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Daox 09-24-08 12:38 PM

Rain water collection
This could go in a few different forums, but I choose here because I plan on using the water for gardening purposes. I'll probably wait until next year, but I would like some ideas on how to build a rain water collection system. The garden area is right behind my garage, so I plan on collecting the water off of it.

The initial plans are to use those blue plastic barrels as holding tanks. The gutters (which need to be put on yet) would route the water to these barrels. I'd get a bulkhead fitting for the tanks and connect them together and to a hose. I was hoping I could get away with a gravity fed delivery system so I didn't need a pump. I think this will work.

Anyone have a system already setup that could provide some info?

Tony Raine 09-24-08 01:24 PM

i wish i had gutters on my house, i would do something like this. my thoughts include putting a 5 gallon bucket above the collection barrel, and fill it with gravel of various sizes to act as a "prefilter" to keep out leaves and dirt that could clog the hoses. you also may have to paint the collection barrel black to keep mold from forming.

as long as the bottom of your barrel (or wherever you put the output hose) is above or level with your output at the garden, gravity feed should work great.

truckncycle 09-24-08 02:20 PM

I often think about rain collection. I also wonder how to collect the water that is running down the street from other peoples sprinklers. You will have to tell us how it goes. I know that a lot of systems use a diverter (roof wash) to dump the first couple of gallons coming off the roof so you aren't storing the contaminants.

Daox 09-24-08 02:45 PM

I really like the gravel bucket idea. I had also been thinking of a way to keep mosquitoes out of the water and that should solve that problem too.

I don't really think a diverter would be needed since this is just going to be used for watering the garden? I'm guessing I'd only get pebbles, dust, and leaves that wash down, and the gravel should filter some of that out.

Why does painting the barrel black keep mold from growing on it?

Binger 09-24-08 04:31 PM

I saw an episode of a show about renovations on the planet green network (hosted by the steve guy from this old house).
There was a family who had an underground system that tapped into their srinklers.

The gutters drained into this tank and it went from there to the underground system.

They stretched panty hose over the top of the first tank because it allowed water in and kept bugs out.

toyobug 09-25-08 08:34 AM

Check this system out! COOL!!
A Spouse's Guide to Building the Perfect Rain Barrel System

Found these too:

Rain Barrel by Aaron
Rain Barrels | Rain Barrel Water Savers | Composters
Rain Barrels, Downspout Diverters and Filters, Rain Barrel Kits

I've heard of these type systems before. Daox, you've really got me interested in this idea. Thanks

Tony Raine 09-25-08 09:11 AM


Why does painting the barrel black keep mold from growing on it?
i think because it keeps light from going in. here at work, all the big, trailer-mounted pressure washers have the tanks painted black. i asked why, and thats what they told me.

Daox 09-25-08 10:04 AM

That first link is excellent Toyobug! That is pretty much exactly what I planned. I didn't think about the overflow vents though. I'm not keen on paying for things that I can make. Especially since I very much enjoy building things myself.

toyobug 09-25-08 10:15 AM

I liked the set up in the first link too. After looking at the other variations from other sites, I'm going with the first! It's too easy of a set up! I've already got the spot picked out in my back yard!
The other sites did have some useful info about various products to go along with any system though. Like the mosquito things, different down spout ideas.
One site had multiple barrels connected by the "over flow" pipe. I'd lke to know how viable that idea is.

Tony Raine 09-25-08 11:26 AM


Originally Posted by toyobug (Post 340)
One site had multiple barrels connected by the "over flow" pipe. I'd lke to know how viable that idea is.

thats the way i would go, but i would probably use bigger diameter pipe to connect them. just a short piece of pipe, one barrel to the next, near the top.

or you could connect all the barrels, top and bottom, from the sides. that way you basically have one big "tank" with one input (at the top of one barrel) and one output (on the very bottom of one barrel).

toyobug 09-25-08 12:59 PM

Tony Raine- i like your last idea of connecting them top and bottom. I can't wait to build them.

dremd 09-28-08 09:31 AM

I have one at my camp already; but it is leaking . . . . . And my pressure pump got re-allocated to become a booster pump at my house .. . . Need to get on that (1000+ gallons)

And I want to build one for my Bio-Diesel setup, but am not yet sure how I'm going to distribute/ collect water in to / from 55 gallon barrels

toyobug 09-28-08 11:24 AM

where's your camp dremd?

dremd 09-28-08 11:30 AM


Originally Posted by toyobug (Post 416)
where's your camp dremd?

it is in grand bois, which is south of between breax bridge and Henderson.
When I'm on a pc I'll edit this post with a link to my cistern there.

