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DIY 275 Gallon Rainwater Collection

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I recently helped my father install a 275 gallon rainwater collection system.

The system is based on an industrial 275 gallon container, known as an IBC. You can buy them used, or if you really look around, you can even find them for free. One problem with typical rain-barrels is that they can only collect 55 gallons. This rain storage container collects FIVE times that volume, while not taking up all that much more space than a single rain-barrel.

In my area, you can buy used IBCs through Craigslist for about $85 each. Those come with a metal cage around them that allows them to be stacked.

Instead of buying them, I found a local bottler who throws them out, because they are plastic containers WITHOUT the metal cages. These containers come to the bottler full of 275 gallons of high-fructose corn syrup. I got several containers from them for free, for just the elbow grease of going to pick them up. Some were wrapped in heavy cardboard. I recycled the cardboard into a clubhouse for my little girl.

After washing the container out well, it is ready to be repurposed for rainwater collection. I really like the irony of using GMO corn syrup containers to recycle into a conservation project!

Besides the water container, this project requires other materials, including:
  • Misc wood to build a simple pallet or platform
  • Garden hose spigot and hardware
  • Gutter screen and fiberglass bug screen
  • Gutters, downspouts, and elbows
  • Silicon or other appropriate caulk or sealant
In our case, nearly all the materials were already on-hand, reusing old components, and recycling and repurposing materials. Total out of pocket expenses were under $20.

Beyond the typical DIY and handyman tools, you will need:
Tin snips, utility knife, pop-rivetter and rivets, sheet metal screws, and related aluminum metal-working tools and skills.

Lets get started.

EDIT: July 2013, we updated this to TRIPLE the capacity, raised the containers, and made them look really nice. See the update at: http://ecoprojecteer.net/2013/07/rainwater-collection-gets-bigger-part-2/
 
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smalcolm1 year ago
I really like this, but I do have a question: have you considered using cheap pantyhose as a filter to keep the pebbles out of the tank?
You should be able to fit it over the tank intake/leaf block with just a little slack to allow some stretch without tearing.
Yeah but I don't have a cheap girl friend to get them from.

Will an expensive girlfriend do?

Low maintenance cheap filters *could* be a way to reclaim the expenses of a high maintenance expensive GF. Marriage would provide a lifetime supply of disposable items like that.

bennelson (author)  smalcolm1 year ago
Ah, excellent!

I have some over my clothes washer drain hose, but I didn't think of it for the rainwater filter. I might have to try that!
bgunville5 months ago

Just make sure that the IBC was not used in harsh chemical usage. I made them for years and the 55 gallon drums. Your best bet is to get them from someone that had food grade usage and the IBC was made for food grade usage. Also if you can find out if it was made with Ultra Violet additives. (helps keep the algie out)

bennelson (author)  bgunville5 months ago
True, I try to avoid harsh chemicals in all ways I can. In this case, picked up these IBCs from a beverage bottling company. They originally contained corn syrup. We simply washed the containers out well.
tim_n11 months ago
I've got a similar system at my house which takes water from my garage and man cave roof. I've not boxed them in yet. It's on the to do list. Currently they're covered in winter squash, so adequately shaded!
criggie1 year ago
I have something similar on my carport for the past 10 years or so.

What happens to the overflow when your tank is full? I had to add a 25mm overflow hose down to the drain, so that the barrel doesn't flood out the top.

How to get pressure? Your tank is almost at ground level so there's not a lot of differential. Mine's about 500mm off the ground, so can still push water down a hose. Could use a pump to generate pressure.

Our need for water drops right off in winter - I'm tempted to just take the tank out of the line to stop collecting roof dirt.

Finally green shit - it grows. If you do box in your tank then make sure there's a way to get it back out for a scrub.
I was reading this and thinking the same thing. Worse thing to happen would be the overflow is improperly directed to a wash or your septic tank area.
bennelson (author)  criggie1 year ago
The tank is on the highest point on the property, and is on top of a rock garden, which gives it just a little more height. Instead of being on a stand, the tank just happens to be higher than everything that it will water.

