, above ground cisterns in which everything is gravity fed is the most cost effective approach because it takes out the need for electric pumps (and valves if done correctly)

However, these above ground things can be an eye sore and I think thats why the author was planning for below ground

AllanJ 02-09-2011 04:12 PM

Underground you also need a container, not just a well. If you just dig a hole, much of the water will seep into the ground between storms and be lost.

hucklebarry 02-17-2011 08:05 PM

Consider the likelihood of Odor Problems before installing a cistern
One thing I haven't seen discussed here is how to control development of odors with cistern storage. My experience is limited to a grand total of 2 cases--mine and word of mouth from a friend.

I considered a cistern with my new home two years ago and ended up with a gray water recycling system (80 gal container in basement, not underground). I gave it up after nine months because I couldn't control the odors from the anaerobic decomposition of the organic matter that escaped 5 micron filtration, and I tried a lot of methods. A friend helped his neighbor disconnect his underground cistern because all of the neighbors threatened to sue him over the odor nuisance.

So my feeling is that sitting water will always have a tendency to stagnate, particularly if it's in a closed container and not subjected to heavy chemical treatment--which sort of makes it useless for irrigation.

I know that rainwater has less organic matter than gray water, but depending on just where your water comes from, it's going to have some organic material in it and will eventually putrefy and vent noxious odors.

I'd solicit the experiences of others who have successfully installed cisterns before undertaking your projects.

Hope this helps.

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