Instructables

EMERGENCY WATER SUPPLY, more of a long term fix than water bottles in the closet

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This is my long-term solution to an emergency supply of water.  I have hooked up these "water cubes" to my gutters so I can catch a lot of rainwater.  There are a lot of products out there for rain barrel connecting, diverting, filtering, etc., but I did most of mine with stuff I salvaged for pretty much free, have less than $50 tied up in the materials that it took to hook up 3 containers.

IN THIS AREA these "water cubes" seem to be in short supply.  There's a place close by that used to have them for $100 but they are out and don't know when they will have more.  I'm looking for more of these if anyone knows where some are.

AUTHOR ADDED:  SORRY, I MEANT TO POINT OUT THAT THIS WATER WILL OBVIOUSLY HAVE IMPURITIES IN IT.  THERE ARE A LOT OF GOOD COMMENTS ABOUT WHAT MIGHT GET FLUSHED INTO THE TANK ALONG WITH THE WATER FROM THE ROOF, NOT TO MENTION THE TANK ITSELF.  THIS WATER WOULD NOT BE FIT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION UNLESS IT IS SERIOUSLY PURIFIED FIRST.  SEE MY PAGE WITH THE WATER PURIFICATION IDEA, I HAVE ADDED PICS AND INFO TO HELP EVERYONE FIND THE STUFF I USED.

If you want to save the water for strictly emergency use, simply locate the tank in your basement and route a pvc pipe into there.

aworkofbart (author) 2 years ago
Thanks for all the helpful comments, however there is one thing I am wondering. If i want to keep this supply on hand in the winter AND keep it from freezing, could I do so by adding some salt to it? If so, how much would it take? I can filter out the NaCl quite easily with my ceramic water filter (see my other posts) so getting rid of the salt to make it OK for drinking wouldn't be problematic.
look up water tank heaters on line u might be able to find some 4 cheap cash. also make sure they can be run by dc as well.
You would need a high salt content to prevent freezing ...which would turn it into salt water not fresh water not so good to wash and drink with.

Ceramic filters will not remove salt from the water...for that, you would need a RO or reverse osmosis filter.

To prevent freezing ...would all depend on where you live and how cold it gets there.

A low cost no power option would be to build a protective box maybe out of pallets and insulate with waste polystyrene or stack hay bales around it.

Taybird1 year ago
I am so very frustrated that our state has outlawed the private collection of ANY precipitation . I don' understand why this even possible !! Does anyone know of other states that have done this ? I live in Utah.
jwzumwalt2 years ago
Regarding water purity:
I do not know if the type of tanks you are using are available opaque (no light gets in), but water that is kept absolutely dark will remain fresh. City water in large above ground tanks does not have any chemicals added to it until it is sent through the distribution pipes. The pipes have cracks which make chlorine necessary. For example, there are many Texas commercial rain water equipment companies that sell to residents and advertize that their rain storage tanks do not have to treat the water so long as it is kept in opaque containers. Thanks for the informative project.
Some companies will say anything to sell their product....An opaque container will stop algae from growing ....bacteria however will grow when there is a food source (organic matter) and the conditions (temperature) are right they do not require light. Treating with bleach or ozone would be a good choice.

The reason cities do not treat the water until it is sent down the pipes would be due to chlorine evaporation and plant operating costs.
How would you explain well water being safe to drink. It has bacteria and organic matter in it. No Ozone or chlorine are needed.
Actually it is advised that people test their well water for contaminants....not all are save to drink without filtration. People have drank it for generations, yes this is true.....but that does not mean all well water is guaranteed safe and i for one grew up with it but I still would not fully trust it with out having it tested.

It all depends on geographic area, well location and depth...so just because you pulled it out of the ground does not mean it is going to be safe. Mountain streams look pure and clean too.

