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  At PV we do our best to be good stewards of the land. Toward this end in 2008 we have embarked upon installation of a stormwater catchment pond on our property. This will have the dual purpose of reducing winter rainwater runoff erosion, while reducing our summer use of city well water for irrigation.

Figure 1

Figure 2

On Bainbridge we are allowed to move 50 cubic yards of dirt in a given year without going through the slow and painful permit process, so that's the size we aimed for. (In the end we went ahead and got a permit anyway.) This comes out to just over 10,000 gallons.

We carefully chose the location to be where the Christmas tree property uphill from us has a dip, where much of it's surface sheet rainwater runs downhill onto our property. In previous years this water has been a constant problem running down and eroding our driveway.

Additionally, this spot is nearly the highest point of our property, thus we hope to be able to use the outflow for irrigiation without having to use a pump. Merely filling the outflow pipe to start a siphon should give us sufficient downhill flow to our vineyard and gardens. This is a twofold win as during the summer we will no longer be drawing down city drinking water for gardens, and we won't be paying for that water, or paying for the builtin sewage fees on it. Ideally, we won't use power for a pump if the siphon has sufficient downhill pressure for our drip irrigation lines.

Figure 3
We've left most of the larger trees to the south of the pond in hopes of reducing surface evaporative loss due to sunlight.

We are also installing a pond liner as our soil does have significant self-drainage. The liner is 45mm rubber, rather like a tire inner tube in texture. The liner comes in a long roll, visible on it's side in the foreground in the photo on the left.

Most importantly, we have also plumbed the roof downspouts out to the pond in order to capture what precious Spring and Summer rainfall that we do get here. This sounds difficult -- if you look carefully at Figure 1 (above), it appears that the house is downhill of the pond -- you're right, it is. However, the roof itself is actually higher than the pond. As long as the piping between the roof and the pond is watertight, the water will fill up the piping, then once full, will begin to flow out the lower end into the pond.

Normal downspout material is not sealed -- it's usually rolled aluminum and at each junction it simply overlaps (or more accurately, underlaps); so as long as the water within is falling, this is sufficient. If the pipe were to fill with water, e.g. if the bottom were blocked, water would shoot out the seams.

Figure 5
In the photo to the left you can see the normal aluminum non-watertight downspout material above the deck. Below the deck is 3 inch hard black plastic ABS pipe with glued joints. We were lucky that the pond level is lower than the deck, so we were able to make the transition at the deck instead of having to use ABS all the up to the roof.

Figure 4
Closeup of junction from aluminum to ABS, looking up from under deck.

The ABS piping is used down into the ground, and under the driveway all the way out to the pond. It ends in the air above the high water level of the pond surface. As it is a sealed system, open only at each end, it can fill up with water to no ill effects. As the open end against the house is higher than the open end at the pond, it does not matter that it is not downhill all the way -- once the water has filled the piping, it will begin to flow out the lowest opening, which is the pond end.

The pond end of the downspout ABS should be higher up than the highest level the pond surface can reach, so the pond doesn't try to empty itself down to the house via this pipe. It's also preferable to have it be above the pond surface as it is quite satifying to actually be able to see the water flowing! This is easily done by ensuring there is an overflow outgoing pipe at the top of the pond, ensuring that the level cannot exceed this pipe. The downspout feeder pipe will be higher up than this overflow pipe (see Figure 7 below.)

If you are considering doing this yourself, beware of one small caveat of this method. As the downspout pipe does fill with water, it must be emptied during serious freeze events (like we're having as I type this!), so you must be sure to have a drain valve at the system low point. If you're on Bainbridge, I highly recommend having a consultation with Brian Bonafaci 206-842-8205 - his help on this project was incalculable.

New additions 09-Feb-2009:
Figure 6
Today we got our first rooftop runoff storage! We rolled out the liner about 3 weeks ago (took 4 men and a six-pack to roll it out and pull it into position) and we haven't had any rain since... Last night we had a light snow which began to melt come daylight, and has finally filled the piping with runoff.

Figure 7
Hard to see with the snow, but the white 4 inch pipe is the overflow control. Note that it's bottom is below the black 3 inch pipe. (Black 3 inch pipe is downspouts feed to the pond).

Although it's not visible in any of these photos, the 4 inch overflow pipe junctions to a drain pipe that is below the pond liner. This drain ensures that the liner will not puff up from below if there is significant flow from the soil below the liner.

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