Higgy 10-02-08 04:03 PM

One of the things I would love to do is have a type of eco roof that doesn't have contaminants in it so that water coming down could be used for more then just garden water. I'd love to be able to hook up a system so that rainwater gets sent down into your basement in the summer and is stored there to be used for flushing toilets, bathing, showering, cleaning dishes, etc... as well as watering the garden and lawn.

dremd 10-02-08 08:23 PM

Here's the thread over on ecomodder

toyobug 10-04-08 03:51 AM

Higgy- I had the same thought. My plan was to basically have two types of plumbing systems in the house I build to retire at.
1st- "potable" system would provide water for consumption uses= dishes, showers, sinks, laundry. The drains from these would go to the holding tank. The tank will then be plumbed to supply water to the garden and supplying the necessary water for toilet flushing.
2nd- waste water from toilet flushing would be the only thing that goes to the septic system.
Any suggestions from anyone?

Daox 10-04-08 09:44 AM

Doesn't sound like a bad idea to me. You should be able to hook up a simple pump to the holding tank and activate it with a float switch (or mount a swith to the float already in the toilet). You may have to filter the water to lengthen pump life.

dremd 10-04-08 07:21 PM

Here's the filter I have on mine
Sediment Filter

For Gray water re-use in toilets you could either use the harbor freight pump that I use
Harbor Freight Tools - Quality Tools at the Lowest Prices
(Goes on sale for $59)

Or a much more energy efficient RV pump Such as (or equivalent)
Save at RV Partscenter - RV Parts and Supply

toyobug 10-05-08 10:52 AM

I forgot to mention in my last post that it woud be nice to have one of those septic systems that filters the waste you so you can use the water that comes out the field
lines to water your lawn. I've heard some say it's safe to drink, but I think I would have a mental block if I tried to drink it. :eek:
Does anyone know what those types of systems are called? I've been searching but can't seem to find what I'm looking for.

dremd- I'm not familiar with grand bois, but I assume it's in the Achafalaya basin? I know where Breaux Bridge is. I bet there's awesome fishing around there. My dad and I always fish the Calcasieau river when I visit.
Thanks for the links about the pumps.

Daox- I like the idea of putting the switch in the tank to use the water from the holding tank.

Conradpdx 10-11-08 10:48 PM

Sand filters are often used to decontaminate the water from rain water collection. Basically its a layer of gravel and a lot of sand. Bacteria and micro-organisms live in the sand that eat all the junk in the rain water. They do need to be cleaned every now and then though, but if I remember right it's basically purge, stir and rinse.

toyobug 10-12-08 06:20 AM

like a swimming pool filter. I have a sand fiter on my pool, and it's recommended to purge and rinse once a week. I'm sure you could do it less often with a water barrell set up since you wont be swimming in it or drinking it.

gascort 02-15-09 11:39 PM


Originally Posted by Daox (Post 322)
Anyone have a system already setup that could provide some info?

I made one last spring. 55-gal plastic drum - got it for free from an auto shop - used to contain windshield washer fluid, and as a bonus, it had about 3 liters in the bottom still when I got it home!
I cut a hole in the bottom for a 3/4" threaded copper pipe, put a 90 degree piece, an extension, and a spigot on the outside. I taped the threads with teflon tape, and used rubber gaskets and large metal washers on both sides to make sure the seal was good. (I read online that simply threading the pipe into the barrel would sometimes leak)
I cut half of the lid of the barrel off, then reached inside and put a nut on the backside of the rubber gasket/washer.
The massive hole in the top is covered by window screen and some rubbery gasket stuff I had lying around, secured with screws. My gutter drains in almost parallel to the ground across the screen. Sediment mostly stays atop, and water goes down. After a rainstorm or two I usually brush the top off with my hand, or it blows off when it dries.
I have a pvc drain tube inserted close to the top of the drum, which runs down to the bottom of my gutter after the barrel is full.
I painted the barrel with Krylon Fusion plastic paint to match the red brick color of my house, and have it set up on bricks stacked knee high.

The gutter services 1/2 of my roof, so it fills with the slightest rainfall. If I had the space, I would put more up, but my wife/neighbors would complain. Next step is to put a barrel on the garage - it's more out of the way.

gascort 02-15-09 11:43 PM

One more thing - although several manufacturers of rain barrels leave water in the bottom of their barrels to weigh them down and keep them from moving, I'm paranoid of mosquitoes and we have far too many already. To supplement my screen - covered openings and draining within 5 days of filling, I filled the bottom 5cm with concrete - right up to the top of the pipe on the inside of the barrel. It won't evaporate, leaving a flight-risk barrel, and it'd be rough for larvae to grow in it.

