Whenever we tour new visitors around our house and yard (quite a common occurrence here), there’s a lot of interest in our water feature.
We have quite an elevation drop from the entry level to the back yard.
So, to indulge
ourselves myself with a luxury, we hired a rainwater harvesting contractor to build a waterfall and stone steps down to the lower level.
It’s not only pretty to hear and look at – it is practical, too. We harvest and store rainwater to flush toilets and to water the garden. The waterfall adds oxygen as it circulates the water through the system.
Although this post from four years ago gives a sketchy description of the cistern/waterfall set-up, I was never able to take pictures, because I was in Europe while it was being built.
But I have found some old photos taken by the builders (Endless Rain, no longer in business), and can now give a pictorial of how the water feature was built, and also how my plantings have matured – many tweaks four years in the making.
We chose heavy 24-gauge steel for our roof so that the rainwater would stay clean (and so the roof would last longer than we will!)
The eavestrough and downspouts drain into this filtered catchment basin. (I clean the filters by spraying with a hose twice a year.)
From the basin, rain is carried to the pond, where it tumbles down the hill into our cistern.
This photo shows the excavation and hardscaping of the stream that preceded covering by a heavy-duty rubber pond liner, and more large stones on the edges.
Following is how the cistern was built. A large (11 feet square by 5 feet deep) depression was excavated.
Pump housing and a “centipede” were installed beside the cistern.
It houses a sump pump and a tank gauge to measure the water level.
If the water level falls below 25%, there is a pump shutoff switch to turn the waterfall off to preserve the water for toilet flushing.
The cistern was lined with heavy-duty landscape felt, more of the pool liner, and more of the felt (we don’t want any sharp objects, like stones, to pierce the rubber.)
64 of these “Aquablox” (they remind me of dairy cases) were assembled and piled into the excavation, to hold the shape and size of the 2000-gallon cistern.
Landscape cloth, then 1″ gravel covered the Aquablox. The builders said the Aquablox were strong enough to drive a dumptruck on. I guess I will have to accept that claim, as I have no evidence to the contrary!
This photo shows where the stream just disappears into the cistern, like magic.
During the hot summers, when we have no rain for 3 weeks, the high demand for water for toilet flushing (more house guests) and garden irrigation will drain the cistern. Then, I have to put municipal tap water into the well. I think it would be better to have a second 2000-gallon cistern, because in the rainy winter months here, we could certainly fill both with rainwater. Any excess rainwater overflows into the storm water system.
From the cistern, a 1/2 horsepower pump pushes the water up the 12-foot elevation to the “Biofalls filter” behind the studio,
whence it falls back into the cistern, there to continue its endless journey, until it can be released into the garden or the toilets. After 3 years’ sporadic use (we don’t run the water feature full-time), that pump failed, and the manufacturer did not replace it (only 1 year warranty) nor give any concession for its poor service. But, because we knew it worked, we replaced it with the same model.
The on-demand pump and pressure tank for irrigation and toilets, housed in our crawl space, pulls rainwater out of the cistern and into the house’s system.
Because it’s not potable/clean water, a separate plumbing system (using red pipes) had to be built during house construction, for the toilets.
The original pump installed by Endless Rain (a Walrus TQ400 1/2 HP) was inadequate to lift the water 25 feet to all the toilets, so DHC Plumbing installed a different one that handles the task.
You can tell that this system has proven to be costly beyond expectations.
Here’s a “way” Before & After of the landscape:
All in an effort to use less water in our Green home. No one ever said that building green would be cost efficient, that’s for sure!
After construction, but before any plantings:
Here’s a Before & After the plants have grown:
But at least we have this great waterfall as a real asset in our landscape. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
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