Speaking of fountains...

catkim(San Diego 10/24)October 22, 2011

Is there such a thing as a water feature designed to operate temporarily after a heavy rain? In an area of heavy rainfall, I'm curious if I could create a small decorative system that would collect some amount of rainwater, then run for a time using only the force of gravity until that collected water is exhausted. I suppose the release of water would have to be a small burbling trickle in order for it to continue for any length of time. No pumps, no long-term storage of water -- I don't want to be breeding frogs in it.

Has anyone seen such a thing?

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I don't know if there is such a thing, but there certainly could be.

I think the limiting factors would be:

1) How much space can be devoted to water collection and storage?

2) How much volume of water will collect in the average storm, and how long can water be stored without it going "bad" (mosquitos, tadpoles, smelly stuff)? [Is it allowable to use chemicals to extend the length of allowable storage? Or filters and netting to keep the critters out?]

So if x gallons collect in the average storm, and in that particular storage set-up the water will last y days before going bad, divide x by y for the number of gallons available per day. Then in order to maximize the amount of time the water feature will operate, the water feature will be designed to use only that amount of water per day.

3) How much volume is needed to create a satisfying effect?

4) Is it kosher to include an on-off switch to extend the use of the collected water? For instance, it's probably a waste of water if the water feature is running during the time the rain is falling, so at the very least it might be a good idea to turn it on only after the rain has ended.

The on-off switch would also ensure that the water feature only works when people are present to observe it -- allowing more enjoyment per gallon of water collected.)

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 11:59PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Hmmm, right. Well, I have a 10,000 gallon catchment tank, but wasn't thinking of using that source.

Average storm? Good question. Annual rainfall is about 150 inches. A storm might bring 1/4 inch or 2 inches. I wouldn't want to store the water more than a day or two, just to keep things small and simple.

Volume needed -- unknown, but certainly at least 10 gallons? Wild guess...

On/off switch -- probably very practical for most people, but since I am not on the property all the time, it would have to remain on, in order to empty the water before critters became a problem, although screening/netting is a good suggestion.

This could take the form of a vernal waterfall or spring; or one of those Japanese bamboo deer chaser fountains, something of that nature.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 12:44AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

With 150 inches of rain a year, you don't need an on-off switch.

That would be about 3 inches per week.

10 gallons is 2,310 cubic inches, or 1" of rain over an area 4' square (16 square feet). And at 3" per week, 4' square would net you 30 gallons each week. Got a garden shed with a roof?

Conversely, if all you want is 10 gallons a week, you only need to collect from an area 28 inches square (5 1/3 square feet). I'm imagining a miniature structure of some sort -- a canopy over a statue? Water is collected from the roof, runs down piping, and bubbles out at the statue's feet.

One gallon is equivalent to 15,140 faucet drips (according to the USGS). At 1440 minutes per day, that's 10 1/2 drips per minute. If you collect 10 gallons a week, that would be about 16 drips per minute throughout the week. 30 gallons - 48 drips per minute throughout the week.

How much water do you need for the effect you want?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 2:49AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Hmmm... Now you've got me thinking about what one could do with water collected in a rain barrel...

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 10:09AM
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I once saw a plastic bird that fit on the edge of a glass it had a reservoir at its bottom and a tube that ran from its beak to the reservoir. The head was heavier than the empty reservoir so the beak would fall into a full glass of water, the water would move up the tube by capillary action until the water was heavier than the head and then the bird would sit up. The water would then flow the other way until the reservoir was empty and the bird would dive into the glass again.

What if you could use this same technique in some way, do you think that would work?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 10:56AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

This brings up thoughts of how diKuat gardening must be in Hawaii compared to Point Loma! I can't quite imagine what 150 inches of rain in a year is like, except for the half year I lived in Kuala Lumpur and pondered the street gutters that were up to 4 feet deep to handle the monsoon season rains without the city flooding.

I would imagine that you could achieve some impressive effects if you also utilize elevation changes to achieve sufficient pressure to allow spurting water, running channels next to paths, etc, similar to Balinese or Italian gardens.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 12:01PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

A small sump pump would do it.
I had a fountain and light hooked up to a motion sensor once. It scared the deer away....for awhile.
What island? I'm familiar with most.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 12:15PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Good solid thoughts, thank you! There are some very worthy suggestions to work from here, certainly the sump pump or possibly the weighted tipping mechanism.

David, I love the idea of running channels along paths, but no chance of creating anything so elaborate. In spite of the quantity of rain, it rarely floods here. For the most part, the water drains straight down into the lava rock. I suppose in town where there are more paved surfaces, the streets could get full, but there is a huge river drainage right there, the Wailuku River.

Mike, the location is east Hawaii (Big Island), south of Hilo, near Pahoa.

I'm going to fiddle around with these ideas, and MTO's calculations, see what can be constructed, but wouldn't it be nice to find a ready-made kit? I sort of feel like I'll be trying to reinvent something that's already been done.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 8:58PM
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tibs(5/6 OH)

There were very elaberate gravity powered fountains in a historic famous garden in Barcelona. It was not running when I visited because there was a drought that year. Maybe if you checked on some of the pre-electric elaborate landscapes of the wealthy you might get some ideas for a small scale verison.

Like woodyoak, I am thinking something with rain barrel. We had a very wet year, didn't need to use the rain barrels much. So they just ran over and flooded out my asparagas patch (now relocated) and turned my stone path into a channal. Be nice to create something decorative out of the excess water.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 9:18AM
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Much as I don't love Aquascape's products, they do have an interesting concept that you could modify for harvesting rainwater for a water feature.

Here is a link that might be useful: RainXchange system

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 6:44AM
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A seasonal overflow system is all that comes to mind.
It works on gravity and is active only during heavy periods of rain.
A narrow drainage rill handles the run off.

This is a narrow rill that handles the overflow water from the upper property down to a natural stream at the lower property.
seasonal I assume, though it does seem to rain quite a bit in the Vancouver area. the name of the designer escapes me, but is a local Irish fellow from Vancouver.
From Vancouver

This is located in a steep canyon in Bali. There is a year round wide creek that undulates down to a very active wide stream . They took one section of the creek and resculpted it for about 200 feet. I don�t know what powers the bamboo spouts - either a secondary channel from the creek or a pumping system.
From Bali

This is a seasonal drainage swale in a residential area. It is bone dry in the summer but during the winter the entire upper neighborhood sheet flows into this property and it become an active flowing creek. ( Extremely poor engineering when they designed this development ) Before this drainage ditch was installed the entire yard was under water during the winter. It connects to a deeper drainage ditch and eventually expells into a seasonal shallow lake/ wet lands.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 3:39PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Awesome, one Balinese canyon stream with bamboo spouts, please! Thanks for the inspirational photos.

My lot doesn't have a lot of grand topography, but there are some ups and downs in a few areas.

Marcinde, the rain exchange concept is pretty good, but the systems they are selling are overkill for my modest ambitions. Still, the diagrams give me some direction, which is helpful.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 9:11AM
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