Rain Water Irrigation?

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I'm interested in setting up a system to capture rain water off my garage and or barn roof for later use in garden and tree irrigation. Im thinking of using the already in place eves troughs and down spout to drain into a 55 gal. drum. Then hooking up a garden hose to the drum to use for irrigating the garden, washing the car, watering the birds etc...

Does anyone have any hints or tips on what to do or not to do? Does it seem to work well (trouble free)? Worth my time and expence?

I may have to install some sort of pump to pump the water to a higher reservoir to get the needed head pressure.

Any comments would be helpful and appreciated



-- Colin (cew74@yahoo.com), March 01, 2000


I see one flaw with your system, not enough storage capacity. When you think about it, 55 gallons really isn't very much water. I filled some 10 gallon cream cans last year from a downspout, and it didn't take long to fill each one. I suppose a person could calculate the needed storage capacity from roof size per downspout, and a guess of the normal amount of rainfall per occurrence.

-- greenbeanman (greenbeanman@ourtownusa.net), March 02, 2000.

make sure to elevate the drums. It helps with the pressure somewhat. I use mine for watering the garden. I had a problem with mosquitos breeding in it last year, I thought it was sealed completely with screening, but they still got in

-- stan (sopal@net-port.com), March 02, 2000.

This past year I cascaded three together to capture more water. The barrels fill up fast.

I have not had a problem with mosquitos in the past. However, this year I am going to put a goldfish or two into each drum, just to keep them in check. I think that the fish will eat the critters and any algae and add fertilizer to the water.

-- Rich (pntbeldyk@wirefire.com), March 02, 2000.

good idea about the gold fish. But what kind of barrels do you use, plastic, or metal, open on the top? Id worry about not enoughh oxygen.

-- stan (sopal@net-port.com), March 02, 2000.

The goldfish work like a champ to keep the water mosquito free. I have used them in stock tanks for years with good result. I have even had them survive winters in central Missouri with the use of an electric stock tank deicer but some got too close and were injured. Also don't release goldfish into your streams and ponds as they breed easily and kill off other species. There was an item in the news about a lake in a development that had been overpopulated by goldfish. They outcompeted native fish, fouled the water and nothing else (birds, frogs) would eat them. The city fathers drained the lake, treated and refilled it only to have more reappear with the same result.

I have used well washed plastic drums to catch water and make large quantities of manure tea. Getting enough head for adequate pressure was a problem because my yard is flat. Just be sure to keep any tank you use covered to keep children and pets out.

-- Marilyn (rainbow@ktis.net), March 02, 2000.

Stan, I used plastic barrels that I cut the tops off with a circular saw.

-- Rich (pntbeldyk@wirefire.com), March 02, 2000.

Stan's right about elevating the tanks and if you use drip irrigation (even if it's an old leaky hose you add more holes to) and mulch you won't need as much water or a pump. We have two large old stock tanks we bought at garage sales. They work great except for the mosquitos. THANKS for the goldfish tip, that's ingenious! Guess what's going to be living in our tanks this summer?

-- Peg (jnjohnsn@pressenter.com), March 02, 2000.

My brother in law uses goldfish in his stock tank and has had them for over two years, still working great. We have a long galvanized stock tank we bought at a sale last year, but it is rusty inside. Could we still use it for garden water? I don't think rust would be a problem, just add more iron, but would the galvanized tank being rusty add any special toxins that we wouldn't want? Jan

-- Jan (Janice12@aol.com), March 02, 2000.

We have an enclosed 1000 gal tank with the gutters from our garage set up to flow rainwater into it. There's a hose bib at the bottom of the tank that we set up, as well as a line into our bunkhouse. We can hook a hose up to the tank and basically run water wherever we need it. The hookup to the bunkhouse goes to two filters set up side by side so we can get water pure enough for drinking, etc. by using a pitcher pump.

Our tank is heavy duty black plastic (potable grade). I was wondering about having to treat the water with bleach or something to keep any algae down. The goldfish idea sounds great, but I bet they need more air in there, huh? There is head space and an overflow line. I wouldn't want dead goldfish in there for sure...worse than algae.

Anyone else worked with this concept? Use bleach? I love getting the rainwater...and we usually have so much out here, but sometimes in August-September we don't get rain for 6 weeks or so...

Thank in advance

-- sheepish (rborgo@gte.net), March 02, 2000.

Jan: I don't know all your USA terms. Is a stock tank an open drinking trough? If so, that's a big surface area for not much water - I'd expect a LOT of evaporation if it was all you had, and set up here in Australia. What the rust will hurt is the tank itself - if you've got a fairly sound metal structure I'd try to wire-brush any loose rust, stabilise the rust surface (do you have Kill-Rust or any (phosphoric- acid or other) rust converter?), prime it, then seal over it with either a special-purpose paint, or tar.

Sheepish: Your setup sounds like the way we do things in Australia, except we find 1000 gallons (1250 of your gallons) is too small for a big shed - we get overflow and wastage, and that's ungood - we need to conserve water. For the tanks on sheds, away from the house, we try to drain excess via a hose into our underground tank (cistern). All this is potable water, and for washing. We use (muddy) water from earthen dams (ponds?) to water gardens, fruit trees, even drinking water for animals.

