The Food Revolution: AAPDEP 5th Ward Community Garden Rainwater Irrigation System Installation Project

HOUSTON-The AAPDEP 5th Ward Community Garden was the site of a hands on training for the installment of a 2,000 gallon rainwater irrigation system for the garden on May 18, 2014.

Nearly 20 volunteers came out to participate and learn this invaluable method of rainwater collection which is desperately needed in Houston, TX.

The hands on training to erect the Rainwater Harvesting System was led by Nell and Dean, owners of Nell Wheeler’s Metal Tanks.

Seven other environmentalists, along with AAPDEP members and supporters participated in the project from start to finish, as well.

This is a major accomplishment for the 5 year community garden, which has suffered recent drought attacks that subsequently, caused death to the crops.

The installment of the rainwater irrigation system will prevent the extreme drought attacks that have previously served as an impediment to continuously water the food garden.

A massive tank was brought in as an 8’ x6’x 8’ area was cleared and leveled for placement of the tank.

Bricks were evenly placed side by side to keep the tank level and stationery once positioned.  This area was located just below the roof of the side of the house.

Environmentally friendly system

The team drilled holes in the tank for the suction overflow system, which is a fairly new system used to effectively pull out more stagnant water, making it more environmentally safe and clean.

With the use of a bulk head fitting pipe, tubing, and other components, a hole was drilled in the side of the pipe which allows water to be channeled downward through a hose.

This prevents the water from settling and becoming stagnant. Before use of this improved system, the stagnant water caused a strong odor, and was environmentally unsanitary.

Actually, this method is new and not in PDF form in all the states’ manuals on Rainwater Harvesting. Nevertheless, this system has been proven to be most effective with little added cost and effort.

Another very simple but effective and environmentally safe method applied was the use of Gorilla PVC glue as a cement adhesive for all of the plastic PVC tubing instead of the standard commercial PVC cement glue found in your local hardware stores, which is extremely toxic for humans and the environment.

Using  Gorilla PVC glue was placed on both pieces of clean, square pipe ends, cut from a basic hand saw, to provide the necessary security.

Cutting square ends to fit snugly into fittings allowing plenty of contact area for the cement glue to work and also make for a smoother interior surface for better water flow.

Gorilla PVC glue is a non-flammable PVC glue that does not require a primer so it is a one-step application.

Gorilla PVC glue is tougher, safer and greener for leak-proofing all plastic pipe connections. It can be ordered online, if you cannot find it in stores.

Good water goes in, bad water goes out

The initial collection process catches, along with the rain, debris such as dust, leaves, insects, animal feces, pesticides, etc., therefore, several first flush diverter systems are used to catch the first wash.

The simplest is the PVC standpipe, which fills with water first during a rainfall, with the balance of the water routed to the tank.

The standpipe is drained regularly through a pinhole and the standpipe is cleaned by removing the PVC cover with a wrench after each rainfall.

We used the ball valve type which consists of a floating ball that seals off the top of the diverter pipe when the pipe fills up with water, and redirects the good rain into the 2000 gallon tank.

The bottom of the pipe (the clean out plug) can be cleaned periodically to prevent clogging. It is good to divert a minimum of ten gallons for every 10,000 square feet of collection surface, but this rule can vary depending on the amount of dust on the roof’s surface, the climate, etc.

Only good water goes in, only bad water goes out. Indeed, this is a marvelous feat!

Dealing with eaves, valleys and catchment efficiency

Gutters were installed to capture rainwater running off the eaves of the structure.

If circumstances allow, seamless, continuous gutters can be installed improving catchment efficiency; the roofing of this structure, however, was outdated and very uneven, which could interfere with the process if not corrected.

A combination of half round PVC, pipe and galvanized steel was used due to the uneven roofing, and other complications with the catchment.  

When using the roof as a catchment surface it is important to note if the roof has any valleys, which this structure did.

Valleys occur where two roof planes meet, which result in water spillage, since the water is coming from two different sources.

The gutters had to be customized several times to better control the rain flow. The gutters were installed with the slope towards the downspout, with the outside face of the gutter lower than the inside face to pull drainage away from the building wall.

Additional gutter boxes with downspouts were added along with roof diverters near the eave edge to offset these complications. Leaf screens were not needed, since there were no hanging trees nearby.

The installation proved to be a huge success with all the variations and customizations, and the community garden will not be devastated by another drought with the new rainwater system.

This new irrigation system will now allow the AAPDEP 5th Ward Community Garden to continuously water the crops, feed the community, and eliminate food deserts in the community.

This is the food revolution in full effect! The garden will continue to accept donations (monetary and garden supplies). Email: or can call 214-707-7209. Hands on help in the garden is always welcomed.

AAPDEP Houston is also sponsoring its 2nd Juneteenth (Not yet Uhuru) Freedom and Music Festival at the garden site at 3711 Brill St, Houston 77026. The event is Saturday June 21, 2014 12 noon til 8pm.  All are welcome. Vendors: Call Jackie at 832-647-3550 or you can call Omowale at 214-707-7309.

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