Create an Eco-Friendly Oasis with Rainwater Harvesting

Are you ready to transform your backyard into a stunning oasis that not only looks beautiful but also helps you reduce your ecological footprint? Well, you’re in luck because today I have an exciting project to share with you. We recently had the opportunity to install a 1500-gallon basin with a fountain on top for a homeowner who wanted to harvest rainwater from his roof to water his flower beds. And let me tell you, the results are absolutely fantastic!

​Now, let me take you through the process step by step, so you can envision how you can recreate this project in your own backyard.

Step-by-Step: Installing a 1500-Gallon Rainwater Harvesting System

First things first, one of the things that struck us about this property was the abundance of vegetation. The homeowner had flower beds and gardens throughout the entire backyard, with minimal grass. In fact, the little grass he did have was clover, giving the space a picturesque, English garden, overgrown vibe. It was the perfect canvas for our rainwater harvesting project.

The beauty of this project was that a natural collection area already existed in the homeowner’s yard. The roof came to a valley where water would naturally shoot off into the yard. But because of the clay in the soil, there was nowhere for the water to go. This presented us with the perfect opportunity to transform that area into a functional and visually appealing feature.

​Our initial plan was to install the basin with a 9×13 foot footprint. However, faced with limited access to the yard, we realized we needed to make some adjustments. We decided on a slightly smaller footprint of about 5×8 feet, which meant we would need to dig a deeper hole.

Overcoming Challenges: Diggin Deep in Clay Soil

And that’s where we encountered our first challenge – the clay soil. Digging in clay can be tough, especially with a small machine. It took some extra effort and time, but we pressed on because we were determined to make this project a success. In the end, the hole turned out to be nearly 6 feet deep! Why so deep, you may wonder? Well, it was a happy little accident, as Bob Ross would say. Coastal Virginia doesn’t get that cold, so it wasn’t about freezing. It was simply a result of encountering some tough clay soil and the need to make adjustments for limited access.

Ensuring Leak-Free Functionality with Protective Underlayment

With the hole dug, it was time to lay the groundwork for a sturdy and leak-free rainwater harvesting system. We began by installing underlayment, which serves as a protective barrier between the soil and the rubber liner. This is crucial because there could be roots, glass, or other particulates in the ground that could potentially puncture the liner. By placing a layer of underlayment on top of the soil, we ensure that the liner remains intact and free from any pesky punctures. ​

EPDM Liner: Keeping Rainwater Exactly Where You Want It

Next up, we brought out the star of the show – the 45 mil EPDM liner. This thick, tough, rubber liner is what keeps our rainwater right where we want it: in the basin. Carefully maneuvering the liner into the hole, we made sure it covered the entire surface area, with quite a bit of overhang on the sides. But we didn’t stop there! The Aquablocs that make up this basin have some pretty sharp corners, and those corners can be troublemakers, potentially puncturing the liner if left unprotected. To avoid any mishaps, we added another layer of underlayment on the inside of the liner. This extra step ensures that the Aquablocs don’t cause any damage. ​

Building a Sturdy Structure with Aquablocs

Now it’s time to bring in the Aquablocs themselves. These nifty plastic modules are the heart of our rainwater harvesting system. They interlock to create a sturdy structure and hold the weight of the soil and boulders that we’ll be placing on top. Starting with a dry fit, we carefully position the Aquablocs to ensure they fit snugly together. Once we’re satisfied with the layout, we go ahead and start putting them in place. Then we carefully wrap up the liner and underlayment onto the top of the basin, creating what we fondly refer to as a “taco”. This method allows us to pack soil tightly around the outside of the Aquablocs, making them structurally sound and preventing them from shifting over time. Packing them tightly and securing them to each other is key to their structural integrity.

