My husband and I have recently moved up to our “future homestead” and will be living in our travel trailer as we are building our new home. While our Architect and Engineer finish our house plans, and while the building department in our county reviews the plans before they give their approval, we are preparing our living arrangements so that we can live comfortably while we work.
One thing that needed to be done was to build a water tower. Before the water tower was built, we would pump water from our well into a water storage tank that was sitting on the
ground, and with a few lengths of hoses, this delivered fresh water into our trailer. It worked, but we just didn’t have much water pressure. Sure, we could turn on the water pump in the trailer, but we are living off-grid and prefer to use our solar power for other things – like lights, fans, satellite TV receiver, flat screen television and a CD/radio. Contrary to what some people believe, living off grid is not living like Neanderthals!
It’s important to know that for every foot in elevation, you get almost half a pound of water pressure. So, if the water source is 20 feet higher, you will have almost 10 pounds of pressure. Most municipal water systems provide about 40-60 pounds of pressure.
Our main reason to have the higher pressure was to get a better shower. Without the water pump on, and before the water tank was built, we used to have a trickle, not a shower! That was very unsatisfying after a hard day of work.
The first thing we had to do was purchase some lumber posts that were tall enough for the tower. We were surprised to find that our local box store had 20 foot long posts that were 6 inches by 8 inches. These came at a hefty price (a little over $100 each). The 2 x 6 cross braces weren’t much cheaper because we chose to use treated lumber.
I know, I know, treated lumber has poison in it and it will contaminate the ground. We considered that, but tossed about the fact that our land is populated by millions (not exaggerating) of carpenter ants and probably more termites! Do we build a very expensive water tower that will be eaten in a few years by six legged critters, or do we buy the treated lumber and enjoy the tower for at least 20 years? Knowing that there were no food crops growing near the tower, the tower was at least 50 feet from our well, and our home was also going to be almost 50 feet away from the tower, we opted for the treated lumber.
The first thing to do was to dig the holes for a concrete foundation the water tower legs would rest upon, with room for more concrete to encase the legs. The holes were dug fairly deep (more than 5 feet deep), rebar was pounded down into the holes at different angles to give even more stability, and almost three feet of concrete was poured into the holes. Ray had to wait a couple of days for this concrete to set up before he could place the four legs of the water tower on top. In the meantime, the first side of the tower was built on the ground. It was much easier that way. Dear hubby Ray set up a pulley system on one of the tall pine trees nearby, and used the quad motorcycle to pull the first side up into place on the poured concrete pads. You can see in the picture below that he used both lag bolts and later some carriage bolts to build the tower.
Once two opposite sides of the tower were up with each leg of the tower resting securely in the center of each concrete and rebar pad, Ray set about securing them together, again with the carriage bolts and some lag bolts.
After the four sides of the tower were secure, more concrete and rebar was poured around each leg. You can see in the picture below that Ray built the concrete up like a volcano around each leg, to help with water run-off. Once the tower has been in use for a few months and any settling has occurred, we will pour a 6 inch thick concrete pad under the entire tower, incorporating each leg, which will make it even stronger!
The tower was now starting to look like an actual water tower!
The next task was to build a deck on the top of the tower to support the water storage tank. We decided to use treated redwood 4 x 4’s because the deck had to support a lot of weight! The water storage tank holds 305 gallons. Did you know that a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds? So, if my calculations are correct, the deck of the water tower has to hold at least 2,400 pounds! Sheesh!
Once the deck was built, it was time to hoist the storage tank up. Easier said than done, and I honestly didn’t know how we were going to do that. However, my dear hubby’s ingenuity rigging up hoists and pulleys eventually got the job completed! I’ll tell you a secret… that was really, really scary to watch!
Finally, the intake and outtake pipes had to be plumbed. The fresh water coming from the well goes into the top bulkhead (hole) of the tank and the water going to the trailer comes out of the bottom bulkhead. The pump in our well is a very versatile pump – we can run it on either batteries, a generator, or solar panels. Right now we are using a generator because we have a few trees to cut down before the solar panels will work right. Once the solar panels are operational, we have a sensor that Ray will install into the tank on top of the water tower. The sensor will turn on the well pump when the water gets down to a certain level. With this set-up, we will be able to have our water tank automatically kept full without us even having to think about it!
Now won’t that be cool?
This was another project completed to make our lives easier while we build our new home. We can now have a nice hot shower after a long day of work!
I can’t wait to show you what else we have been doing!
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