Preparedness blog

Construct Your Own Rain Gutter Water Collection System

By Mike from Ready Store
More from this author

One of the first things that even the most prepared survivalist will soon have in short supply following a collapse is potable water. Unless you have your own well or creek on your homestead, you’ll have to rely on the water you have stored up – which will quickly dwindle. And even that water may become contaminated with runoff of pollutants, fecal bacteria, or other deadly poisons. One source of free and fresh water that you can collect without fear is rainwater.

Rainwater may come sporadically, though, so you want to be able to maximize your collection when it does fall, and have a safe, secure means of storing it. A rain gutter collection system will allow you to do this. And even prior to a collapse, you can collect rainwater to keep your garden well supplied without ever having to turn on a sprinkler. This way you can reduce your water bills significantly.

CAUTION: Some states, such as Colorado, have strict laws against private individuals collecting rainwater, even when they are doing it on their own property. Be sure you understand the local and state laws regarding rainwater collection in your area before you start this project.

• Paint strainer
• 5 gallon bucket
• 55 gallon drum with lid
• Downspout fittings
• Gutter strainer
• Cinder blocks (3)
• 3/4″ spigot with 1/4″ turn ball valve
• Permanent black marker
• Jigsaw
• Power drill with 7/8″ spade bit
• Half-round bastard file
• Utility knife
• 1 1’4″ galvanized wood screws

Constructing the Reservoir

1. Drill a starter hole eight inches from the top in the side of the 5 gallon bucket with the 7/8″ spade bit. Use the jigsaw to cut around the bucket, leaving you with a eight inch tall ring.
2. Trace an outline of the top of the 5 gallon bucket on the top of the 55 gallon drum using the permanent marker.
3. Drill a hole in the top of the 55 gallon drum with the 7/8″ spade bit. Following the outline you made with the permanent marker, use the jigsaw to cut out a circle. The top of the bucket should slide snugly into the opening on top of the drum.
4. Use the 7/8” spade bit to drill a hole on the side of the drum near the bottom. File the inside of the hole down using the half-round bastard file.
5. Screw the 3/4” spigot securely into the hole. If you are having trouble getting it to fit securely, file the hole down a bit more.
6. Place the three cinder blocks upright and next to one another at the side of the house. Place the drum on top of the blocks, making sure it sits securely and is not in danger of falling.

Extending the Downspout

1. Extend the existing downspout on your gutter to run down to meet the rainwater reservoir.
2. Measure where you will need to cut the downspout so it will meet the top of the reservoir, and mark it with permanent marker.
3. Using a utility knife, cut the extension and fit it onto the existing downspout.
4. Secure it to the side of the house using fittings and brackets.
5. Trace the outline of the end of the downspout on the lid of the 5 gallon bucket. Use the 7/8” spade bit to drill a starter hole, and cut along the outline with the jigsaw.
6. Secure the downspout in the whole on the lid of the 5 gallon bucket.

Finishing Touches

1. To prevent mosquitoes from getting into your water reservoir, tie a knot in your paint strainer and secure it across the top of the bucket.
2. Secure the lid on the bucket, over the paint strainer.
3. Place a gutter strainer in the opening of the downspout at the gutter. This will prevent the downspout from being clogged by large debris.

Furthermore, you can keep debris out of your gutters with a simple screen installation over the gutter or the commercially available gutter 'louvers' which directs debris over the edge of the gutter while still allowing the water to enter the gutter.

We would love to hear your ideas and suggestions regarding creating your own rain gutter water collection system and what you might use your collected water for.

