Introduction: DIY 600 Gallons Rainwater Irrigation System

About: Avid hobbyist and Handyman

From what I would describe as a "gardening evolution" birth this 600 gal rainwater system. As our love for gardening grew and our objective went from "beautiful flowers" to "bountiful food", so did the size of our garden. However, our water bill was washing away the joy from us as we play in the dirt.

Not wanting to be denied one of our youthful pleasures, we decided that we need to be able to water our garden for free. We started off using four 30 gal plastic drums that we received for free from a neighborhood Car Wash and a 55 gal drum we bought from a shipping company, but that was not enough. It was then that we came across IBC totes.


This project was done months before this instructable was written. I will not be able to provide step by step pictures.

Step 1: Identifying Your Area and Setup

Before setting up or even purchasing a tote, identify where it will be positioned in the yard. Totes can be bulky, and very heavy when filled, so location is important. Also, there needs to be some proximity to a downspout. This is important for the supply of water. Finally, because of its size, we did not want the tote to interfere with the layout of our backyard (my wife's concern).

Initially, we purchased a 330 gal tote ($75 food grade ). Although the tote is bulky, it took up less footprint than six 55 gal containers (6 x 55 = 330).

After choosing the location:

  • Measured the length and width of tote
  • Level the ground, then layout 12 ($1.67) cement blocks (3 for each corner) according to the measurements
  • I further leveled the blocks
  • With some help, I set the tote.
  • I also affix the tote to the deck (safety 1st) just in case it got windy before the tote was filled.

In setting up the blocks, I wanted a height of 24" (faster gravity feed) and solid surface footing, so I laid the blocks as pictured above.

Step 2: Plumbing #1

Once the tote was set up, it was time for the plumbing.

  1. Determine the distance from the downspout to the top of tote via the safest and practical route. You want to maintain a downward slope from the spout to tote for this.
  2. I used solid core drain pipe $8.24 per length. (Others have used PVC pipe and fittings)
  3. I removed a section of the downspout and set it aside.
  4. Cut the 4 corners of the spout on the house, and bent it in slightly. This was to facilitate the ease of sliding the drain core over it.
  5. I attached with galvanized screws. See picture as to how I ran pipe to tote

I wanted some kind of filtration so I built a simple removable filter.

  1. 3" Round Grate
  2. 2 Stockings (cut to about 2 feet)
  3. Gorilla tape
  4. I flipped the grate over, and slide it into stockings. I then taped stockings around the grate
  5. A piece of screen door mesh was then cut to fit inside the grate. This will trap most of the debris coming from the roof.
  6. Also, I can replace the stockings as needed.

Step 3: Plumbing #2

I wanted the maximum amount that the tote can hold. So I design a supply and drainage setup. Some people cut a hold at the side. Others let it drain over the top. Both situations were not going to work for me.

Please use the picture above as a reference.

  • 2" x 3" PVC adapter coupling fitting
  • 2" PVC and 1 1/2" PVC pipes
  • 2" x2"x1 1/2" reducing tee
  • 2" S Male adapter
  • 1 1/2 " 90° elbow

Setting up supply/drain fittings

The 2" male adapter was first screwed into the opening of the tote (I'm glad that this one came this way).

  • I measured the distance from the adapter to the drain core
  • I then cut the 2" PVC pipe and fitted the tee and coupling to match the required length. (see picture above)
  • Pieces were fitted together. I used PVC cement, however, there is no need for PVC cement at this stage.
  • Point the reduced side of the tee in the direction of drainage area.

Step 4: Plumbing #3

Overflow drainage

  • Measure from tee to the end of the tote. Please add a 3/4" for the fitting of the 90° elbow.
  • Measure from elbow to your desired length for the drainage. I took mine to the ground and further attached a 90° elbow. Pointing it away from the blocks.
  • Dry fit the fittings for correct measurement and positioning, then attach.
  • The filter was inserted in the coupling, and drain core attached to it. This was done to keep the core in place as the water flows through it

Step 5: Plumbing #4

The second tote was added shortly. For that reason, I'm bypassing explaining the spigot connection seen on the first tote. A close-up and explanation will be given on the second tote.

The process for setting up the second tote was the same. This time I did not need as much height on the second so I only used eight blocks.

Since the 330 gal tote will be supplying the 275 gal one ($45), there was no need to be concern about proximity to the downspout.

  • A 2" S male adapter was added to the opening of the tote. It was then covered with mesh and taped in place. This prevented any unwantables from getting in the water.
  • This distance was measured, a trench was dug between totes, and materials were purchased to complete the connection. I chose 2" piping for volume and cost.
  • Because of the extension from the tote, and the materials I had in my position, I made the connection for the spigot as seen in the picture above.
  • Two coupling I found that made this final connection easy. 1. 1-1/2 in. PVC DWV Hub x FIPT Female Adapter. This was screwed onto the mouth of the tote with thread sealant tape (same used at the first tote). 2. LASCO 2-in Dia x 3/4-in Dia PVC Sch 40 Bushing. This was used to connect the spigot.
  • Cut additional 2' piping to suit your desired extension.
  • Everything was dry fitted, then connected with PVC cement.

The reason why I did not give an elaborate coverage of this extension and spigot, is because there are different ways to complete this connection. Furthermore, it all depends on what your needs are.

How It Works

Water is gravity fed from the 330 gal to the 275 gal tote. Both totes are filled at the same time, however, because the second tote is smaller and at a lower elevation than the first, it gets filled first. When it reaches it's maxed height, I close off the valve. If the valve is not close, water will flow out the top of the tote without filling the first one. The first tote continues filling until it overflows.

You can open and close valves according to the tote you desire to use.


When both valves are open at the same time, water will always flow into the lower tote.

Step 6: Prodction Meets R&D

After many watering jug trips to the raised beds (my wife), it became very apparent that this impromptu workout routine was not working out. The problem is, the more water that was harness, it's the more raise beds the production manager needs. More beds mean more time spent watering. More time watering means less time to take care of the other parts of the production.

So a complaint was filed with research and development about the problem. Not wanting to be lugging buckets myself, R&D had to find a solution fast.

After a couple of late evenings and tons of data..." by golly I think I've got it," a water pump attached to the spigot.

One that can handle the volume of water from the tote without burning out.

After pouring over many reviews and specs, I settled on the "Homdox 1.6HP Booster Pump. It was portable powerful (66psi) and within my price range. Plus, it was ideal for a lawn and garden environment.

Step 7: Pump Setup

The pump comes out the box with various pipe attachments. I chose not to use them just because I wanted the pump to be completely detachable from all hose for easier storage. The Home Depot garden section provided me will all that I needed for this connection.

  • Brass hose nipple
  • Hose adapter
  • Couplers

I built a lean-to housing close to the tote and outlet.


Open spigot and tote valve for max water volume and follow the instruction for priming before turning on the pump.

Step 8: Tada

The production department is back on track. "Happy wife"

This was completely done from memory, so if I missed a step or certain parts were not explained effectively please let me know.

I hope this information helped someone. Please share any suggestion you may have.

I will have to set up another tote at the Shed-cave in the spring. Production is at it again. More plans for more raised beds. If I chose to use a pump on that one, it will operate from my off-the-grid system.