Introduction: Underground Rainwater Storage in an IBC With Pumped Supply

Picture of Underground Rainwater Storage in an IBC With Pumped Supply

Budget pumped rainwater storage. Commercial rainwater storage can be several thousand pounds. To save money I wondered if you could bury an IBC and it turns out you can ! Here's a complete pumped rain water system for about GBP 100.

See more inside......

Step 1: Dig a Big Hole

Picture of Dig a Big Hole

Dig a very big hole. A standard IBC can be bought for GBP 40-50 and is 1mx1mx1.2m. It took about 3 evenings after work to dig the hole. We're lucky and have nice light soil.

Step 2: Put Your IBC in the Hole and Connect

Picture of Put Your IBC in the Hole and Connect

Drop that beast in there. I put a bottle gully at the base of the downpipe. I used a holesaw to cut a 100mm hole in the side of the IBC for the water in. For the overflow I used 40mm pipe which I drilled lots of holes in a ran it to a soakaway.

Step 3: Make It Nice Again.

Picture of Make It Nice Again.

I first backfilled with earth. Next I used weldmesh to cover the IBC and fitted a inspection cover (From Drain Center) over the screw cap on the top. Then I poured with concrete.

Not too bad looking, if I say so myself.

Step 4: Connect the Pump

Picture of Connect the Pump

Found an excellent pump on ebay for GBP 50 from a German seller called "werkzeuge-online"
It's a cheap Chinese knock off but works fine. It's got an accumlator and a pressor switch which holds the water at 2 bar.

Mounted in the garage. Ran the suction hose through the wall into the IBC. Ran 15mm pipe to the garden tap, which now runs pure rainwater !

I've been using the system for Aug and Sept and it's been perfect. The tank has been nearly full the whole time.


ChristopherJames (author)2016-02-23

Caving in does NOT sound good! Especially if you're intending to use that water in your house on a daily basis. But it's a good idea to make the most of the rain and save a bit of your water bill. Perhaps we could work out a way to pack the storage container a little bit better or put in some reinforcements on the walls of the hole in the ground to ensure it doesn't fall in on itself anymore!

Stavros! (author)2015-02-01

Do the tanks cave in from the top or the sides? I'm thinking putting a sheet of fiberglass or thin sheet metal around the outside of the tank frame would keep the dirt from pushing in the plastic.

MariusN (author)2014-12-27

Mine has caved after I had it in the ground empty for about 2 months. With a hole only 3 inch bigger than the tank on each side was enough to destroy my project. I was thinking to fill with water then cap it, fill with to concrete around and the frame to be as rebar. BUT theoretically would work but looking farther into it soon or later will cave in when its empty. JUST NOT MADE TO BE BURIED. Thank you but mine did not work if the tank runs empty or the level drops in the tank.


NavidA (author)2014-10-09

Hello, i just read the post, and i am glad i did. We live in hollywood hills, in Los Angeles, and we have a major problem with drought and climate change. We are lucky to have a natural spring beneath our property the spills out fresh water in a corner of the our front yard at a rate of 750 liters per day. So i am trying do design a system that captures that water, stores it underground, pressurize it up to 100 psi , and connect it to the main the sprinkler system. What you did is very close to what i am intending to do. I just do not know what type of tank and pump is right for the job.

Donnatello (author)2013-11-05

Looks great, a few questions for you: Did you site the feed to your pump slightly above the bottom of tank (so as to avoid sediment in the bottom)? Did you put any filters in your set up (I suppose your trap under the downpipe removes a lot though)? If your pump is above the tank, does it have a priming function? it still working well?! Thanks!

Hamish121212 (author)2013-07-24

Looks great. I have read a lot about these caving in if the tank runs empty. Also that they can crush if the ground water fills up and the tank is empty. Have you had any issues like this?