Some ground water may also contain chemical pollutants....this is a big one to watch for due to our modern world. With the recent ground fracturing for energy sources alot of rural areas are starting to see polluted wells.


aworkofbart (author)  jwzumwalt2 years ago
Thanks for the info - I'm sure I have an old blanket or piece of fabric that I can use to cover the tanks, I was already thinking about covering some of my outside storage water bottles (behind the hedges) to keep the sun off them, I know that the milk jugs are not robust and I would expect them to crack if not protected, but this might be good advice for any water storage idea. Thanks again. Bart
For emergancy power outages, I use about 10ea 1gal clear milk jugs and place them in a closet or cabinet. I store new water twice a year. I also keep 2 5gal old paint buckets sealed with lids for flushing the toilet or washing hands.
menahunie2 years ago
This post makes no sense at all - Emergency water?
For what?
Watering your lawn?
I use similar system to do just that and never ever for drinking.
I do have "emergency" water storage and I use 55 gallon food grade plastic barrels.
I just fill up the six I have from the tap and rotate them every three months.
That gives me over 300 plus gallons of fresh water. Worried about bacteria? Just add some iodine.
Cost? $40.00..
Easy to move; flip them on their side and roll them...
Alot of people do not have well water.

If the power grid and city water is down for an extended time due to a disaster or event....rain water collection provides when your only other option would be government assists....and good luck with that one.
to say this post makes no sense at all is a tad overboard. Just because someone didn't do it your way doesn't mean it is a bad idea.
Do you use well water? are you using ciry water? both are dependent on electricity to supply water to your toilet tank,,, even without electricity the sewersystem can work for months... you decide... want to use your drinking water to flush the commode or go dig a pit toilet?
jnunz2 years ago
just incorperate this ?
http://www.instructables.com/id/WATER-PURIFICATION-SYSTEM-cheap-and-effective/
sschoemann2 years ago
two things, first for the filter, get a fine mesh material that does not stretch, other than a natural fiber, and make a tube for inside the tank. Attach this to a "pass through" fitting on the actual cap from the tank. on the outside of this fitting install a Y fitting. One side of the Y is the inlet from the downspout and the other is the overflow that can be routed away from the house to prevent water damage when the tank fills. Also regular addition of small amouths of pool clorene would be beneficial to prevent algae growth along with attaching wood fencing to the metal frame to block light and make it look more like it belongs. The wood can then be painted or stained to match the house. There are numerous landscapers selling these set up just like this, for lawn and garden irrigation all across the country since the rise of "Green" concerns.
Geedox2 years ago
Nice Idea! We have a similar setup at home! In our case ALL our water comes from rainfall. We keep about 30 cu/Mts in a closed tank. Our drinking water is first boiled for 5 to 10 mins and then strained. No water relate illnesses in the last 20 years. I am not sure but maybe leaving the tanks exposed to sunlight could contribute to water purifying - Exposing water in PET bottles to 2 or more hours of sunlight usually removes most of the bacterial impurities in water.

