[permaculture] Roofing materials and water collection

Darren Doherty darren at permaculture.biz
Sat May 14 19:07:57 EDT 2011


Here in Australia drinking tank water is and has been for a long time
commonplace, especially in rural areas. We find it somewhat entertaining to
listen to people who question the health of doing so: the term 'Kakaphobia'
comes to mind..

At our farm when we were growing up we had the 1ML house dam that was
effectively a natural pond with a great variety of water plants and rules:
no swimming and no swimming - you don't drink your bath water....My late
grandfather Frank B. Dole would sit on the verandah of the farmhouse with
his 7.62 target rifle and 'knock off' anything that walked or flew up to the
dam, mostly Kangaroos, Herons or Cormorants which would then get dispatched
to the pigs by the likes of me or in the case of larger roos would get
butchered for meat for human and the dogs...this was pretty full on of
course and largely unnecessary but that was his way....This water was fine
for drinking and we did so when the tanks got low, otherwise it was used for
kitchen, laundry and toilet water.

Tanks provide a beautiful water the flavour of which comes more from the
tank material than from the collection surface in my and others' experience.
PE tanks slowly decompose in the sun and so with these you can get the taste
of plastic in the tanks: surely not good. Maybe a good idea to put them in a
shed therefore! Galvanised iron tanks are similar as are concrete though I
would say that over time the latter imparts the least taste as they season;
new concrete tanks are another matter and you can taste the
concrete...Stainless steel tanks are pretty good and Milkwood Permaculture
have just installed some so I haven't drank the water yet....

I talk about the following principles with roof water catchment systems,
especially important (my own theory here!!) for those who have not had the
guts challenged or furnished with 'interesting' flora and perhaps fauna as I
have over time:

1. Good roof hygiene which is good practice for fire prevention also:
pressure wash off bird shit, dust and other crap off of the roof, gutters
and downpipes ahead of the rainy season and let this wash away and not into
the tank
2. Have a T piece in the downpipe that allows you to regulate when water
goes in the tank or not....you can also do a first flush...I find this
system easy as its just off the shelf PVC or steel pipe work and a valve....
3. Roof the tank though let some light get in (through the meshed inlet) to
provide for algae formation on the walls and also to act as a 'canary',
letting you know if there is too much nutrient (the algae will bloom in the
main 'body' of the tank and not be confined to the walls)...
4. Exclude mosquitos etc. , birds etc. by having a mesh screen on the inlet
5. Have the outlet some 15-20cm above the base of the tank or connect with a
flexible pipe and floata-filler so that you get the better quality water
20cm from the top water level
6. In urban areas or down-wind of coal power/industry throw in a shoe box
sized block of limestone which will do a few things: A. raise the pH such
that heavy metals will not be soluble (like many are below 5-5.5pH including
aluminium)  & B. Act as a canary again with the limestone breaking down and
causing effervescence in the water if pH is low...a basic monitoring
tool....certainly checking out your pH and getting the water lab tested is
not a bad idea and you might do this ahead of time by testing the rainwater
collected in a 200l/44gal rainbarrel before you invest in something larger.

We've built a few tanks and they are great things to do...some pics and
instructions are as follows:

Ferrocement Tank

All the best with your water tank adventures and if Andrew could supply the
list with the lab results from Chicago that would be great....


Darren Doherty

On 15 May 2011 08:26, Jason Gerhardt <jasongerhardt at gmail.com> wrote:

> Stephen,
> I will second the opinion for baked enamel metal roofing.  It is important
> to install a first flush system to catch the initial flow that will be
> dust,
> particle, bird poop, laden.  Folks in Tucson, AZ regularly drink their roof
> water from the same roofing material.  If they do it in Tucson, I would
> think where you are located will have much less pollutant potential.  Dust
> will be the biggest factor considering the high winds of your area.
> I'll be sure to ask Brad Lancaster and Barbara Rose in Tucson when I am
> down
> at their sites next week to see if they have encountered any problems over
> the years with drinking water.  I am particularly interested in knowing if
> they deem a filter setup to be necessary.  I'll report back...
> Jason
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Darren J. Doherty

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