People can easily work out how much storage they'd need for an inch of rain (shed width multiplied by length in feet gives area in square feet, divided by 12 gives cubic feet of water for an inch of rain, multiplied by 7.5 gives US gallons). For instance, an inch of rain on a small shed 12'x24' gives 180 US gallons. Then think about your average rainfall pattern over the year. There are any number of clever devices that divert the first few gallons of run-off (containing all the dust and bird droppings) from the main tank. That first water can be used for gardening, but some people may be too fussy to drink it.

Sheepish, to get back to your question - you don't have a problem. Algae needs light, and your black plastic keeps that out. Goldfish - well, things DO die, and dead things rot, and it ain't pleasant if they do it in water you have to drink. Mosquito larvae - well, get some extra-fine plastic mesh inside ordinary insect gauze, and seal any openings. Use a multi-layer sieve to strain water as it goes into the tank, or into the down-pipe.

One more thing - in Australia some people have had bad luck with plastic water tanks and bushfires (I guess forest fires or even grass fires for you). It's a good idea to make sure fire can't reach your water tank, otherwise just when you NEED water ....

-- Don Armstrong (darmst@yahoo.com.au), March 03, 2000.


Thanks for answering my question. To add: we have a very wet climate here, and lots of rain usually so our risk of brush fire is small. Good point in general, however. Also we have a set up where we can shut off the water intake into the tank and divert it back to the gutter system where it flushes out and into a ditch, then to the pasture. (For folks with low rainfall, this probably would be a huge waste but we usually have way more water than we need).

Glad to know about the algae not growing in the black plastic.

Our biggest concern is to hold that tank in place (I think it's 8000 lbs full...what does a gallon of water weigh? I forget.) should we have an earthquake, which we do get around here. We have it built into a structure, but I think it would be a good idea to secure some chains to the structure and link them to some kind of support in the ground. I think our garage might be at risk if we hook up to that.

Thanks for the reply.

-- sheepish (rborgo@gte.net), March 03, 2000.

When we built a small green house we used tie downs for moble home set up.. They are about 3 feet long and screw into the ground. We have a lot of wind and were afraid the green house would end up in the valley. They would work to hold anything down..Doris in Idaho

-- Doris Richards (dorisquilts@webtv.net), March 03, 2000.

For what its worth, around here some industry uses 250 gallon plastic tanks. They're usually encased in a heavy galvanized skin with a drain valve on the bottom. The hole on top is about 1' in diameter. Sometimes you can get them for free or even ten or twenty bucks isn't bad for that kind of gallonage. Its been mostly the paper mills that seem to use them but I'm sure others do as well.

-- john leake (natlivent@pcpros.net), March 03, 2000.

For what its worth, around here some industry uses 250 gallon plastic tanks. They're usually encased in a heavy galvanized skin with a drain valve on the bottom. The hole on top is about 1' in diameter. Sometimes you can get them for free or even ten or twenty bucks isn't bad for that kind of gallonage. Its been mostly the paper mills that seem to use them but I'm sure others do as well. Forgot to mention they're approx cubical, about 3 1/2 ft. outside dimensions.

-- john leake (natlivent@pcpros.net), March 03, 2000.

I have used both 55gal plastic barrels hooked in series, and larger tanks when I can get them. Check with local food manufacturers to see if they have anything you can get, I have had great luck with this if you don't mind the aroma of hot peppers or Hi-C. Goldfish work great, and I have also used small minnows from the local bait shop (harder for the cats to see) If you are using drip irrigation, be sure to use a water filter to keep fish wastes from clogging things up. You can get soaker hose designed to operate under low- pressure conditions, will get back to you on this when I refind my source. I also using this type of water collection for animal watering stations. Just get a float valve dish to plumb into the bottom, and make a screen trap to cover the top of the barrel. This kept my chickens watered all summer last year, even in the drought.

-- Connie (connie@lunehaven.com), March 03, 2000.


Try this link -


I've got a bunch of water-related links but I need to put them together. Email me directly.

Also check -


and look at the different states that you think might have a need for cistrens (sp).


-- j (jw_hsv@yahoo.com), March 03, 2000.

Sheepish: again, I think you probably don't have a problem - at least if your tank is a flat-bottomed cylinder on a firm base. 8,000 pounds should be right for 1,000 US gallons, and that's about the equivalent weight to three cars sitting there with the wheels off. I couldn't have moved that even when I was young - not even a little bit . If there's a worry there, it would be about the tank stand being able to withstand a shaking with that weight on it.

I personally would be more worried about a water tank being blown by strong winds when it's empty, but that shouldn't be a worry for you most times either. I'm more used to galvanised corrugated-iron water tanks, and if we use them in an elevated position we tie them down with wire. I wouldn't do that to a plastic tank though - I'd probably use polypropylene rope in direct contact with the tank, as metal could abrade the plastic. The tie-downs another poster mentioned sound like a good idea. Even star pickets (steel posts) would work, driven into the ground slanted to be at right angles to cord/wire/chain coming from the tank; but if you use posts think about safety aspects - just a foot or so of metal sticking up out of the ground could be bad news.