Keep it up!
billhorvath2 years ago
Doesn't Tractor Supply Co. sell IBCs (or something like them)? I seem to recall seeing some outside the store on more than one occasion.
What type of business gives these IBCs away? I'm about to create some rain barrels and was going to ask a local soda bottling company for a couple of barrels, but I wasn't exactly keen on fighting the bees away from the syrup residue when I rinsed them out! haha Never seen the square ones. Think they may be a bit more sturdy than the barrels on my property (slants downhill).
Bubbler2 years ago
In Australia, most homes need to collect as much rainwater as possible because the price is becoming astronomical, and rainwater is free. These pallet tanks are available, but at a price where we can buy a proper rainwater tank around the same size, that has the correct filter, and will not grow algae inside of it. If you Google rainwater tanks in Australia, you will also find accessories that include a device that allows the first flush to be dropped away, debris and all, and then start filling the tank with clean water. Rainwater isn't too bad to drink, and doesn't have a chemical brew in it as found in some mains water around the world. They even use copper in it. You can buy yourself a filter jug for in the house to take out debris and heavy metals, and boil the water for more than 8 minutes if you have a lot of birds or animals getting onto your roof. If you mount the pallet higher, you can get a better flow to you garden from a hose. How long these last in the sunlight is an unknown factor. A good idea for areas where water is at a premium.
copperaxe2 years ago
I had to grin when I noticed it, wouldn't have likely caught it in the photo if I hadn't seen Holmes on Homes last night. I noticed in the photo your downspout and elbow assembly, it looks as if you have the elbow inserted into the inside diameter of the top downspout and the other end of the elbow fitter over the mouth of the collector downspout. If I'm not explaining it right, it's like you have a funnel turned upside down, you will loose some water at the joints. Flip the elbow around and should even work well on a light drizzle. (On the Holmes show it went for a while and caused rot on the side of the house and clogged the joints with debris, water leaked out and into the eaves.)
aworkofbart (author)  copperaxe2 years ago
Actually the pieces in that particular joint are all funneled in the right direction, it's hard to tell because I actually had to flare the top of the old metal downspout piece to make it fit over the adapter, but on the 3rd connection (not shown) where I had new guttering I actually had to make one part of it totally upside down despite having all kinds of pieces to work with, I just put it all together with clear silicone and it's not leaking even though we're right in the middle of some severe weather. One thing I did notice is that all the dust on my roof ended up in the water too, so I might need to find a way to divert the water initially until the dust is rinsed away.
A easy way to keep the initial dirt and debris from entering the tank is to have the downspout continue all the way to the ground and then seal it with a valve or faucet. Then have a diverter set up 6' up so only after the downspout fills up will water divert into the container. I sen setups that use a plastic ball in the downspout that rises with the water to activate a "flap" valve that then diverts water to a holding area. After the rain you empty out the downspout and are ready for the next rain.
I have helped an older couple with their water catch system.

Theirs is set up as two tanks catch off of the equipment shed, two off of the workshop, and four more off of the house.  These are pumped through one sediment filter per pair into 14 more tanks in the work shop for storage.

The water is then run through another sediment filter, a standard whole house filter, and then a UV light.

Personally I would run it through a ceramic/carbon filter after that as well but, they both seem fine even after decades of getting their water this way.
Needs something to block the connection from the spout to the tank. You will get bugs and possibly rats or squirrels drowning in it. And it will evaporate more.
aworkofbart (author)  shizumadrive2 years ago
The filter is a barrier to the inside of the tank, but I'll probably put the lids back on soon, after I add some bleach to it so nothing green will start growing inside...
That would be good. Maybe a clean garbage can cut so it can go around the pipe
sportal2 years ago
i would also either paint the outside of this container, cover it or buy a black one.. the clear plastic tends to grow all kinds of wonderful green stuff in the heat and sun. Good luck to you!
stihl882 years ago
Make your self a half decent still and just distill the water before drinking! Youll have nigh on 100% pure water without all the bugs and bacteria and hopefully acid rain present. If you were worried about the acid rain then you could incorporate a scrubber into the distillation unit to clean the acid from the water. I think the Acid may have a higher boiling point/evaporation point than water so it may not even be an issue.

If you made your self a still then you could go down to the local storm water drain and use the water here if you pleased...

Good luck
aworkofbart (author)  stihl882 years ago
See my page on the Water Purification system using ceramic filters, the "Berkey" type setup should help you eliminate having to boil any water.
Yes , you definitely need to filter the water much better.
For purifying the water a person could use a solar still but you need sunny days for that to work .
Unless you distill it the really is no way to get any of the contaminates out of the water from your roofing , dust , airborne particles , chemicals , bugs , and whatever else is suspended in the air that the rain is washing down through your system.
About the only thing you could use if for is for washing and bathing after just filtering the larger particles out of it.

How is a person going to keep it from freezing up in the winter?
I suppose that you could just melt snow to get water.

