Water Where it Oughta Be
The recent spring downpours had me–and a lot of other East Coasters in the same wet shoes–furiously sweeping water out of a flooded basement. But I suspect the rains were more welcome at Laura Sewall’s house, where whatever falls on the metal roof is collected, filtered, and used for potable water and radiant heating.
Builder Christopher Hahn (Houseworks LLC, Phippsburg, ME) devised the system, which takes into account the average monthly rainfall in the area (about 4 inches) and hasn’t left Sewall high and dry yet. Her reasons for installing the system were partially practical (the municipal system shuts down in winter, and local wellwater is heavily mineral-laden) but also ecological: She didn’t want to disturb the house’s coastal environment.
Admirably simple, the system includes an inline roof-wash valve that clears the system of debris before backing clean water into its four 2,100-gallon tanks. Four filters (three sediment and one UV) remove impurities before the water enters the household systems.
You can find more details on the system and on Sewall’s house in our 2010 Houses issue. If that piques your interest in smarter ways to use water, stick around for an upcoming article by associate editor Rob Yagid that will tackle some of the bigger questions facing water collection and use nationally.
Oh, and in addition to sufficient water for things like showers and boiling potatoes, this rainwater system catches enough free water to supply Sewall’s 2,500-gallon exercise pool. Which is, I’m sure, a more satisfying way of building those shoulder muscles than sweeping waves out of your basement.
Until it's time to slide the 8-ft. diameter tank below the floor.
The four tanks in Laura Sewall's house hold up to 8,400 gallons of rainwater, about two months of average rainfall.
Still, rolling is the easiest way to get from here to there.
The polyethylene tanks are ready to be lowered into the basement. They're big, but not that heavy, according to Hahn. "I could probably pick one up if it weren't so bulky," he says.