Bob McGovern 02-16-09 01:46 AM


Originally Posted by toyobug (Post 538)
Higgy- I had the same thought. My plan was to basically have two types of plumbing systems in the house I build to retire at.
1st- "potable" system would provide water for consumption uses= dishes, showers, sinks, laundry. The drains from these would go to the holding tank. The tank will then be plumbed to supply water to the garden and supplying the necessary water for toilet flushing.
2nd- waste water from toilet flushing would be the only thing that goes to the septic system.
Any suggestions from anyone?

Art Ludwig of Oasis Designs is the authority on gray water; even he has nearly given up on the notion. The thing about gray water is you have to use it right away. If you don't use a holding tank, suspended particles (skin, hair, macaroni) stay afloat and tend to clog stuff downstream. If you do use a holding tank, gray water turns to black water in about two hours.

I got no beef with septic systems -- they are as organic as organic gets.:D almost all our waste water goes straight into the septic, down thru 130 ft of limestone sand, and presumably back into our well.

As for rain catchment: it works brilliantly. Hard to describe how much water comes off a typical roof in even a short downpour. Many posters here got the challenges pegged: initial runoff nastyness, fine sediment & sludging, algae and microorganism growth, and diversion when full.

Dark barrels warm the water; that's great in winter, but it actually speeds algae growth in summer. We dose ours with unflavored Chlorox once in awhile. Doesn't take much -- half a cap will treat 55 gallons, given time. It may or may not kill certain other beasties, tho -- especially protozoa. So we pump our drinking rainwater thru a 0.5 micron carbon block filter.

We use 55 gallon drums for our drinking water so we can wheel one indoors for winter. For gardening, we have a buried 500 gallon steel tank (former diesel storage) and a 400 gallon poly farm tank. If we run low on irrigation water, we can toss the latter on a flatbed trailer and fill it in town for $1.

Metal roofs are fabulous for rain catchment. We have a fine screen on the barrels which we can knock the bugs out of. There's a bit of sludging, but people have lived off cisterns for millennia with limited trouble. It's open watercourses that breed dysentery and cholera. When a barrel is nearly empty, we take it to the patio, slosh it good, and pour out most of the sediment.

One interesting side effect of drinking rain water is its lack of salts or trace ions. Our bodies are used to gleaning certain micronutrients from drinking water. Shouldn't be an issue if a person is eating a balanced diet. Just thought I'd mention it. Oh -- and watch out where you get used barrels. Some of them may have held concentrated pesticides, and those residues may be impossible to rinse out. Oh -- and rain catchment is illegal in some places, like Colorado.:D Pipples take their water rights seriously in the West, and the rain that hits your roof is owned by somebody. Fort Collins was threatening to cite people with rain barrels, although they have since backed down in the face of jeering.

Higgy 02-16-09 11:43 AM

Wow that's weird. I can't believe they do that in certain places. That's like saying you have to put a blanket over your grass when it rains because someone owns the rain and YOU can't use it.

So is there an issue with gray or black water if you don't use it for drinking? What if you just use it to flush your toilets and water your grass and gardens?

b4u2 06-08-09 08:56 PM

My sump pump runs all the time. I want to bury a 50 gal plastic barrel and have the sump pump into it then an overflow to my drainage system. I want to use the water from the barrel to water the yard. I am trying to find a inexpensive dc or solar powered pump to use with a garden hose. If the pump is dc I can build my own panel for it. I am having trouble finding the pump I am looking for. I saw one in a google search but now I can't find it. A very simple pump is all I am looking for. Any help would be appreciated.

Daox 06-09-09 07:09 AM

I'd probably check out pumps used for RVs, they'll run on 12 volts. SHURflo comes to mind.

b4u2 06-11-09 09:23 AM

I found a place here that sells the blue plastic barrels for $11 each. I posted at work that I needed deep cycle batteries and got 2 for $40. I'm going to build my own solar panel to keep the battery charged. I will use a bilge pump in the barrel because I am going to bury it. my sump pump runs about every 3 minutes and that will be my water source. I'm going to set up a water protected switch since this will only run when I am there to watch it. the pump is $19 which fits in my budget but it pumps500 gal an hour so it will probably empty pretty fast.