Back in the old days many of the old farm places had cistern systems that would collect the rain water from the building roofs.
It went into an underground tank like 5000 Gallons in size.
The ground temperatures would keep it from freezing up.
The old kitchens had a "hand pump" mounted into the counter top to bring it up into the house.
The windmill would pump the water up out of the well and into a large tank usually way up in the hayloft of the barn.
The water line would run underground to the house.
They used height or gravity for the water pressure.
Don't ask me how they kept it from freezing other than stacking the hay around the tank to insulate it.
Perhaps just normal usage of the water through it would keep it warmed from the fresh ground water.


I thought about doing this to my own property but use the white PVC and installing it underground and sloping the whole system so it runs naturally towards the tank and filtration system.
The tank would have to be buried at least 48" deep to the top of the underground tank. This way a person can have all the piping in the ground and just install diverter valves at each downspout location where it goes into the ground piping and also perhaps a separate tile system to dump the water someplace else away from the foundations of the house.

My next thought was going to be ,"what am I going to use all the water for" ?
I can't drink it unless it gets boiled and distilled and that takes some form of energy and or heat to make it happen.

aworkofbart (author)  Mechanic20112 years ago
See my page on the Water Purification system using ceramic filters, the "Berkey" type setup should help you eliminate having to boil any water.
paganwonder2 years ago
Any concerns about chemicals leaching out of your roofing material? A concern I have about collecting water from my roof.
aworkofbart (author)  paganwonder2 years ago
I actually hadn't thought about chemicals, but seeing all the dust that was funneled in with the water only reinforced the notion that this water will not be suitable for drinking unless it is purified first, did you see my water purification idea?
Yes, it's in my favorites, planning on trying it out with canal water this summer, just to see how well it works!
aworkofbart (author)  paganwonder2 years ago
It would be pretty awesome to have someone run some questionable water through one of these and then have it tested, based on what I have seen, the ceramic (Berkey) filter system lives up to the manufacturer's claims, but I'd still like to see some real life test results.
My sister and I have been using Doulton filters (the brand used in the "Big Berkey and similar systems) for years to filter our tap water (I'm on the older part of our city's system) and they do live up to the claims. There are a lot of NGOs using them for longer than we have. The only difference between my use and using it on captured water would be a stage of prefiltering for larger particulates to avoid clogging the ceramic filter too quickly.
I thought this was a gray water system since it is runoff from your roof. I have had a plan to do this eventually and appreciate the write up you did. Great job. It'd be cool to see this incorporated into your indoor plumbing. We have emergency water storage for drinking, but this has come from our tap and treated with bleach.
aworkofbart (author)  Spaceman Spiff2 years ago
Thanks, I live out in the country and I have 2 ponds and an old well within 200 yards of my front door, but I think the gutter water will be a much cleaner product to start with if things get bad and I have to start purifying some water to drink. Once the rain stops and I cap the tanks, I's going to add some bleach to it so it stays clear. The pond water would be great for flushing a toilet, and I think I'm going to build a sort of wagon using 2 bikes and put on some non-pneumatic tires so that I can haul water if needed. but first, I have to get my wind generators up...
I have been looking for some of these carriers for a while now myself...these are IBC's (Intermediate Bulk Carriers). They hold 275 gallons of whatever you put in it. I have even seen people turn them into fish farming containers, but I also want to use them for water storage. If you are using them to catch rain water drinking go for it...just boil, use bleach or iodine to purify the water before drinking....You can buy replacement tanks to go in them but it isn’t cheap. If you have problems finding them ask a local farmer...I have seen more of them on farms than anywhere else. Sorry if repeated any info...I didn't read all the comments.
Light_Lab2 years ago
We do this trick a lot here in Australian cities, we have water restrictions quite often; in fact even our Church has two of these big plastic tanks. Though we use them mainly for the gardens.
I am not sure what is done in country areas in the US but here most farms use tank water gathered of the roof for household use. Been done here for over a hundred years; mostly galvanized iron tanks, plumbing and roofs. The filter was usually just a sieve of nail holes in a piece of gal iron. Very important to stop leaves, birds, possums and snakes from drowning in the tank and contaminating the water. Occasionally mosquitoes were a problem but the squeamish just boiled the water before drinking. The taps were a bit above the bottom so dust had a place to settle. Sounds rough but millions of our ancestors thrived that way.
Keep in mind that all our city drinking water is collected in open air reservoirs and water treatment is fairly basic. What keeps it pure is mostly the greater volume of water wrt the dirt.
Nevertheless, as others have mentioned, with the reclaimed plastic storage tanks, be sure you know the history of what they have had inside them if you are going to use them for drinking water. HDPE can absorb and hold some chemical contaminants for a long time.    
Don H.2 years ago
It's obvious this is NOT for drinking water, lol.
Actually, its great for drinking. (we dont have dangerous roof. Its basically just asbestos, some poisonous chemical adhesives, loose cement concrete and lots of reflective paint on the roof. =D)
Logicsama2 years ago
We have a much sophisticated rainwater harvesting system at my home in Pune. We collect all the waters from the roof. The capacity is 52,000 litres (underground tank). We have our car parking above that tank.

