How to Make a Rainwater Collection System

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Become more self-sufficient by collecting your own rainwater. Photo by @maginnis via Twenty20
Having enough water is an important step in ensuring the survival of you and your family. While you could go up to three weeks without food if you absolutely needed to, after three days without water you could die, according to Livescience.com. To ensure that you have water in anticipation of a drought or other disaster, you can make a rainwater collection system at your house using little more than a rain barrel, some pipe, and your gutters. Having a rainwater harvesting system is not only useful, it’s also efficient and environmentally friendly.
In this article, we’ll outline how to obtain the necessary equipment to build a rainwater collection system, discuss building the platform to hold your water barrels, details how to prepare the barrels, and describe how to attach the rainwater collection system to the water storage barrels.

Part 1: Obtain the Necessary Equipment

Before you start building a rainwater collection system, you need to gather the items necessary to build it. To build the system, you need the following items and tools:
  • Barrels: When shopping for water storage barrels, you can buy them online or get one from a food storage company.
The biggest thing to look for when searching for a rain barrel is to make sure that the barrels held no toxic chemicals or oils before you obtained them.
When purchasing barrels, you also need to consider how many you want. For just the occasional collection of water, one 30- to 50-gallon barrel should do. For a larger collection system, purchase two to three barrels.
  • Pipes and fittings: In addition to the barrels, you need the pipes and fittings to connect all of the barrels together and to allow you to easily obtain water from the barrels once they are filled.
The pipes and fittings include 1-inch hose spigot (with 3/4-inch pipe threads), 1 3/4-inch by 3/4-inch coupling, 1 3/4-inch by 3/4-inch bushing, 1 3/4-inch pipe thread with a 1-inch hose adapter, 1 3/4-inch lock nut, and four metal washers for each barrel you plan on using.
In addition, you need enough 3/4-inch PVC pipe and 90-degree PVC elbows to connect multiple barrels together, two 1 3/4-inch pipe thread with a 1-inch hose adapter, two 1 3/4-inch lock nuts, and four metal washers for each additional barrel.
You also need some other items you need for this project, such as one roll of Teflon tape, one tube of silicone caulk, and plumber’s primer and glue.
  • Tools: In addition to the materials you need to build the system itself, you need to gather specific tools to help you complete this project. Some of the tools you need to build the rainwater collection system include a hacksaw, drill with 3/4-inch drill bit, and a shovel.

Part 2: Build the Rainwater Collection System Platform

Materials Needed
  • 1-inch by 2-inch boards
  • Concrete blocks (4 to 6, or more depending on the number of barrels)
  • Pea gravel (if needed)
Before you can place your water barrels, you need to create a level area off of the ground for them to sit upon. The following section gives the steps for making a platform for your water barrels to sit on.
Step 1: Level the area. Start by leveling the area and removing any rocks and debris.
This is especially important if the area sits on a slope.
If setting the barrels on concrete, you can use 1-inch-by-2-inch boards to try and raise the area so that it creates a level surface.
If placing the platform on a dirt or grass surface, start by digging a 5-inch rectangular area large enough to hold all of the concrete blocks of the platform. Level the area with the shovel if needed.
Finish by filling the rectangle area with 1/2 inch of pea gravel.
Step 2: Place the concrete blocks. Stack the concrete blocks sideways on the concrete or pea gravel.
Make sure the platform is big enough to hold all of the water barrels and is steady enough to hold all of the barrels without any of them turning over.

Part 3: Prepare the Rainwater Collection System Barrels

After you have gotten the platform ready, it is time to get the barrels ready for water storage. The section below tells you how to prepare your barrels for water storage.
Step 1: Drill a hole for the spigot. Using the drill and 3/4-inch drill bit, drill a hole into the bottom of the barrel.
When drilling the hole, make sure it is high enough on the barrel to fit a water bucket or jug underneath
Step 2: Attach the spigot. Next, put caulk around the inside and the outside of the spigot hole.
Using Teflon tape on the threads, attach the spigot to the 1 3/4-inch by 3/4-inch coupling.
Place a washer on the threaded end of the coupling, and place it into the hole you drilled.
Place another washer on the threaded end of the coupling inserted into the hole in the barrel, and attach the 1 3/4-inch by 3/4-inch bushing. Tighten it to hold the spigot in place.
Step 3: Drill an overflow valve. Using the 3/4-inch drill bit, drill a hole a few inches from the top of the barrel.
Next, put caulk around the inside and the outside of the hole.
Slip a washer onto the 1 3/4-inch pipe thread with a 1-inch hose adapter, and put it into the hole from the outside.
Wrap the threads on the inside with Teflon tape, and put another washer on the inside portion of the adapter sticking through the hole.
Place a 1 3/4-inch lock nut on the threads to tighten the whole assembly.
Step 4: Complete this for all of the barrels. If you have additional barrels you want to use, you need to complete the steps above for each one.
In addition, you need to drill an additional hole next to the spigot of each barrel to allow you to attach the barrels together. Attach a hose adapter as in the steps for making an overflow valve listed above.
If you are just using two barrels, you only need one additional hole in each barrel that is adjacent to the barrel you want to connect to.
If you decide to use a third barrel, you need to drill an additional hole on the opposite side of the spigot of the second barrel, adjacent to the third barrel. And then drill a hole next to the spigot on the third barrel on the side closest to the second barrel.
Step 5: Connect all of the barrels. Finally, using PVC pipe and 90-degree elbows, connect all of the barrels to each other.

Part 4: Prepare the Rainwater Collection System

Materials Needed
  • Aluminum screen
  • Drill
  • Philips head screwdriver
  • S-shaped aluminum downspout elbow
  • Screws
Finally, you need to connect your water barrels to the collection system. The easiest way to do this is to reconfigure one of the downspouts on your house to feed water from your roof into your water barrels. The following section details how to attach the collection system to your water barrels.
Step 1: Position the elbow. Determine where you need to position the downspout elbow so that it flows into the opening in the top of the first water barrel.
Once you know where to position the elbow, use a hacksaw to cut the downspout.
Step 2: Connect the downspout elbow. Next, connect the elbow to the downspout.
You can drill some holes and then use screws to attach the elbow to the downspout.
Step 3: Connect the first water barrel. Connect the elbow to the first water barrel by cutting a hole big enough for the downspout into the lid of the first barrel.
Use a piece of aluminum screen, positioned where the elbow enters the barrel, to help keep leaves and other debris out of the water barrel. Now you’re ready to harvest the rainwater you’ve collected!
You can create a rainwater collection system at home as long as you have the proper tools and material. Make sure to use new barrels or ones that haven’t contained chemicals or oil when building your rainwater collection system. And occasionally check your pipes and connectors to make sure everything is in proper working order.