10 years ago
10 years ago at 3:57 AM
I'm missing something here. What's the point of the 5 gallon bucket ring in the top of the 55 gallon drum? And what do you use the 1 1/4" wood screws for?
10 years ago at 4:04 AM
A few years ago, we lost our water line and utilities to a landslide in CA. We had 27" of rain in 4 days. We had to resort to rainwater for 5 days. We didn't filter it (no time, as we were bailing water like mad) and none of us got sick from that water. In fact, it tasted pretty good! No chlorine in it.
top medic
10 years ago at 7:21 AM
I have a well, but without electricity (it happened more than once), I have no water. Two 55 gal blue barrels used for emergency and gardening. In case of drinking...a Katadyn Vario Dual Filtration is standing by.
Dave B
10 years ago at 8:35 AM
I live in an area that has some fairly cold weather. There are likely to be periods of a week or two when the temperatures are below freezing. Will this system ice up to the point of bursting in that time? If so, how can I prevent the freezing without electricity?
Gary carbaugh
10 years ago at 9:59 AM
How long can u keep rain water?
10 years ago at 11:08 AM
The water collected from the roof isn't drinkable from the tap of the barrel, unless you have some filtration and aeration system inside. You could take what you need and pour through a clean shirt or coffee filter into a large cup, then pour into another cup and back and forth into first cup then drink with lifestraw
10 years ago at 11:25 AM
Re: Freezing I have an overflow pipe a few inches from the top of the barrel so the barrel is never full to the top with water. I think that might prevent the freezing water from expanding to the point of bursting. I cant test it cause I live in Los Angeles coastal area.
10 years ago at 11:53 AM
Bill, the bucket ring is an easy way of providing a removable attachment point for the downspout. On my collectors I simply built a square box with hardware cloth for straining and attached it over my cutout. I assume the screws are for securing the downspout to the building as needed...I would use brass screws. Fauna, unless you have a very old roof, none of the modern shingles contain asbestos. We do as top medic suggested and run all our drinking water, well or rainwater, through our family sized Berky water filter. As to how long it can be kept after harvesting, that will vary By location factors. If we get concerned with our water (visual inspection) we add a minute amount of straight chlorine bleach or some other safe alternative, to the collector. Our Berkey removes the chlorine taste. Dave B, we live "up north" where the rainwater comes in little frozen units this time of year. When the weather turns cold, we drain the system and leave the bottom valve open for any liquid stuff to drain. By the the picture with those blue barrels the amount of water at full would be about 275 gal. We purchased one of those white cubical plastic containers with a full capacity of a little over 300 gal. That reduces the "plumbing" by quite a bit. The container was formerly used for the food grade wax used to coat Dixie cups and steam cleaned three times when empty. I also put a kitchen grade caulk around the spigot to keep it from leaking and to keep it in place. Hope this helps, and happy drinking...water. Barry
10 years ago at 12:48 PM
I have a system that I use to get rainwater from the roof into my swimming pool. In the event of an emergency I've got about 30,000 gallons of available water. All I have to do is put the cover on the pool to keep it relatively clean and then either boil or filter the water. If my sand filter will work it gives me a effective water source and the rain collector can extend the water for a long time.
10 years ago at 2:45 PM
Why do you have photos of setups that don't match the steps? I can see having the ones above as examples of more complicated/expanded systems; but to have directions without photos of at least the finished product is useless and a bit frustrating for novices. what's cool about the top photo is that the heavy roof material, dirt, and debris gets caught in the first bin and relatively clean water goes in the remaining three. Gutter louvres will keep out branches, pine needles and bigger stuff; but not the asphalt.
10 years ago at 7:08 AM
I have a 2000 gal cistern underground behind my home with a faucet in the basement. If my water lines would freeze I don't even have to go outside to get water.
9 years ago at 9:19 AM
I have been using these types of containers 3 years now, for watering my veggies and fruits only. I left the barrels outside with a little water in them, during the winter here in the south; they did not crack or burst. The algae stopped up the water flow in one of the barrels, that I did not clean out. Concerning the barrels, I noticed the lighter and thinner the materal of the barrels are, the more algae builds up. The thicker and the darker are far better. Lastly, I use cut panty hose inside of net cups to filter water coming into the barrels. If you live near beer companies or beverage companies they will give these barrels away or some will sale for under $20 to you.
9 years ago at 6:50 AM
I have had a blue barrel filled up... for four years in my garden shed. I covered it with an old shower curtain, as I had lost the two stoppers. I have a Berkey, so everything would go through that anyway. Well, my intention was to change it out every year. I used a fresh water hose to fill it so it wouldn't have the hose taste in case I needed to use it for potable water. Well, through the trials of life and situations, it has been 4 years. I drained it off into non- potable containers for garden use. I do have to say, it tasted delicious, not funky at all... And it hadn't been treated. I certainly have treated everything since then ,,, as who want would want to find out they have a tainted water supply in an emergency, yikes!!!
9 years ago at 3:52 AM
We have been using simple rainbarrels for about 8 years to water garden & pasture. (I.E. just cut the tops out) We cover the tops with window screen to keep the trash & mosquitoes out of the water. We hold the screen in place by running bungee cords around the barrel. We install brass or galvanized faucets. We build platforms of cement blocks stacked 2 or 3 high along the drip edge of our house & barns & have enough water pressure to run a simple hose end bubble type sprinkler several hundred feet from the barrel if needed. Once a year we drain & rinse out the barrels. We live in a very hot humid climate in the South & have had a little algae growth. The only faucet that ever got clogged was a teensy plastic one, our first. We replaced that with the 3/4" brass faucet & have not had any further problems with clogging. Basically the more you use your rain barrels, the less algae growth you will have... because the water is being used & then the barrels are getting refilled during rains. Our rainbarrels are the only additional source of water for our garden. In a normal summer, they get used weekly. The rainbarrels have literally saved our garden & fruit trees when we've had periods of no rain for weeks. And I like being able to water our pasture if needed to keep the grass going. We also store emergency drinking water in sealed barrels & have recently added the food grade 275 gallon totes to that supply. We do have the best water filter we could find to use if needed. Working on that well & an off grid solution for pumping water if needed.
8 years ago at 11:03 PM
FYI - Colorado law is changing as of August 2016, a residence may now have 2-55 gallon rain barrels. The governor signed the bill in May and goes into effect 90 days later.
8 years ago at 2:39 PM
Why on earth would states pass the law to the effect that you can't store water?