Here is how the system works. We let the first rain wash away all the dust and dry leaves. We dont collect the first rain. After the first rain of the season, water from the channels is diverted into a Prechamber (much in the way the instructable here has done) but with a big bag filter in between. We change this cotton gauze bag every few days when it rains. Now in the prechamber at half the height a pipe is taken out and let into the main tank. This is to allow any sedimentation to happen in the prechamber itself instead of the main tank.

The pipe leadint to the main tank also has a metal gauze filter (i guess its basically a galvalized steel gauze bent info a hemisphere and held on the mouth of the pipe inside the pretank with the help of a wire.

Thats how we collect the rainwater. Its good for drinking and cooking and lasts us for the better part of the year.
Stew22 years ago
I think it's a great idea, anything you collect without any physical effort is one less thing you have to go hunting for when you need it :)
Collecting water sounds great but if you have a composition or any kind of asphalt based roof you run the risk if leached petroleum by products getting into the water and into the vegetables you may be growing with this water.
This system only works well for drinking water if you have a metal roof.
chuckyd2 years ago
I would be extremely careful about using shipping containers, especially salvaged containers. Unless they have been used exclusively for food products, they could contain deadly chemicals, viruses, or bacteria. Some chemicals cannot be satisfactorilly cleaned from such containers.
dieselthis2 years ago
I live in the LA Basin area and have 4 of these totes hooked up in the same manner as this. Since we are rain-deprived more often than not, I always let whatever rain does fall to wash off the months of smog and particulates that fall on the roof before diverting into the totes. Also: if you do need to use this water for drinking, make sure that boiling it takes out all of the impurities and even then run it through a multiple-filtration system before ingesting. Nice post!
lschwartz2 years ago
Our local dairy has 5 gallon bottles like the one pictured. The screw top has an opening in it that is threaded and will accept a standard household hose valve. The opening comes closed but can be easily punched out. We use these when camping.
rickpaulos2 years ago
I have one of these "Tote Tanks". They make them in different sizes. Mine is about 275 gallons. About 5x the capacity of our prior 55 gallon drum. If the water freezes, it will destroy the tank. Must drain before winter.
My water comes from a garage roof with a pine tree that drops needles all over. I added a strainer but that only keeps the larger solid items out. The inside of the tank was lined with some sort of tan slime or mold after 1 season. I used a garden hose to try to rinse it out. I would never drink from it. We use it for watering the garden. The guy we got it from was quite adamant about us not drinking from it. He steam cleaned it but I think it was full of cow or pig urine before. These are used in farming, food, firefighting and all sorts of industries. I added an overflow joint and hose so it doesn't flood the ground where the tank is which is by the garage. I have an additional 50 foot 2" hose for overflow. I put the tank up on 2 layers of solid 4x8x16" concrete blocks for elevation and to keep it from settling into the dirt. Full up, these tanks are very heavy. The extra height provides a little more gravity pressure feed. I added an adapter to the outlet valve so I can connect a standard garden hose.
Hayward sells pool filters, (1-500 microns) choose your filter particle size and adapt using real filter. They have polypropylene, polyester and and I think nylon.. These pool filters are longer tubes like a pant leg, so when it rains it will fill up part of the tube. .. like a pant leg. Maybe you could adapt the actual filter assembly. You probably should add some liquid chlorine bleach to the water, 1 teaspoon to 5 gal. See link http://www.doh.wa.gov/phepr/handbook/purify.htm
Lorddrake2 years ago
that water cube looks perfect for a project I want to work on .. where is the best place to find one? Where I live is moderately suburban ... i'm about an hour drive from rural areas.
These type of tanks are called IBC tanks or IBC totes.  They are used to ship a wide variety of bulk liquids.  I have seen everything from the liquid used to make magazine pages shiny to honey to medicine for cows.

