Elevated Dual Barrel Rainwater Collection System





Introduction: Elevated Dual Barrel Rainwater Collection System


Step 1: Acquire the Barrels

I shopped Craigslist and got lucky - found a guy that lived close to me who liberated them from his workplace - $15 each. One had peaches the other apricots - my yard has a new aroma. 

Step 2: Barrel Orientation

Since these were "closed lid" barrels I decided to go with an upside down setup for several reasons.
My thinking was that I just didn't trust the thickness of the sidewall for a tap in connection since I wouldn't be able to thread a nut on the backside, so I went with a connection into the bung plug, thus needed an upside down orientation.
This provides for the barrel to be completely emptied, unlike most with a side spiggot -  but also required me to build the base platform to elevate them slightly for the plumbing. 

Since they store on a second story I had no issues of elevation to accommodate a watering can either so the base was fairly routine to build as opposed to one 2' tall. 

Step 3: Platform/Base

The barrels measure 23" around so a precut 2' X 4' of pressure treated 3/4" plywood was used as the base with 8 2-1/2" 4 X 4's scattered around underneath as feet.  I Painted with deck paint for extended durability.

Step 4: Downspout Gutter Connection

I removed about 5' of the existing downspout and reconfigured the angle with a new piece to aim it toward the barrel instead.  I then used a piece of flex-gutter for the final connection to the barrel.

Step 5: Barrel Input Connection

The cotter pins, wire, & wire tie hold the flex tube into the mouth of the filter - in case a heavy ran might try and disloge it from the filter due to back-pressure.

Step 6: Intake Filter

The filter is compised of a gutter-to-PVC 4" converter into the green 4" diffuser which is actually upside down in this application so I am using it as a strainer instead for form.  Inside the strainer goes the pipe sock designed to strain sediment from corrugated pipe used in tile applications.  I cut about a 12" length of sock, and tied a knot in one end and rubber banded it around the outside of the converter.  My gutters are screened so not much gets in other than smaller particulate. 

Step 7: Intake Filter Install

 A 4-1/2" hole saw and a little pneumatic grinding opened up a hole for a nice snug fit around the PVC adapter and the squared corners keep it from falling into the barrel.  The green strainer keeps the weight of the water and debris from pulling the sock down and away. 

Step 8: Manifold System

The 3/4" PVC piping pulls double duty - 1) it transfers water between barrels (as the left one fills the right one seeks the same level) (Assuming both valves open) 2) It delivers the water from both barrels to the hose for watering.  The Union allows for easy winter tear down  - otherwise you would need to move both barrels together which would weaken the manifold fittings.

Connections: The 3/4" PVC runs into a threaded fitting then into the bung plug (Pre-threaded) but you will have to drill through the bung with a 7/8" spade bit, careful not to damage the threads.  I used teflon tape & pipe dope on these 2 connections (Bung plug / Barrel & the 3/4" threaded fitting / bung plug - (DO NOT EPOXY) You will need some rotation play in the pipe once you tighten the bung plug you will need to orient the pipe out to the front of the barrels.  If you epoxied the connection between the fitting & bung it is unlikely your pipe will be in the exact position needed.

The dual ball valves allow some selectivity if you want to isolate water in one barrel or another - but for the most part they remain open to work as a unified system.  

Lastly the brass male hose adapter at the end of the pipe, connects the hose and runs down to a an inline shut off at the end.  This allows the user to access the water anytime without having to go upstairs to turn anything on.

Step 9: Venting

Again double duty - The vent pushes air out when filling (the second (right) barrel) & lets air in for a better head when draining.  In order to get the max flow (head) you need a vent on the barrels.  The first barrel vents back through the gutter input but the second one had no opening in this setup. 

I modified a 2" threaded PVC adapter and a double layer of vinyl screen.  
Cut 2 4X4" square pieces of screen then crisscross the pattern.  Then lightly grind down a piece of 2" pipe about 3/4"  from the end (width of the grinding wheel) then cut off that 3/4" piece at the end to become the hollow plug which holds the screen into place - Cut off the excess screen with a razor knife, and thread it into a 2-1/2" hole cut into the top of the barrel. 

Step 10: Overflow Components

There is a few second delay on the barrel equalization so you need to place the overflow on the first fill barrel (left) not the second or you will have water spewing from the top of the filter in a heavy downpour that overloads the capacity.  

I used a 1" spade bit for the hole - then used a 1" hose barb / 3/4" threaded adapter to make the barrel connection.  I also threaded the PVC elbow  on inside the barrel to act as a nut.