-- Don Armstrong (darmst@yahoo.com.au), March 03, 2000.

You know it seems funny that people would spend so much time create something to water there pants when nearly every house has one already, It's called a well. You are not from the country you may think you are but your not because out here in the country if we had to save rain water to water our lawns we would let the damn thing burn up, or spray it with roundup. Why would you want rain water anyway have you heard of acid rain?

-- denden (denden18@hotmail.com), March 08, 2000.

I might let my lawn burn up but I sure won't let a whole year's food burn up in the garden if I can help it. My garden doesn't appreciate the icy cold water that comes from 225 feet down, not to mention the depleting aquifers or the electricity the pump uses. No thank you, I prefer the tempered and free rain-water that trickles into the rows via recycled hose with many holes. I have read that in the southwest the land has actually sunk because the aquifers have had so much water pumped out of them. Well water is not a limitless resource.

-- Peg (jnjohnsn@pressenter.com), March 09, 2000.

Re: denden

I am not sure where you live *in the country*, but our here on the west coast we don't really have so much acid rain. I believe it is pretty clean, barring the occasional Japanese or Russian nuclear accident, or the odd volcanic explosion, since it comes to us from across the Pacific Ocean.

We have wells out here, but we can get our water pretty easily from the dams and reservoirs that are on our big rivers out here as well. The water is nice and soft and actually tastes pretty good.

I don't water our lawn, as it's a big waste of resources and energy. I figure when it gets dry, it gets dry. As long as it doesn't get long and look like it's gonna catch on fire, I don't worry about it. I would just as soon get rid of the lawn anyway, and have been increasing my garden beds, and adding concrete everywhere I can.

I have used roundup in the past, but sure prefer to not use any chemicals around here if possible. Because it's so wet, you can't always be sure that it's not "migrating" somewhere, like into a salmon stream.

It sounds like you are pretty irritated with the discussion going on in this thread. Do you want to say more? My impression is that you seem to think you live in the real country, and the rest of us are just dilletantes. Well, we all gotta start somewhere...! But it might be interesting to hear what you have to say.

-- sheepish (rborgo@gte.net), March 09, 2000.

"let's put concrete everywhere and expand my flower garden". Piss on your flowers "I have used roundup but it's so wet here I'm afraid that it might hurt a salmon in a stream" All of you hippie fuckers that think you live in the country because your two miles out of town, you think you know how save the world by recycling rain water for irrigation whats the point? well water is to cold for plants if you water in the middle of the day when it's a 110 degrees but if water at night it will be just fine. And as far as the salmon to hell with them because I haven't seen a fish worth taking out four dams for!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-- denden (denden18@hotmail.com), March 10, 2000.

Well, Denden

Glad you have an opinion. Guess since I requested your reply, I should be the one to thank you.

Noted that your quotes are not quite what was written.

I guess you are having a bad day (life).

I will pray for you, and hope things get better. Really. I am sincere.

We sure don't have to agree on stuff on this forum. But I like to think we are all "country neighbors". Maybe I am the new "kid" ( I am very much middle aged, and have no clue how old you are but my guess is toward the senior end of the spectrum) that moved into your neck of the woods. Maybe I don't know much about country living. Maybe my lifestyle irritates you.

But you know, I don't think I'm hurting you in any way, and in my own way, I am trying to make the planet a better place to live. I don't understand your anger and your hostility. If we were really neighbors, I would hope we could reach some understanding.

Oh well, I tried.

-- sheepish (rborgo@gtex.net), March 10, 2000.

p.s. I am not a hippie. I have paid more taxes than the GNP of some third world countries. I love my country, my God, my family, and my friends. Not necessarily in that order. Oh, and my enemies when I can have the strength to.

-- sheepish (rborgo@gtex.net), March 10, 2000.

Thanks for all the great answers! I think one of the best parts of living the way most of us on this discussion board do, is the way we get to use our mind to create and share neat ideas we have. There are lot of people out there who do not get to experence the wonderful feeling you get when you are able to understand a problem and then sucessfully and creatively solve it (ie capturing rain water for irrigation and animals). Anyway thanks to most :) of you for your interesting and helpful suggestions.


-- Colin (cew74@yaho.com), May 22, 2000.

I'm not a hippie but I've been a placer and hard rock miner that loves to grow things , like flowers and honeybees. As for the main question of water...try Permacuture A Designer's Manual by Bill Mollison. He's from down under and his text is a great resource for the homesteaded. Parts of the text cover catching rain from the roof, then when to change to pond vs tank storage. At some point pond storage is more cost effective vs tank storage. I use gold fish in small tanks, and will switch to bass or catfish when I get "my" pond. Ponds grow: food, fight fire, feed and water the garden, and cool me off. Try inter-library loan and try before you buy (ISBN O 908228015) cheers Doc

-- Greg Sanderson (stonycft@worldpath.net), May 22, 2000.

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