The tank doesn't have an overflow yet. (We have been in a major drought, so it hasn't been an issue yet....)

The plan is that we will add an overflow right at the top where the water inlet is. We might design a "roof-wash" device there as well.
gjm1 year ago
I am amazed that any state in this country COULD make it illegal to collect rainwater.
It falls from the sky, no one owns it.
If it lands on my property, I should be able to collect it.
I've never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life; I'm really pissed off just reading about this.
I don't know if it's illegal in my state and I don't care; people have to draw a line somewhere and if the state wants to send me to jail, let's go.

Sorry for the rant; great instructable by the way.
Bosun Rick gjm1 year ago
If it falls from the sky, or is ambient to the earth, it is a gift from God. Obama & Co. apparently don't believe in God, thus making it illegal to own rain or air. What does this mean for the solar collecting community?
The laws are local, not federal!
Around here, (Indiana) cities want you to do whatever you can to capture or use rainwater. We have a problem with storm water and the overall waste water processing system can't keep up in heavy storms.
bennelson (author)  JettaKnight1 year ago
Milwaukee, Wisconsin also has a huge problem with the sewer system. Any time there's a big rain-storm, it ends up causing untreated sewage to go right out into Lake Michigan.

If everyone collected rainwater, it would help with the problem.
aldebaraan gjm1 year ago
Not that new a concept actually, some countries in Europe have been taxing for rainwater for a long time, all based on square footage of property.
ehensel1 gjm1 year ago
Gjm- This is a pretty recent news story, relevant to the law. Don't get me wrong, I totally agree with you, but it's crazy what the government can do. I just hope I'm not stealing air from the state when I run my air compressor!

http://tinyurl.com/caquj3d

Great Instructable by the way!
trehak1 year ago
How do you take care of mosquito's?
bennelson (author)  trehak1 year ago
The top has bug screen on it.
Mosquitos don't get in, so there's no problem with them.
Beergnome1 year ago
I like it!
check out my profile for the "rain barrel" I made that collects condensation water from a second floor air conditioner air handling unit.. thing produces around five gallons a day during the hot and humid months around here. Sometimes I produce more drip water than I can use, so a large container like that would be even better... there's a guy selling the metal caged IBC down the street from me, but I haven't checked out how much he's selling them for. most likely he's picking them up for free as well.
bennelson (author)  Beergnome1 year ago
Hmmm.

Too bad the window unit built-in to the wall of this barn wasn't just a tad higher. The IBC could have gone right under it!

Oh well, as it is, it just drip irrigates the plants below!

I spoke with somebody last week who said that they collect their AC condensation drip water for watering plants. I love the idea of using a "waste" product like that!
Yep, my device is in it's second year of operation, and it was a god send during the biggest part of this years heat wave and with no rain.

and it is a shame that wall mount unit there isn't just a smidge higher. however. you can get little sump pump things for AC air handler units that pump the drip water away.

we have them on all our refrigeration units at the brewery, to pump the condensate away and out of the building and that is their purpose. you most commonly see them attached to commercial ice machines that have to be located away from a drain source.

with this is in mind, one COULD locate one of these devices under the water drip area under the wall unit AC and pump the drip water into the collection tank.

keep in mind though that units like that rely on the condensation water as heat exchange process so you only want to take it away as it gets rid of it. no punching a drain hole into the under carriage of the unit.
Be careful with condenser coil water. Those coils are usually copper. Copper is poisonous in large amounts. Bonsai growers use copper wire to train branches. The plant will try to grow away from it. Also used to hold screen in potted drain holes; so roots stay back.

I actually killed 2 of my 3 burning bushes when my A/c froze up. And stunted the growth of the nearby cherry tomatoes.

Mine was the drain from the house's central air unit, so it may be different...

Just a warning for expensive plants.
XLS1 year ago
I hope it is not against the law where you live to collect water.

