Design for Water Managment

This map shows my design for water management on our 6.5 acres of land.  Originally, my dad and I looked into drilling a well but we found out it would cost nearly $6,000 and there was no guarantee we would find reliable water.  So I had to consider other possibilities.  I had two ponds – smaller one located further uphill and a larger one located down the slope from the smaller one.  And I had a solar pump that we brought back from Zambia.  So I started devising a plan to take advantage of that powerful pump.

Water system design

Goal #1 – Maximize Available Water

I wanted to try to collect water from as many sources as possible; namely from the rain.  Then I wanted to use the same water as many times as I could.

Goal #2 – Maximize Solar-powered pump

Originally, the primary function of the pump was to irrigate the elderberry orchard.  But then I realized that it only takes one hour to irrigate.  That meant I had at least three more hours a day of max sunshine to use the pump for other tasks.  That’s what lead me to create four different functions for the pump to perform each day.

A stitched panoramic of the larger pond.
A stitched panoramic of the larger pond.

Let me take just a minute to mention the importance of redundant systems and sources.  By that I mean creating backups in case your first system or resource fails.  As far as the pump goes, right now I only have one way of pumping water up the hill and that’s by using the solar array.  Eventually I’d like to add a wind generator.  As for water, I plan to go ahead and connect to county water, but will still have the ability to use purified pond / rain water just in case we lose public utilities for any length of time.  That’s what led me to the idea of building a 3,500 gallon cistern at the top of the hill.  I can take advantage of gravity to produce water pressure for sinks, showers, etc.  I’ve always wanted to build with ferro-cement because it’s so prevalent in developing countries around the world.  So I intend to build the cistern in the shape of a decorative urn (which also happens to be an extremely strong shape).

Urn-shaped 3,500 gallon cistern

Small Natural Swimming Hole

The water line that runs downhill to the “weekend cabin” will also continue to the small pond.  I’ve already had the pond excavated so that it’s much deeper than it was before.  I hope to line the pond with an EPDM liner and create a living pond out of it – which means I will use water plants and aeration to filter the water (no chemicals) so that it will stay algae free and nice for swimming on a hot July day.  I’ll write more on this topic another time.  I also installed an overflow drain pipe from the small pond to the big pond below so that no water is wasted.

Natural swimming pool / pond
Natural swimming pool / pond

The solar pump is in the big pond will perform multiple functions. First, it can pump water back into the big pond by way of a fountain that will put oxygen back into the water in the pond which will cut down on algae growth.  Second, it can pump water to the drip lines that irrigate the elderberry orchard.  Third, it can push water all the way over to two acres on my dad’s place in order to irrigate a future elderberry orchard over there.   Finally, it can push water all the way up to the top of our hill (a 95 ft. elevation gain) to the 3,500 gallon cistern.

Solar workhorse - eight 65-watt Kyocera panels
Solar workhorse – eight 65-watt Kyocera panels
Lorentz submersible pump with buoys for floatation
Lorentz submersible pump with buoys for floatation





So that’s the master plan.  It looks a bit daunting at times, but I’m sure gonna try.  If nothing else this shows my thought process in designing a solution for a more comprehensive Mud Hut Lab project.  Hope you found it interesting.  I’m excited to do this for my clients and as word gets around and I gain more experience I’m sure I will be able to do more.  I’d love to hear your feedback.  Have you thought about ‘water management’ at your home?  It doesn’t matter how big or how small.  In many climates and locations here in the US and abroad, water is scarce and I think you would agree, it must be used responsibly.  So what are you working on?  I’d love to hear about it.

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