TimJFowler 06-15-09 05:36 PM


Originally Posted by b4u2 (Post 3261)
I found a place here that sells the blue plastic barrels for $11 each.

b4u2 - What kind of business (or is it a chain?) sold you the barrels? I need to expand my rain barrel capacity and that is a great price. I'm not exactly in your neighborhood, but maybe a similar store could sell me a barrel or two for a similar price.


b4u2 06-15-09 05:43 PM

it is a scrap iron business. marion iron

TimJFowler 06-30-09 05:07 PM

Starting July 1st, Colorado is rolling out a new "pilot program" for allowing rainwater catchment in the state. Unfortunately, there are many limitations regarding who can set up rain barrels around their home. So, it's not a complete legalization of rainwater harvesting, but more of a first step.

Regardless, congratulations to Colorado for moving towards more sustainable and logical water laws! :thumbup:

Roll out the Rain Barrel for Colorado |

Plantman 02-18-12 07:49 PM

I have a 1200 gal rain barrel for my greenhouse. It collects water off my barn roof. It is green polyethylene, which prevents sunlight and algae growth. It is buried in the ground except for the top foot or so to keep it from freezing. I now use it to heat my greenhouse. I circulate water through plastic tubing in the top of the greenhouse, which can reach 100 degrees when it is 40 outside. I then circulate this through tubing in the ground at night when it is below freezing. I use a pump designed for herbicide spaying. It is 12v, connected to a solar charged battery. It automatically goes on when pressure drops and stops when water is not used and pressure increases. I can also empty it by gravity flow using a garden hose when the outlet is lower than the water level in the tank, but you have to get the siphon going first, and it is slow with very little pressure.

d3vi1d06 02-20-12 12:59 PM

Some dude actually runs a business from rain water he collects. He uses tin roofs, gutters, filters, and pumps. All to collect and bottle rain water. He sells the bottles for $0.05 each i think.

nexsuperne 03-01-12 01:16 AM

It amazes me that you weren't allowed to collect rainwater. Here in England, we collect it and use it for washing clothes, running showers, flushing toilets, washing cars, watering plants and even washing hair. As it contains less impurities, less shampoo and detergents are needed. The bottom line is that our house of 4 people uses the same amount as a house with no harvesting system but only 2 people. We are on water meters, so this saves a lot of money!

gtojohn 08-03-14 01:09 AM

I've been doing gray water for a while. We've been in a drought for several years and this has helped my trees. I have a pier and beam house and installed a tee between the bath tub drain and sewer. From the tee it clears the foundation 3 feet and then goes into a french drain of 50' preforated black corrugated tubing. Between the 4 of us lots of water go down that drain. Using just the bath eliminates the floating macaroni. Washing machine has a 2nd drain which goes out the wall to another french drain taking care of fence line hedges. We have a front loader washer but still go through what seems to be a lot of laundry every week and its I'd hate to give this water back to the city after I've paid for it.

gtojohn 08-03-14 01:12 AM

I will be building a cabin this winter, currently off the grid, unimproved parcel without a well. I plan on using several 275 gallon IBC used for $75 ea. Until I get a well rainwater and gray water will be our only source until the lake fills up another 30'.

jbarb2903 10-25-14 04:37 AM

I agree with tony, bigger diameter pipe

bennelson 12-21-14 07:09 PM

I love the idea of collecting rain water and using it instead of city water or even well water, wasting electricity and wear and tear to run a pump.

However, so many systems are ONE 55-gallon drum. That's just NOT a lot of water compared to what nearly any roof can provide.

I help build a rain-water collection system at my parent's house. We started with one IBC container, and then eventually expanded it to three.

The containers are boxed in, both for strength, and to keep light out. The finished box is is the same style and color as the existing building, so it blends in well. It's a pretty good DIY system for over 800 gallons of water.
DIY 275 Gallon Rainwater Collection : Learning Experiences and Future Improvements.

OffGridKindaGuy 12-22-14 06:28 AM

I've been collecting cloud juice since '89. Never had a well. Supports 2 adults with showers daily, water for the chickens, dogs, cats, and rabbits. Water for dishes and general cleaning needs.

We use bottled water for drinking but we could drink the rain water if we needed to. (Berkey Filter on hand) We use the laundry mat but during the summer, I wouldn't need to. It's just easier..

I collect from my roof in a 375 gal. tank and transfer to inside storage. I can store ~600 gal. inside to avoid freezing, which can support us for ~2 months if we are frugal. Pull it in, add a dab of bleach, and all is good..

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