217) Rainwater Harvest Waterfall Feature

by Gail on July 21, 2014


rainwater harvesting stream1

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.before waterfall

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.waterfall pond.jpg

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!)house with metal roof.jpg

The eavestrough and downspouts drain into this filtered catchment basin. (I clean the filters by spraying with a hose twice a year.)catchment basin

From the basin, rain is carried to the pond, where it tumbles down the hill into our cistern.waterfall.jpg

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.waterfall layout

Following is how the cistern was built. A large (11 feet square by 5 feet deep) depression was excavated.cistern excavation

Pump housing and a “centipede” were installed beside the cistern.tank and centipede

It houses a sump pump and a tank gauge to measure the water level.cistern guage

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.pump shutoff switch

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.Aquablox

Aquablox installedLandscape 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!covering cistern with gravel

This photo shows where the stream just disappears into the cistern, like magic.waterfall end

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,

top of waterfall.jpg 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.pond & toilet pump

Because it’s not potable/clean water, a separate plumbing system (using red pipes) had to be built during house construction, for the toilets.red and white plumbing

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.

This plumbing system is more costly than the standard house plumb.

Here’s a “way” Before & After of the landscape:stream yard before & after

All in an effort to use less water in our Green home.

After construction, but before any plantings:waterfall area from studio

Here’s a Before & After the plants have grown:before & after stream plantings

We have this great waterfall as a real asset in our landscape. That’s nothing to sneeze at.waterfall2.jpg

rainwater harvesting stream.jpg

Sharing with:

 Cozy Little House, (FEATURED!Creative Country Mom (FEATURED!), Little Red House, Coastal CharmElizabeth & Co, Ivy & Elephants, Savvy Southern Style, The Turquoise Home, The Charm of Home, Boogieboard Cottage, One More Time Events


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Cynthia July 23, 2014 at 11:03 am

This is beautiful. We have the same issue at our house: it is built with a higher elevation in the front than the back. For years, we’ve wanted to build a waterfall/feature such as yours, and now that we’re planning some major work to the house, it may be time to do something. Yours turned out so well!


martina July 23, 2014 at 3:45 pm

What a STUNNING feature…I love it!!


Brooke Berry Kroeger July 28, 2014 at 7:20 am

Oh what a dream! A local garden friend has one and I tell her I would just sit in it and feel the water run over me! We live on a lake and I just love anything to do with moving water. Thanks for sharing your lovely post at Home Sweet Garden Party! You are on of this weeks featured posts! I hope you can join us again this week too! It will be open this afternoon at 4pm! {www.creativecountrymom.com} Hugs…Brooke


Ann July 28, 2014 at 5:03 pm

WOW! That looks like it would have been a LOT of work, but Oh, so beautiful (and practical)! I love the sound of a waterfall, too!!


Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. July 28, 2014 at 5:39 pm

What a beautiful feature for your home and so very practical too!


Sherry July 30, 2014 at 4:14 pm

What a beautiful feature. Looks wonderful.
Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home.


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