Small Woodland Owners' Group

rainwater harvesting tips ?

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Postby paul » Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:44 am


Does anyone have experience of rainwater harvesting in their wood ?

I don't have a water supply, so water for washing (ourselves and our cooking stuff) is always a problem.

I have just bought a 210 litre plastic water butt (i.e. barrel) from a garden centre. I intend to rig a small tarp in the trees, configured in such a way that the rain landing on the tarp ends up in the barrel. This should not be very difficult.

But I'm wondering if the water will go manky after a while, and if there is anything I should do in the way of filters, etc. to prevent this ? There will be dead leaves, insects, bird droppings (and perhaps worse) falling on the tarp.

I have seen a lot of tips on the web (mainly from USA) which recommend something like filling the barrel with pea gravel (bottom quarter) and sand (next two quarters) and allowing the water to filter through this, so leaving the dirt behind in the filter.

Any thoughts ? I'd be grateful for any advice from anybody with experience of rainwater collection in woods in the UK.

The water does not need to be drinkable (but it would be a bonus if it was).



[5 acre oak woodland with hazel coppice understorey, Hampshire]

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Postby splodger » Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:30 am

can you bore for water?

our woods is in hampshire - but we have mains water

the plot next to us has an artesium well - and we have license to draw from that too - if we wanted to

never tried collected rainwater - other than for watering garden etc so no ideas about filtering - but it must be easy enough to set something up (i imagine)

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Postby RichardKing » Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:40 am

For small quantities of drinking water you can put a (large) transparent plastic bag around a small branch of a tree and tie it closed. It works best if the branch is in sun.

Water vapour transpiring from the leaves will condense.

I think it was Ray Mears suggested this method

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Postby rogerspianocat » Wed Mar 23, 2011 3:50 pm

I rigged up a tarp on a hazel frame from a couple of spruce trees and hung a log on one edge of the tarp over a water butt. I wanted the water for watering my new willow coppice, not for drinking or cleaning, which was good really, because four of those poor, darling, fluffy little grey sweet squirrelly things found the tarp just a little bit too slippery and ended up in the butt. I was sad.

I put some of that organic water butt additive in to keep it from going smelly, and that worked fine. I'd like to find a better way to keep the water sweet though - I think if you make sure the tank is really clean and has a lid and that nothing much can get in, you might be alright. Might have to clean it now and then though.

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Postby Darren » Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:51 pm

I remember a tip on a garden programme that keeping a ball of Hay in a pond keeps it clean. Maybe this trick would work in a water barrel?

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Postby RichardKing » Wed Mar 23, 2011 6:54 pm

Composting straw (specificaly Barley straw) in a pond may well reduce algae growth, but I dont think that this in any way related to preventing rainwater in a butt from becoming contaminated by other (particularly bacterial) pollutents.

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Postby WickedWitch » Wed Mar 23, 2011 7:15 pm

We collect lots of reasonably clean rainwater, using an old fruit juice barrel. Over the top we fix a piece of a c0arse fibred synthetic tablecloth of a dark colour- dark to keep out the light so the water doesn't turn green, coarse so it doesn't immediately get clogged up, and synthetic so it doesn't rot. From time to time I wash the cloth in soap and hot water- it needs it. We fixed a tap in the barrel, so don't have to take off the top, or tip it, to get at the water. I certainly wouldn't drink it, though!

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Postby The Barrowers » Wed Mar 23, 2011 9:11 pm

The Wicked Witch is doing about the same as us.

Our water will be about a month old and in the winter we use it for washing and hot water bottles.

We have a dustbin with a lid turned upside down, covered with old net curatins and tied on with old tights. Above this is a fine mesh to take out the big bits.

I wish we had a tap ( oh what luxury) as we have to tip the bin.

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Postby mikepepler » Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:11 pm

We built a simple shelter for drying firewood, with a sloped roof and a plastic wheelbarrow at the low side, which catches the run-off. Crude but effective! We intend to add a gutter at some point to improve it.


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Postby cagsley » Thu Mar 24, 2011 3:42 pm

Hi all. As we camp for a couple of weeks at a time we have an issue with water. I used to bring 405 litres a time on the trailer awkward and costly. We now use aquarolls for drinking water but have a couple of other solutions. On our toilet we just use a butt and tap and because the butt doesn't let in sunlight the water stays ok. we use antibacterial handwash and this is ok. for our wasshing up and showering etc we have aslightly more advanced system. We have 2 IBCs (large white tanks built into metal pallets) on top of one another. The top one is fed from our shelter roof via a gutter filter to keep out vegetation. both tanks have been painted black. From here the water in diverted through a home made sand filter(100 litre blue barrel) and out into the bottom IBC via a ball valve. The water in the bottom one stays fresh and is ok for washing etc . In total we store about 1600 litres half and half. The barrel sand filters are used in africa and are 97% effective apparently. The reason for 2 tanks is that water goes through the sand very slowly. The sand filter should be protected from frost and have the top couple of inches of sand replaced periodically. All told about a hundred quid and we have loads of usable water.


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