Reviving the Summer Water Intake

By , April 14, 2015

Last autumn I went up to the creek to remove the diversion hose from the catchment bucket, stopping our summer water tank from filling. As I always do when I go up there, I pressed my lips to the plastic pipe and blew into it. This clears accumulated silt and any other blockage from the intake end of the pipe.


A proper level of flow from the intake, next to the catchment bucket (Photo: Michelle L. Zeiger).

On this occasion, I couldn’t blow out the obstruction. I nearly gave myself an embolism trying to clear the pipe! From that moment, we knew that before we collected water from the creek the next spring, we’d need to excavate the intake and clear the obstruction, and possibly make repairs or improvements.

That day came Sunday. Our weather has warmed to the point where we’re unlikely to get another hard freeze. We can safely fill the summer water tank for watering the garden this summer, rinse compost buckets, and use it for any other water needs around the “homestead.” We can even run it into the cabin’s water system to give the winter tank a break if we so choose (see Fresh Water: Collecting and Conserving a Precious Resource). Before we could do any of that, we had to find the intake.

In all the time we’ve been here, we have only seen the outflow end of the intake. We have a written description from the previous owner, who installed the system. According to him, about 10 feet upstream, we should find a small dam, a visqueen lined basin, and the intake pipe. With this clue, and vague evidence of human activity in the creek bed, we could guess roughly where the intake end might lie.

We dug through the gravel in the stream bed. As we got deeper, we bailed the hollow with a bucket to lower the water level. We’d dig until the level rose, then bail again.

We found the edge of the visqueen, traced it to the pipe, and found its end. We pulled off the filter bag around it, rinsed it thoroughly, and ran a clean stick through the end of the pipe until the well-packed silt clogging it broke free and ran out the hose. Before very long, the water ran clear.

We replaced the filter and the intake, built a small rock cairn over it, added a second layer of filtering material, and filled in with gravel. We covered up the visqueen until we had a stream bed back, more or less. A couple of good soaking rains from now, almost all evidence of our presence there will have vanished.

The restored creek bed. The intake's in there somewhere (Photo: Michelle L. Zeiger).

The restored creek bed. The intake’s in there somewhere (Photo: Michelle L. Zeiger).

We’ve been very busy lately, building new grow boxes for the garden, renovating the power system and more. I think, though, that this job of reviving the summer water system may be the most satisfying of them all. We figure the last time the previous owner dug up the system was probably more than 15 years ago. Hopefully, we’ll be good for at least another 15 now.

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