What is a gravity feed water system?
We are fortunate to have our very own spring fed water source that runs all year long. It is a spring that pumps out enough water, without fail, to serve our household with daily water. Even more lucky to have gravity feed.
The spring is located on the mountain behind our house. We have it piped down the hill and to the house and shed. This is the “spring fed” part, and because it’s high enough above the point of use to give us great water pressure at the house, it’s also the “gravity feed” part.
Sometimes I forget to leave the water dripping in winter time. When the temps are below freezing, if the water isn’t moving, it will freeze in the lines. This is one of the challenges of living out here. I forgot to do this last week and now there’s a break I’ll have to repair. I’ve had to learn how to do a lot of things for myself out here, because you can’t just call a plumber for things like this. I can’t even imagine how much one would charge to hike up the mountain to do a job!
I knew there was a break because the pressure was lower than usual and there was a lot of sediment in the water. I worried that maybe the tank had drained to the bottom and what I was seeing was the dregs. So I gathered some tools.
Pipe wrenches for taking old couplings off and putting them back on, pipe cutter, screwdriver, pipe saw, bands, inserts for couplers, pipe cutter, 2nd pipe wrench, spare coupler
I figured out a long time ago that for the couplers you need two wrenches. I also figured out a long time ago that to go up there “just to see” what the problem is, is really stupid without bringing the tools. Because then you have to walk all the way back down to the house, gather tools, then walk all the way back to the problem. Better to just bring them the first time. I put all the tools in my backpack and went up the mountain to see what the problem was exactly.
The first section of line didn’t have any leaks. In a gravity feed system, the higher the water storage elevation, the better the effect of gravity on the water pressure. I’m glad we have such a good setup, but that means a lot of hiking uphill when there’s a problem.
That’s the roof of the house down below. No leaks on this section. Going higher to inspect the next section.
On the next level I found a small leak. But the bigger problem was how the ground had eroded underneath it and caused it to stretch tight.
The water line is stretched tight because of the shifting ground and erosion.
If I cut the line to put in the coupler, then I might not be able to pull them together enough to keep it from leaking. What I need to do is change out this entire section because it’s older and brittle now from being exposed to sunlight so much. All of this used to be buried, but we’ve had some really bad floods lately and the logging road (which is the path the water lines also follow) washed out.
So, I found a leak, but it’s not enough to account for the low pressure and silty water. Next stop, the tank. I need to see if it’s empty or nearly so. I set my bag of tools down here because it was heavy and I didn’t think I’d need it for the tank.
The tank was plumb full. So why the low pressure? I forgot to take a picture here, but the water was as high as it could go and about a foot over the overflow line exit. This shouldn’t be. The excess should be draining from the tank through the overflow line.
That inflow and outflow what keeps it able to go out of the line to the house. I’m not sure why that is, but when the overflow doesn’t “flow”, then neither does it flow properly out of the tank through the feed line.
I followed the overflow line to see why it wasn’t working. On my way there I saw a pretty old log with moss growing in the broken end. I liked the wood grain showing in it. Even when I’m doing “work”, I still take time to notice the pretty things.
The overflow line wasn’t flowing because it had been chewed and twisted. Looked like a bear had been rolling around on the ground with it and mangled it.
Some critters chewed and crimped the overflow line by bending it back on itself. We had it flowing into a bucket for them, but I guess whatever it was thought it would be more efficient to get it from the middle instead.
It was a mistake to have set my bag of tools down by the leak. I needed the cutter so I could cut the overflow just before the crimped part. But I didn’t feel like going downhill and then back up again. It was a pretty good hike to where I was at that point. So I did the best I could by pinching it in my hands. It did let a little start flowing through.
Managed to open up the crimp a little and now it’s flowing from the chewed spots.
And it also flows a little all the way to the end now.
Tomorrow I’ll have to go to our local hardware store for some replacement line. Just opening the overflow gave me back the water pressure, and the leak is small so it’s not an emergency. But I want to do the repairs as soon as possible so it doesn’t get worse, and the overflow line needs to be cut. So if I’m going to hike back up there to do that part, I might as well also fix the leak.
Not too many people outside of our area use spring fed water anymore because of pollution in the more populated areas, but ours is fairly clean. No coliforms, phosphates or nitrates. Fortunately, there are no poultry houses or livestock fields in the lands where our water enters the ground. I tested it several times myself when I worked in an environmental laboratory, but we still drink filtered water. We use it as is for cooking, bathing, and washing clothes, though. As long as we take care of the lines, and conserve our usage, we always have water when we need it. The flow rate is not great, but it’s enough to fill our 1500 gallon tank in 24 hours. I would not trade it for city water or even a well.
Line drawing from the USDA, NRCS. 2015. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 5 July 2015). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
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