Chakwaina (author)2012-12-16

It will not download.

pbhj (author)2008-10-08

So the IBC was £50 and the pump was £50, where do I get free mesh, free concrete, free shelving brackets, free holesaw, free wall-deep masonry bits, free plumbing supplies etc.? Wickes, UK: Couple of sacks of concrete will be about £7. Bottle gulley £16 ( Manhole cover £15. Shelving bracket and uprights £6. Holesaws £10. That's £54 more already. I'm guessing £200 at least. Also the cheapest IBC I found online was £200. werkzeuge-online (ebay shop, note spelling) does have a "garden water pump" like yours but for £40 (inc del.) but this one doesn't have the tank part, just the pump. So I'm looking at £340. I think a couple of rain barrels, fenceposts, few bits of pipe work and some gravity will do for me ... YMMV

tim_n (author)pbhj2012-10-28

I bought my IBCs for much less - about 25-30, got three and delivery I think for under 100 quid (1000ltr ones)

ed_sturdy (author)pbhj2008-10-09

Have a look on ebay Ebay UK > Search IBC > Buy It Now Only Returns about 70 of the beasts between 18 and 50 quid. Thanks for the comments.

beecroft (author)2011-01-06

Can you tell us more about the pump? Is it set up to avoid burning out if the tank runs dry?

burntsun (author)2009-05-19

Thanks for the easy-to-follow explanation ed_sturdy! It's great to know it can be done without investing ££££s and involving consultants etc One question: any lessons learned now that you've had the system in place for a few months? Perhaps 2 IBCs rather than one (given our UK rainfall), or a different kind of pump? I'm curious to know because we've got an IBC and (due to tiny garden) we're thinking of doing pretty much exactly what you've done.

katuah (author)2009-05-19

in addition to ebay, here's a source for used IBC's in the US:

be careful, though - not nearly all will be food-grade/useable for drinking or garden water.

compujan66 (author)2009-05-07

Pay attention!!! Be warned.... a friend of me build a same solution, but here in the south part of the Netherlands the groundwater level is about 70 cm below the surface. Before it started raining the bottom of his still empty IBC was teared in pieces by the groundwater pressure. So that was the preliminary end of his project ;-( (By the way he had the IBC for free) Grtz Jan

netbuddy (author)2008-10-09

Nice Idea. One thing I have to ask is this... You stated "Ran 15mm pipe to the garden tap, which now runs pure rainwater !" Did the pipe your using now have mains piped water going to it before or was this an addition that you made?

ed_sturdy (author)netbuddy2008-10-09

Garden tap was previously on mains. I capped the old pipework and ran new pipework from the pump. It's a auto pump which is nice as it's turns on with a pressure drop when you open the tap.

netbuddy (author)ed_sturdy2008-10-09

If that is the case, you should check that your water company is not now over charging you for the now non-existent extra supply that was in your garden / garage.

Derin (author)netbuddy2009-05-06

I think you only get metered to charge the costs.

netbuddy (author)Derin2009-05-06

No you do not only get metered for water charges. You are also charged for run off from your garden and house in to the drains, sewage waste is also charged for and if your metered, they use the amount of your consumption to calculate sewage and grey water from the supply. Water company's also charge you if you have an outside water supply, a supply in your garage, shed, green house or wherever you put a water outlet on your property. If you really want to reduce your overall water charges, stop the garden and house run off from going down the drains, build a soak-away and have all excess from your ware containment flow in to that soak-away. I can not comment on if you need permission to build a soak-away but I do remember that when I was at home while my mother had an extension to the house built, the builder had a soak-away on the plans and before he could back fill it, the building inspector had to inspect it to ensure it had been built to spec. So it may pay to ask if planning permission is needed. This may not be as bad as you think because you would have to lodge plans of the build and that would be public record and the water company can not argue with that. So check!