Step 11: Overflow

In the case of a heavy rain you have to plan for a situation that you fill the barrels to capacity.
Note the 1" overflow hose which should be able to handle the capacity as it runs into the remaining downspout that used to handle this gutter that now feeds the system. 



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Thanks for this build. I acquired my barrels (same as yours) a couple months ago but have been procrastinating over different plans. This one is simple and straight forward. I wouldn't have thought to flip the barrels upside down, but I like that much better.

I might add a slightly more robust filter on the top of mine, as I'm curious to see if I can harvest drinkable water out of these.

5 replies

First, You are welcome.

Second, you are right on with the critique.

The filter is only thing that requires me to troubleshoot. The sock idea works but it literally traps everything so it if I don't keep it clean it dries up probably crusts over and then we get a hard rain and I have water backing up. When I winterize the barrels there is very little sediment, so the sock works, perhaps too well. Even with high functioning gutter guards there is alot that gets transported to the filter.

The water in my barrels stays pretty clean, I don't treat with anything and rarely do they smell even with long droughts. That said I'm not sure you could ever cost justify drinkable rainwater. You would need a multi-stage filtration and purification process, to guard against ecoli from birds, algea etc.. I have never researched it but it seems your purification and disinfection process is in fact what would need to be robust and thus likely expensive. Good luck with your build.

Can you explain your process for winterizing? I live in Michigan, so I assume that once the temperature gets close to 32 degrees I will simmply need to disconnect the barrels and put them in storage for the winter months?



Your assumption is correct. I drain them, then disconnect the two barrels via the PVC Union (in the Manifold) which isolates each barrel from the other and further drains the plumbing. Some water is not an issue, it would need to fill the line and thus have no where (else) to expand, to burst the pipe.

PS - can you clarify - you did not use a special tool to pull the cap out of the bunghole, you just drilled straight through it?


As far as a tool I have found that channel locks combined with a crescent wrench is the special tool to extract the bung. In answer to your question I think I drilled it in place, I have since had to make repairs when the wind blew over in the winter and busted the plumbing, so I removed them then. I think my original thinking was to not disturb the factory seal, since upside downt this could be a leak point.

The most important thing is after drilling to use a brass or galvanized male piece to sort of tap in and out back and forth to cut in some good threads before the PVC.

That is great, it gives me quite a few ideas. The only problem I see is you have a 4" inlet and only a 1" overflow outlet. It almost any overflow situation your water will flash back out of the 4" inlet. You need the same size overflow as your inlet.

1 reply

Right you are.

I had to change out the overflow to a bigger opening.

Since I couldn't get a decent 4" I did 2- 2" hoses side by side.

Do you realize that when both barrels are full you have almost 1/2 ton (918.5 lbs.) of water on about 12 square feet of deck space? You might want to make sure the deck will support that much weight in such a small area. An alternative is to spread the two barrels farther apart and make sure that they are against the house wall which will support more weight. Good instructable.

2 replies

Oh ya, it occurred to me all right, it is why I limited it to 2 barrels. Some months they pretty much stay full, and some dryer months, I can't get enough.
Fortunately this was a latent add on to an old house, so it is very formatible.
Thnx for the post, kind of forgot this was out there.


Oh ya, it occurred to me all right, it is why I limited it to 2 barrels. Some months they pretty much stay full, and some dryer months, I can't get enough.
Fortunately this was a latent add on to an old house, so it is very formatible.
Thnx for the post, kind of forgot this was out there.

I like the idea of using the height of the second deck for natural head pressure. It looks like you have a nice deck, any thought about building a 'planter style' cedar enclosure to hide the bright blue barrels?

2 replies

why hide--easier to show off and BRAG about this way !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Hey damoelid,
No, but I did consider a generic gas grill cover but haven't found one without the customized shape. I need a straight  24X48 which would fit perfect.  As you can see the deck has a little railing which hides most of the barrels from view from the backyard, so they are unnoticeable for the most part.
Great head though, I was even able to put on a 50' hose reel, it substantially reduces the pressure when wound, but reaches the gardens when unwound, and works fine then.

 On the porch, really? It couldn't be done at my house--the wife would kill me.

1 reply

no biggie--many women are the Boss !!!

Maybe I have missed it, but do you store it on the first floor to have some pressure?

2 replies

If by "first" floor you mean second floor, yes. :-)
My second floor deck is about 20' above the back yard.
Noticable difference between pressure while standing on deck verses down on the ground.
Thanks for your interest.

Eh, you're right second floor.