10 October 2008

Harvesting rain water

This small 500 litre tank holds water for pot plants on the verandah and vegetables in the front yard. We bought it for $49 on sale at Bunnings.

It hasn't rained here for about six weeks. Our large green water tank on the front verandah is empty but I am hoping for rain to start falling soon. I checked the radar, rain is on the way. Hopefully, in about 30 minutes, even before I post this, it will be raining.

Collecting the rain that falls on our roof is an important part of our land management. We have three rain water tanks that hold 15,500 litres (4100 gallons), we even have a downpipe on the chicken shed roof to collect a small amount of water there. When our tanks are full, that water is used to keep our vegetables and fruit growing and to water the chooks, dog and cat. Using it everyday, that water will last us about two months.

This is the first tank we installed here, it holds 5,000 litres. We use this water in the green house and on the fruit and vegetables.

One of the first things we did when we came to live here 12 years ago was to install a rain water tank. That was a 5,000 litre iron tank which is located near the greenhouse. When the government decided to encourage all of us to buy water tanks with the introduction of rebates, we installed a second 10,000 litre poly tank. In the past few months we bought a much smaller tank on the front verandah (for $49) to help us water the plants on the verandah as well as the potatoes and avocados in the front yard. It filled up the day we installed it, it's been empty since Monday this week. We never use water from the tap to water anything in the yard but we use tap water inside the house. In the future, we'll probably buy another tank and use that water indoors.

We bought this 10,000 poly tank when our state government brought in a rebate system. I think it cost us about $800 after the $1000 rebate.

Collecting rainwater is both environmentally sound and frugal. We see it as using a natural resource and while we use the water in those tanks, we don't have to pay for tap water. Having your own water stored in tanks and barrels also makes you independent of the system if you need to be. None of us knows what will happen in the future, but if anything did happen to the dam we get our water from, or if there was a general system breakdown, we would be have our own water here. We don't use our tank water inside the house but if we needed to, we would.

This is just a little DIY downpipe off the chook shed running into a 20 litre bucket. It was made with recycled materials.

It feels good to know that if anything disastrous happened in our region that, with careful management of our rain water, vegetable garden, chickens and grocery stockpiles, we would be able to look after ourselves and our family for a few months. If you have not yet thought about gaining some independence from the system, I encourage you to make a move towards providing yourself with some protection.

Each of our tanks collects water from a different part of the roof. The iron tank collects from the back of the house, the poly tank collects from the large shed roof and the eastern side of the house roof, the small green tank collects from the front of the house and the little downpipe system just collects from the chicken shed roof.

If you're in Australia, check your local State and local government websites to check if you're eligible for a water tank rebate. In other countries, it's easy enough to make a rain barrel from recycled or new materials. Click here for instructions.

Hanno is due to do some cleaning and maintenance on our corrugated iron tank soon. When he does, I'll take photos and write about what he does.

I was hoping to end this post by writing that rain is falling. It's not, but according to the radar it will be soon. HURRY UP!



  1. How do you keep the water from growing algae and other nasties?

    I assume you have a steel roof?

    If you used this inside, I assume you would use an electric filter?

    Very interesting stuff. Thank you for blogging about it.

  2. Good morning Rhonda,
    I hope the rain comes your way.
    I've just checked our rain gauge and we've had 45mm overnight here in the Gold Coast hinterland.
    Have a great day.

  3. HI kilgor. The tanks must be kept covered - that stops mosquitoes, and keeping the sun off the surface of the water stops algal growth. Yes, we have a steel roof.

    If we used it inside, we'd use it in the bathrooms and laundry first. Our government recommends we don't drink tank water. However, that said, I drink it and have never had a problem. We already have a filter on our kitchen tap (to remove chemicals used to provide clean water) so yes, we would put it through that carbon filter.

    Hi Bev! Great news on your rain. I've still got my fingers crossed here.

  4. I wish I could send you some of our rain - we've had a terrible summer!

  5. Hi Rhonda we had 8mm last night adn indeed that water was heading your way when i got up at 5am so you should be getting osme now. It is stilldrizzling here now. We bought water this week and last nights menad our tank is now well over half full. I ahte buying water but I also don't like the tank to get too low we haven';t had it vacuumed for a while so I don't like to stir up what is in the bottom!!!!

    We are very economical with water we are a household of nine and we use less than 1000 litres per day.
    My garden, veges and all must survive on what we collect in the extra buckets or what falls from the sky. If things are getting really bad I will haul a few buckets out of our dam.

    Hope you get the lovely rain we are having.


  6. Just read the other posts - we only have tank water there are loads of places in this country where tank water is it. We don't run ours through a filter and from the time I was a kid we drank tank water and never filtered it. no problems. I think governments would prefer people use the domestic supply so they can keep charging for it - but that might be a bit cynical!!!

    have a great weekend


  7. check this radar rhonda - it may show the rain better for you


    where abouts are you ???

  8. Rhonda,

    We have been placing garbage cans around the garden beds and dipping from them. They didn't seem to get much algae and I don't know if we had many more mosquitoes.

    The home we bought has an old cistern. My husband bought a pump so we can use this water for the garden. Last years water bill went up $50.00 each month for the gardening season. I am looking forward to seeing how much this 40.00 pump will save us:)

    Great Post!!


