How to Collect Rainwater for Off Grid Living

Collecting rainwater is one of the simplest and quickest ways to get water for an off grid farm. You can use this water for your crops, cleaning, cooking, and washing. Having a well is definitely preferable to catching rainwater, but this is not always possible. The difficulty with wells is that they are relatively expensive and time-consuming to install. Even if you pay a company to prospect for a good region on your land for groundwater, you are not assured of discovering water. Even if you do, the water may be contaminated.

Fortunately, installing a rainwater harvesting system is simple and inexpensive. Suppose you want to set up a rainwater harvesting system. In that case, you must first check with your local authorities to see if harvesting rainwater is legal. It is in most states, but in states where the climate is fairly arid, you will either be prohibited from harvesting rainwater or have a limit on how much you can harvest.

While most jurisdictions allow you to capture rainwater without a permit, you may be required to obtain one in some areas. Furthermore, suppose you put up a water cistern. In that case, there are usually rigorous laws concerning what kind of water cistern you can build up and how to set it up. On the other hand, if you merely collect a few rainwater barrels for your house and garden, you should be fine.

This list includes numerous ways of gathering rainwater, including harvesting rainfall without gutters or even a roof. If you use rainwater for cooking and cleaning, it is critical to filter and then purify the water with boiling. Particularly if you live in an industrial zone, all of the chemicals deposited on your roof will end up in your water.

how to collect rainwater
Here’s a cool well pump with some decorations!

Top 10 Ways to Capture Rainwater 

Use Rain Barrels to Collect Rainwater

These barrels are typically constructed of plastic and feature a large aperture on top where rainwater accumulates and a little tap near the bottom. This tap functions similarly to a faucet; the more water in the barrel, the higher the pressure. You can also connect your garden hose to water your plants and garden. You may simply construct such a rainwater barrel, but bear in mind that you should only use food-grade barrels or barrels designed specifically for holding water; other barrels will contain chemicals that are exceedingly difficult to remove.

This is a great option for people that are only partially off the grid too.

Use a Rainwater Tarp

This method is intended for those who do not have gutters or a roof to collect rainwater. You will need a tarp and a water barrel for this. The idea is to let the tarp collect rainwater, which will naturally flow into the water barrel due to gravity. The issue is that the water tarp must be higher in elevation than the water barrel for this to operate. You can either purchase a rainwater tarp or utilize any waterproof tarp.

Gather some rocks, form a circle or square, and then set the water tarp on top, with the sides elevated, so the water does not flow out. Make a hole in one of the tarp’s corners and connect a hose to it; this hose will direct water into your water barrel. The secret is to place this connector in the corner with the lowest elevation so that most of the water naturally flows to that corner.

Use a Cistern

Simply use your gutters to send the water directly into the cistern or water barrel without wasting it. Many people who live off the grid use this system because it is simple to set up, and the only obvious cost is the water storage tank or cistern.

Use a Wet Water System

This is rainwater harvesting on a greater scale; you will gather all of the water that runs through your gutters from all sides of your property. Most people who utilize this will install a cistern at a lower elevation than the home, allowing gravity to perform all work. However, I have seen some people use water pumps as well. This is better suited to folks who raise many crops and keep animals. This isn’t necessary if you only wish to collect rainwater for your family’s needs.

Use a Large Catchment System

This water collection method is not often used because it is quite expensive. You can achieve similar results with a simple water cistern configuration. The huge catchment system catches all the water from your gutters and stores it in an underground water tank or a basement cistern. The water is then purified and ready for use through your water pipes. Although this is arguably one of the greatest systems in terms of ease of use, you will be limited by the amount of water you can store.

Use Bladder Tanks

I do have some acquaintances who live off the grid in locations where rainwater gathering is forbidden or where the amount of rainfall they can harvest is severely limited. If your property has a crawlspace, simply place the bladder tank beneath it and route all of your gutter pipes to it. Nobody can see if you’re collecting rainwater from the outside. Still, this system has a huge drawback: mice frequently live in the crawlspace. You can spray the bladder with some resin or chemical to keep rodents away, but I can’t recall the product name.

Use Rainwater Chains

These rainfall chains may be found in various stores; most of them provide an aesthetic purpose while remaining useful. The notion is that you may chain the water to a specific point with anything from a rope to a chain, owing to the water’s surface tension, which tends to “stick” to surfaces. Although if you live off the grid, this may not be as handy; if you don’t have any pipes, you might use a chain to channel the water into your water barrel; however, remember that metal rusts in water.

Use a Green Roof

You’ve probably seen a few houses with moss or grass growing on top of the roof; these are green roofs. Although this is not a rainwater harvesting system, some people use it for water filtering; nonetheless, you will still need to use a normal filter in addition to this system. It works by placing some soil and gravel on your roof and scattering some grass seeds. The soil will hold some of the water when it rains, and the rest will drain into your gutters.

The biggest disadvantage of this system is that it is relatively expensive to set up; you will need to reinforce the roof to hold everything in place.

Make Your Own DIY Rainwater Collection System 

This method is useful for persons who do not have access to a roof to collect rainwater. You will need a water barrel and a tarp for this. Place the water barrel in an open area where the rain will not be impeded by trees, suspend the tarp above it, and cut a small hole in the center of the tarp. The tarp should be shaped like a sink so that all of the water collects and flows to the lowest point of the tarp, where the hole is, and right below that, position your water barrel.

Try a Rainwater Garden

Some individuals will direct all of their water to their gardens, even though gardens in the open receive plenty of rain. Still, the runoff water is more or less filtered with rainwater gardens. One of the nicest rainwater gardens I’ve seen was utilized for greenhouses; the gutters were set up. The water got into the greenhouses and watered all of the veggies even when the greenhouse was closed.

Here’s a helpful article on how to build a rainwater garden.

a beautiful rainbarrel
Here’s a really pretty rain barrel.

Final Thoughts on How to Collect Rainwater

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you will have no trouble setting up a rainwater collection system. I highly recommend using a water cistern for off-grid rainwater collection because you can store enough water for several months. A rainwater bladder tank can be used in states with arid climates where rainwater gathering rules are fairly severe.

Interested in more information about off grid living? I recommend reading about the safest places to live off grid.

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