Ex: "Oregon Man Jailed For Collecting Rainwater On His Own Property"
"Collecting rainwater now illegal in many states"
http://trenchpress.com/?p=17035

Even in other states like Utah, California, etc.

As another link states "If states claim they own the rain, they may soon claim to own the sunlight, too. http://www.naturalnews.com/036615_Oregon_rainwater_permaculture.html#ixzz23PBkMbIu

Anyway, Some car washes throw away 50 gallon drums sometimes. They has soap in them. They say it's harsh and warn people to clean them well. I find that hard to believe.
Bujholm1 year ago
Best to put a roof over that tank or paint it - anything to prevent direct sunlight. As all aquariumists know, immobile water (it' s bound to be at least partly immobile given the volume) exposed to sunlight sprouts life of its own very quickly - mold/mildew not only spoils the water but are also tough to clean.
gingertux1 year ago
What arethe deminsions of this IBC. I don't have access to a pickup and only have a station wagon. I'm afraid it might not fit inside and might have to be strapped to the top.
bennelson (author)  gingertux1 year ago
IBCs are 40"W x 40"T x 48"D
Harley32161 year ago
Beware green slime...cover the container with opaque black thick plastic first
These ARE good containers for rain water etc..

BUT and it's a HUGE BUTT...

You MUST keep the sun off them as the plastic will degrade and you will end up with a crunchy crack box with your own mini flood within a year or two.
it depends on the thickness and the type of plastic.. considering these things are food grade, the plastic has a certain degree of UV protection built in to the chemical formula, so while it IS a concern, it isnt that huge actually.

the biggest concern at this point with the container being in full sun is actually alga growth. and because of the UV properties of the barrel i'm using, I haven't had any of that problem either, and my AC condensation BBL is in full sunlight on the warm side of the building..

no yellowing or degration of the material has shown up. but, it's only been in service for two season now, so time may very well tell..

also the over all thickness of the BBL is about 0.25 inch. I'm not sure of the wall thickness of the container in this 'Ible. though so I can't speak for that.
lej6191 year ago
thanks!! if i could just get a 55gallon tank in my backyard i would be happy.! but a 255 gallon wow that would be awesome!!!!! thanks ! i am now going to have to start looking on craigs list for one.
Did you know that this is illegal in Utah, Oregon and Colorado?
http://offgridsurvival.com/rainwaterillegal/
But still, great Instructable.
no longer illegal in colorado

HUURAAHH
Is it?
Just FYI, as of May 2010, it's no longer illegal in Utah to collect rainwater. http://www.waterrights.utah.gov/wrinfo/faq.asp
Thanks for the info.
manuka1 year ago
It's REALLY  WELL worth while organizing some decent top access for occasional cleaning & draining!  Good work on the project however !

I've had a lot to do with rain water collection here in New Zealand, & mention that leaves, dust, pollen & bird droppings etc WILL eventually end up in the tank. This mixture may block the outlet - I've recently checked a neighbour's enclosed tank that's become blocked so tight that water hardly dribbles out!  The stored water can eventually turn sour, smell & look unsightly too. 
wz-ski1 year ago
Great project, and i would like to do it :) BUT I have no idea what an IBC is except for your explanation.
Google knows nothing about what it is as a tank.
Could you be more specific... what do the I and B and C stand for?
I live in MA, What state do you find these in?
I was thinking of doing this with a water bed bladder.
bennelson (author)  wz-ski1 year ago
An IBC is an Intermediate Bulk Container.
They are used in a wide range of industries, and are designed to stack and take up one cubic space on a pallet and rack, and easily be moved by forklifts.

It's one of those things which is super-common, but unless you happen you work in a warehouse or some industry that makes use of them, you may have never seen or heard of one.

They are common to find used for sale on Craigslist in most areas of the United States.

I got mine for free from a bottling company, who would rather give them away than throw them out.
f5mando1 year ago
Superb! Well done job on documenting it while executing the project. My hat is doffed.
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