Dos Arbolitos, our off-grid property in the Big Bend Valley section of Terlingua Ranch offers some of the most spectacular views of the surrounding mesas and mountains. Evenings come complete with breathtaking sunsets followed by dark skies brush-stroked with the unmistakable shades of the Milky Way.
The one thing we don’t have on our little slice of the Chihuahuan Desert is a well or running water. No worries! Water is available. A lot of the folks doing the off-grid lifestyle in Big Bend depend on water catchment. And even though this area only gets an average rainfall of twelve inches a year, it is possible to harvest lots of water.
Water harvesting starts with having a metal roof that drains into gutters that channel rainfall into water storage containers. One inch of rainfall on 600 square feet of roofing can yield almost 400 gallons of water. Not bad! That is why it is important to have all of the rainwater harvesting components in place.
Cheryl and I hope to have our little cabin on site in a few months － complete with metal roof. Our first priority will be to have seamless gutters installed so that we can harvest rainfall. We will start with our 330-gallon container and then add another 750 to 1,000 gallons of storage. In the meantime, we will install two 55-gallon containers to capture any overflow from our 330-gallon container.
In order to have access to our water, I added spigots to our 55-gallon containers — a fun do-it-yourself project that took less than an hour to complete. Here are the simple steps to adding a spigot to a rain barrel.
I started by cleaning out the container which was previously used to store soap. Then I measured a line from one of the access ports on the top of the barrel down the side to the bottom of the barrel. I then used a 1⅜ paddle bit to drill a hole four inches up from the bottom to allow room for the spigot and attaching a water hose.
I lowered a piece of rope from the access port on top and fished out the rope through the hole I drilled at the bottom. I then slid the inside half of a bulkhead fitting down the rope, fished the threaded end through the hole at the bottom, and then threaded the outside half of the fitting and tightened it. This fitting uses a lefty-tighty configuration.
Once I tightened the bulkhead fitting, I wrapped the male end of the spigot with teflon tape and threaded it onto the fitting and tightened it with a wrench. That’s it! I added some water into the barrel to test and make sure there were no leaks and then turned on the spigot. Worked beautifully! Since this is a gravity-fed spigot, the water flowed slowly but surely. I added a bead of silicone around the fittings as a final measure to prevent any leaks.
These barrels will buy us a little time as we take the next steps and consider exactly what size water storage container we will add later in the year. We should have plenty of water for our occasional visits and also to give the surrounding trees a little drink as well.
Cheryl and I are definitely enjoying our new adventure and learning along the way. We look forward to many years of enjoying the mesas and mountains and Milky Way at Dos Arbolitos. Thanks for following our adventure.