The Importance of the "Boot" for Easy Access and Pump Support

Right in the middle of our Aquablocs, we have what’s typically called the “boot” or “foot.” This special plastic piece serves an important purpose. It acts as a support, allowing us to access and house the pump beneath the Aquablocs. By keeping the pump lower than the Aquablocs, we ensure that we have access to every last drop of rainwater in the basin. After all, every drop counts, especially during dry spells.

Transforming the Backyard with Gorgeous Fountain Bowls

With the underlayment, liner, and Aquablocs all in place, it’s time to unpack the fountain bowls. Now, we didn’t go overboard with an elaborate fountain design for this particular project. We wanted to keep it simple yet stunning. After all, the main goal was for our homeowner to enjoy the view from his screened-in porch while attracting birds and other delightful pollinators to his yard. With that in mind, he opted for a two-bowl setup. These bowls measure a generous 32 inches across and feature a gorgeous aqua blue/aqua green coloring.

​I absolutely love the fact that the water in these bowls doesn’t spill over the edges, but instead, they keep the edges slightly damp. And let me tell you, that is a total game-changer for pollinators. You see, bees and other pollinators often seek out damp areas to replenish their water supply. However, they’re not big fans of landing in a giant pool of water. They prefer to have a water source that’s adjacent to their landing spot. That’s where these bowls with their damp edges come in perfectly handy. By creating a moist environment, they provide a perfect oasis for those tiny pollinators to hydrate and thrive. It’s like a little watering hole just for them!

The Plumbing System: Controlling Water Flow with Valves

The next crucial step was to make sure we had a solid plumbing system in place. The plumbing for this project was very straightforward: we’re using the Aquascape Ultra 2000 pump with flex lines that go up into the bowls. Now let’s talk about the junction point. This is the spot where all the magic happens. We have a box with a hole on top, strategically positioned so that the homeowner can easily access the water to use in their garden.

To make sure everything runs smoothly, we’ve connected the pump to this junction point. The pump is what brings the rainwater up into the valve box. Here’s where it gets even cooler – we have a valve that allows you to control the flow of water. When the valve is closed, it diverts all the water pressure onto the hose, allowing you to use the water wherever you need it most in your garden. Need to water your beautifully blooming flower beds? No problem! Just open that valve and let the water flow.

​We’ve even added an extra touch of flexibility to this setup. We’ve included an additional valve, just in case you don’t want all of the water pressure going through the hose. This way, if you crack that second valve just a little bit, some of the water will return back into the basin. You see, we want to avoid putting too much pressure on the pump and risking it overheating.

Capturing Rainwater Efficiently with Downspout Connections

Of course, we can’t forget about capturing as much rainwater as possible. That’s where the downspout from the roof plays a crucial role. We connected a four-inch PVC pipe to the downspout, directing the water right into the basin. It ensures that even during a light rain, you’re still capturing as much water as possible. No raindrop goes to waste in this eco-friendly garden!

Aesthetic Design Trick: Hiding the Size of the Rainwater Basin

Now, here’s a cool design trick we used to make the basin look even more visually appealing – we pulled back the liner over the top of the basin. This gives it a smaller and more petite appearance. It’s like a hidden treasure buried beneath the surface. Nobody would ever guess that underneath this stunning fountain lies a substantial 1500-gallon basin. It’s the best of both worlds – a tiny-giant feature that blends seamlessly into the landscape.

Inspiration for Your Backyard: Beauty, Functionality, and Sustainability

With the basin and fountain in place, we added a few finishing touches. We surrounded the area with beautiful plants and natural stones, creating a seamless integration with the existing vegetation. The result was nothing short of breathtaking.

While the project did take us an extra day to complete due to the clay soil challenge, the end result was well worth the effort. The homeowner couldn’t be happier with his new rainwater harvesting system. It not only provides an enchanting focal point in his yard but also allows him to take a sustainable approach to watering his gardens.

​So, are you inspired to create your own rainwater harvesting system? Remember, every backyard has its unique challenges, but with a little bit of creativity and persistence, you can transform your outdoor space into a haven that showcases both beauty and functionality.​