Nate.hotdog (author)2009-03-20

Before you dig such a big hole its probably a good idea to have your underground utilities located and marked.

ellislake (author)2008-12-30

i built this system around 12 months ago and it works great. the ibc can be found on ebay for £40-£50 ending price. need to go to wicks or b&q; and get a rainwater diverted for the guttering pipe for £4.99.usually only find black ones all the white ones seemed to be snapped up all the time.a really good thing to do it buy a manually powered pump to pump water out.but thats only good if you want it to water the garden using a watering can. if you want to use it for a garden tap then use a solar panel and a small pump and a car battery about 80 amps should do it.or you could use the sdoalr power and the manual pump etc.i didnt think of using the water to put it through the garden tap,good one but it wouldnt work for me as i only got one tap outside and would use that to wash my car. nice one for posting this instructable though. if anyone has any IBC CONTACINERA FOR SALE OR FREEBIES email me at cheers

nate121 (author)2008-10-25

umm how much is that in u.s.a dollers any one?

whitefang (author)nate1212008-11-10

See for converting currencies.

yeagerxp (author)2008-10-13

Good for you ed_sturdy Codes smodes, every where signs, rules , signs, EPA this, governments are not doing enough for the enviroment, we try to do something using common sense. I live in the city I use solar panels to generate electricity to power my lights, low power devices, in the pursuit of my hobby, mains power is used for bigger tools. This year I spent quite a bit of money installing drip irrigation for my vegetables. I plan to add a couple micro_turbines in my backyard, and i am hoping the city dogs come sniffing around. It is like we no longer control our destiny

Calorie (author)2008-10-10

Is this allowable under UK building codes? The storage tank is directly next to the foundation of the building.

Mr. Rig It (author)2008-10-08

Nice job. I had this same idea a few years ago but never put it into action. I am very happy to see someone has finally done it. The prject came out looking very nice.

netbuddy (author)Mr. Rig It2008-10-09

A whole story in one summer ... 1976 Unless you lived through it, you wont know what water conservation is all about...

Mr. Rig It (author)netbuddy2008-10-09

I was around in 1976 but not in the UK.

netbuddy (author)Mr. Rig It2008-10-10

Well I can tell you like many who did live through it that water conservation is a lesson that the population needs to experience again. We need another summer of 76 and people may sit up and take note. In the past couple of years we have come close but not near enough to it, sure we have had hot summers recently but not like in 76.

ve2vfd (author)2008-10-08

Very nice setup!!! Just out of curiosity, have you checked to see if you're not spending more in electricity to run the pump than you would spend on water? Either ways this system is great where there are lawn watering restrictions!

netbuddy (author)ve2vfd2008-10-09

The point I think is that the IBC is approx 1m sq. which means that 1 sq meter is 1,000 liters of liquid which @ 0.08p a liter (average [based on internet searches]) which is a saving of £80 on every 1,000 liters of water. If you were metered for this then it would certainly be a saving. If anyone is planning on trying this then I would say that for winter periods, it would serve best if the storage container was at least 2 feet below the ground. You run a real risk of the container splitting if ice forms in the top layer, this would lead to serious issues with undermining the foundations if close to a house or could become a source / cause of rising damp.

ed_sturdy (author)netbuddy2008-10-09

I think that should be 80 pence / 1000 liters. (Not taking into account standing and sewerage charges)

netbuddy (author)ed_sturdy2008-10-09

Says it in here that the average price is 0.008p a liter.

This is one of many sites that quote costs, they vary from £50 to £90 a metric ton.

icebird (author)2008-10-09

Good idea. Might want to contact your local EPA to make sure they're OK with it. They tend to get nervous when they discover buried tanks of unknown origin, which could discourage a potential buyer of your home.

GeekGod (author)2008-10-08

Nice project. Might want to put in a suggestion about making sure to test the system before pouring the concrete though :)

Scott Dallesasse (author)2008-10-08

What is an IBC? I understand that it is a tank for water but, what does the abbreviation mean?

bowdie (author)Scott Dallesasse2008-10-08

It stands for Intermediate Bulk Container


killerjackalope (author)2008-10-08

Nice job on the conversion, one addition I would have made is attaching an overflow to the tap on the bottom and putting a tap on it, in case you ever wanted to expand the system for something. We have a few of those in the work yard at all times, unless he's stopped doing the stuff it's a possibility that anyone looking to pick the containers up can have them dirt cheap, it's only a possibility though...

beado4ever (author)2008-10-08

Very good. I've been interested in this sort off thing since we moved to a house on a water meter! I had 3 plastic dustbins doing the job this year. I'm going to give this one a go for next year tho. Thanks

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