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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rainwater Harvest

Home the Land Built harvests the abundance of the Land:  boxelder for warmth, sunlight for electricity and hot water, and now, finally, the rain for our water.   
A year ago, had you asked which alternative system would be the most challenging, I would not have answered rainwater harvest.  It’s just water off the roof for goodness sake.  Then again, had I really thought about it, there are more components in the rainwater harvest system than any other. 
There’s the steel roof for harvesting (collecting an amazing 1000 gallons per inch of rain).  The gutter, buried  pipes and cistern pump for transport.  The cistern and water crock for storage.   Three filters and the first flush diverter for cleaning.  Still, most of the components are fairly simple.  Except, as I found out, for one.
The Clean Rain first flush diverter---attached to the bottom of each of the three downspouts--- is sometimes called a roof washer.  By diverting the first 50 gallons of rainwater away from the cistern, we avoid harvesting everything that’s collected on the roof and gutter since the last rain:  bird pooh, stagnant gutter water, dust and pollen.  I saw a couple systems where they accomplished this manually, simply by turning a valve a few minutes after the rain begins.  But the Clean Rain does this automatically, and very cleverly I might add.  Spongy washers swell, pressing a ball over the diverter pipe thereby directing water down the cistern pipe.  At least that’s the theory.  Our reality, since installing the rainwater harvest system in May, is that the Clean Rain never worked.  It diverted all the rainwater away from the cistern and out into our yard. 
I’d problem-solved with the friendly folks at the Rainharvest Store, but to no avail.  During my last call, both sides felt like maybe it’s time to give up, take out the Clean Rain and install a manual system.  Quite depressed, neither of us had any more good ideas.  Fortunately fate did. 
When Mike the Mason came to lay the limestone over our concrete porch walls, he said the east porch diverter was in his way.  As I removed the diverter, I saw my big ah-hah!  There was another filter---a filter I didn’t know about it---and it was plugged.  “Water could never get through that and into the cistern”, I thought.  Now I was excited.  I removed the next diverter.  “Same problem!” I told Linda.  One to go.  And when I tore that one off and found it’s filter clogged I jumped onto the website.  Mosquito filters!  Sure a mosquito might survive in a backyard rain barrel, but not in our cistern.  I ditched the filters and reassembled the diverters.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited. 
Then, on Saturday morning, it rained.  And rained.  And as it rained some more I rushed out onto the east porch.  Water was gushing out of the downspout and into the diverter and only a little seemed to trickle out of the downspout.  “I think we’re harvesting,” I shouted to Linda.  “But there’s only one way to know for sure.” 
With herculean strength I could have slipped the manhole cover off the cistern and peered down but instead I ran to the bottom of the hill.  And there, where Excavator Steve terminated his overflow pipe---designed to carry water away from the cistern when its full and overflowing---gushed water.  Rainwater!  Glorious harvested rainwater bubbling like a spring.  Since we'd just paid Milk Truck Dustin to deliver 5000 gallons of city water, the newly harvested rainwater represented an overflowing abundance.
An hour later, umbrella in hand, I went to look again.  “What are you doing?”  Linda asked as I sloshed back inside.  I was in denial.  After all this time I just couldn’t believe it was working.  And that now, the whole house was working.   I felt so grateful for Home the Land Built, harvester of wood, sunlight and now, finally now, the rain. 

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