  9. We haven't had rain in about 5 weeks and yesterday we had a steady rain all day! Yay - our three rain barrels have been dry for weeks. They're a bit larger than the small one you have and we use mainly to keep our pond filled and to water the plants.


  10. Hi RHonda Jean,
    Hope you get rain soon!
    I recycle water for plants. We have a well just for watering ,you have to get water ,No electric required to use it.
    Hope you have a great day!

  11. Good morning Rhonda,

    We have what I call the Goldilocks tanks -- a big one, a medium one and a small one. Tony says they are 8,000, 1800 and 1000 litres respectively. I think there is only one downpipe we don't collect from.

    Tony talks about how many litres of water he has in the way other people speak of real estate values or how flash their cars are. ;-)

    Have a great weekend!

  12. we recently bought a house...0ur dream house...and found out we have a well...and a very full one at that...we r keen to get it working for watering the garden and veg patch. we also have two 5000 ltr tanks coming in the next week to harvest the water off our roof. one for the front and the back and the well feeds from the middle. we live in an area were the town water is undrinkable! so we drink from our tanks. we boil the water and then filter it...had no problems at all..the water is beautiful.
    the general non etable garden we water with grey water. i dont tend to turn the water on for the garden its almost bushland most of it so it stands up very well the moments of no rain!
    thanks for the bucket idea..i think we will do this off the garden shed for the next few litres for the veg garden

  13. We have a liitle cubby house that I have always wanted to put a small tank on. After reading your blog today and seeing the bucket the penny dropped. Thanks Rhonda I just went and put 2 buckets under each out let. The simple ideas are the best!!!!!
    We have lived with just tank water for 20 years and we use no rods or filters and have never had any problems with drinking our water it's all we have.....

  14. Here in the state of Texas we do not get rebates but any rain water collection system (from barrels to gutters to direct water into the barrels, larger tanks, etc.) is exempt from sales tax. It saved us about $12 on our barrel purchase.

  15. We are on the western coast of the US. I have a composite roof. (mineral roof, it's manmade shingles, tar and some small pebbly looking stuff stuck on it) Do you know of this roofing material and if you do, what do you think about using the water that runs off of that? I suppose for gardening and the animals it might be okay, but I am not sure about us drinking or cooking with it in case of emergencies.

  16. Did you get any rain?! Hope so:)

  17. Claudia, as long as it doesn't contain lead and is clean, it should be fine.

    Suzan, it started about two hours ago and has been steady since.

    Rose, your DH sounds like a decent bloke.

  18. Hmmm, interesting. Do you have to add chlorine bleach to keep the water from algae and still be drinkable? I assume it's covered too to keep from the sun and bird droppings. I should consider this after receiving our city water bill for this past summer OUCH!!



  19. Hi Rhonda.

    It's been raining here all day and filled our 5400 gallon tank, twice over. It's the only water supply we have for the house, but I also have a 300L poly tank for the garden.

    My question with the tanks you installed, is are they connected to a pump or do you just use gravity feed with a tap near the base?

    Not having pumps installed makes it a lot simpler, but sometimes the extra pressure is good. My little 300L has great pressure when it's full, but slows down as the water level drops.

    I want another tank the same size as our other one, so I'll have to look at the rebates on offer.

    Thanks for posting about this very precious resource. Lord knows it's the only water supply we have. :)

  20. Sher, we add nothing to the water.

    Chris and Dave, that's good news that your tanks are full. We use a pump on both the larger tanks but they can also operate without them on a much lower pressure.

  21. Hope you got a nice lot of rain Rhonda. We had a nice bit here, although it stopped as soon as we'd cleared the gutters! Has given the garden a great watering though.

  22. The San Francisco Sunday paper last week had a big feature article about the drought in Australia - photos of dried up reservoirs, talking about water trades and the government buying up land to disperse the water - and I wondered how you were faring.

    All of a sudden today I noticed a handful of referrals from your site. I had to come back and double-check your blog to see what you'd said. I'm pleased to be your neighbor, even if there is an ocean between us.

  23. I found your blog from another I read. I love your message about becoming a "conserver from a consumer"! I am looking forward to reading your older posts.

  24. Did you know that in some places it is illegal to harvest rain water? It was in CO when we lived there. I want to do it here in OH though. Thanks for showing us how you do it.

  25. Thank you so much for this info on collecting rain...It's a fascinating idea and one we would love to implement!

    Do you feel that harvesting the rain is a vital first step in becoming more independent?

  26. Hi Rhonda, thanks for showing your water tanks and I hope that you have had enough rain to keep you going now.
    We had a "catch-up" dinner with some friends at the weekend who are self-building, as we are, and the subject of water collection came up.
    Being an Aussie one of our friends had great suggestions for using tin to make water tanks and we were wondering what's the best way to go about making a tank, another dinner guest is a welder and volunteered to help if we needed his skills.
    Then today I was spending the day inside to avoid the rain and sleet and catching up (is there a theme here?) on my blog reading when I saw this entry on rain water collection. I look forward to following the link at the end of the post relating to more info on the subject.
    Do you guys buy these tin tanks ready made or are they home fabricated?
    I am looking forward very much to seeing Hanno cleaning out the tin tank.
    This year we don't have a shortage problem in Ireland but the heavy rainfalls have caused contamination problems for some some urban reservoir systems, too much earth being washed in I think.
    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and I look forward to reading the new co-operative blog – all the best with the new venture.
    Best wishes, Scribhneoir


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