Use caution when using used tanks as you don't want to store drinking water in a tank used for holding something that could be poisonous.  Tanks used for food stuffs Is probably OK.

If you don't want one used this site sells them as well as parts for used tanks, they are not cheap however.

http://www.jmesales.com/department/2575/1/IBCs-Totes-Tank-Accessories.aspx

Another place seems to have them cheap (relatively) but, do your research. http://www.ntotank.com/275gatota.html

I bought mine for $99 each from a local store that resells all kinds of stuff from bulk auctions.
aworkofbart (author)  Lorddrake2 years ago
There is a place near here called Hogeye, they sell containers, drums, etc., but they are out of these and not sure when they will have more. A friend in town has a couple that are larger (625 gallons) that he got from Allen Canning in Springdale, AR (the makers of Popeye brand spinach) so maybe you could check with a food company in your area and see if they have something like this, or maybe look on eBay. I would be interested in what you find out, it appears that these things have suddenly gotten scarce.
darn preppers gobbling up all the cool toys. lol
aworkofbart (author)  Lorddrake2 years ago
Yep, you're absolutely right, this is the first thing I have noticed to sort of "vanish" when there used to be piles of them around. I theorize that just about everyone out there will start prepping at some point in time, but those that wait until December are going to find things in short supply.
bpersun2 years ago
Love the idea, I want to mention my concern for the life of plastic jugs in the sun.
These maybe much better but when I collected water in old milk jugs, they rotted in less than a year in the hot sun. Maybe you could tie a tarp over your awesome receptacles!
Great rain collector! But be aware in some areas collecting rain water can be illegal.
Bosun Rick2 years ago
With all the concerns over dust, dirt, bird poo, tree sap why do it? A decent filtering and purificatiuon system, should make your water supply as safe (if not safer) than any municipal system! Now, as to the problem of acid rain.......(gotta give equal billing to all the whiners!) Good I'ble! keeo going!
dr2chase2 years ago
Seems like panty-hose (strainer of choice for collecting ocean plankton) would be a better filtering choice than pants legs. Less likely to grow their own weird slime, plus larger surface area (they stretch), and you can remove them and clean them somewhat.
purplemoss2 years ago
Your project looks good.

If you have not already ...you might want to add first flush divertors. That would help remove minute particles of pollution, dust and bird droppings from entering the tank.
useraaaaa2 years ago
i see that stones and wood...
oh yea, it will be a funny time when you get that tank filled with water
aworkofbart (author)  useraaaaa2 years ago
Actually after 4 days of rain both the containers have been full for 3 days now, but the humor level hasn't seemed to increase. If my calculations are correct, there is over 1,400 pounds of water in each tank. When we first set them up on the rocks and 4x4s they were a little shaky, but they are not moving now.
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useraaaaa2 years ago
oh yea
now you can sall rain water on ebay