Water is an ongoing problem for me, I need to replenish the water in my Aquaponics that I lose both from evaporation and from what the plants use to grow. The bigger my Aquaponic system the more I have to replace, in my original system (About 15 gallons) I was losing about a gallon every other week, in my upgraded system (About 50 gallons) I lose about 2 gallons a week, after I build my next system (About 150 gallons) I will probably be losing 8-10 gallons a week.
Historically I have just used the city water and run it through our Britta water filter, however that only really works with small amounts of water, when you have to fill the Britta up 10-15 times a week just for the Aquaponics, it gets old fast. Also using that much tends to make the filters not last as long and they are fairly expensive.
Even with the water being filtered by the Britta, I still worry about using the water, I do not know for sure if the Britta will remove the chloramine added by the city (An additive to kill off any bacteria in the city water), if I add water that has chloramine in it to my Aquaponics I run the risk of it killing off the good bacteria that I depend on to convert the Ammonia from the fish to Nitrate that my plants need to grow. Also the city tends to force the PH level of the water to be fairly high “Base” to keep it from wearing down the cement pipes the water travels in to get from the water department to my house.
So why have I continued to use city water filtered very slowly through a Britta water filter for all this time? I thought setting up a rainwater collection system would cost a fair amount and be a real pain to setup. It turns out I was right and wrong.
If you look at commercially available rainwater collection systems, you will see they are going to run you at least $200, and you are going to have to setup some special equipment on your downspout to redirect the water into your rain barrel and then once your barrel is full it will direct the water back into your normal drainage system. Also it will have a fancy setup so you can hook up a garden hose from the bottom to use in your garden and such that works via gravity.
Those are nice, and they may be worth it for many people, but I realized I could go much simpler. I don’t need a hose attached, I am carting it into the house for my fish tanks anyways. I am not worried about what happens if the rain barrel overflows, so I don’t need anything fancy setup on my downspout.
So my solution? I bought a garbage bin from WalMart for $10, washed it out really well and just have the downspout sticking right in the garbage bin. I cut a notch out of the lid so it will go around the downspout and keep most of the leaves and such out of the water. The first 2-3 times the bin filled up with water, I just dumped it out so that any of the chemicals that might leach out from the new bin didn’t make it into the fish tank (The water and bin smelled a bit like burnt plastic at first). Now the water is perfectly clean and clear, it doesn’t have any kind of bad smell, and the water tests I have done on it show it to be close to perfect (Just a bit on the acidic side when I test the PH).
Now rather than spending the better part of an evening filling the Britta, I can just go out with my gallon jugs and bring in whatever water I need, so far it has been working great! I have also started setting up some barrels in the basement where I intend to store about 150 gallons of water to help me make it through the winter. I plan to put an air bubbler in each barrel in the basement to keep the water from going stale.
A quick word of warning, if you decide to setup this type of system yourself, be aware of the possible issues with your rain barrel overflowing. If you are collecting water off your house and you allow the barrel to overflow, it could end up flooding your basement by putting that quantity of water in the ground right beside your house, normally your gutters will drain out through your normal drainage systems away from the house. I was not worried about this because my collection barrel is on my garage a fair ways away from my house.