DIY Water Storage and Collection Systems

The Art of Catching and Storing Water:

Water is the essence of life, and having a reliable source of clean water is paramount for any household, especially if you’re considering a more self-sufficient lifestyle. While city water systems provide a convenient solution, there are many ways to collect and keep your own water, offering both environmental and financial benefits. This article dives into the various methods available, exploring their advantages and disadvantages to help you choose the most suitable option for your needs.

Catching the Rain: Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting is an age-old practice that utilizes rainfall as a natural water source. Here are the different ways to capture this precious resource:

  • Rain Barrels: These simple yet effective containers are connected to a downspout of your roof, collecting rainwater as it drains. They come in various sizes, materials (plastic, metal), and can be easily installed.

    Advantages: Easy to set up and maintain, affordable, good for watering gardens and reducing reliance on city water.
    Disadvantages: Limited storage capacity, potential for mosquito breeding if not properly maintained.

  • Cisterns: These are larger underground or above-ground tanks used to store rainwater collected from your roof or other surfaces. Cisterns offer significantly more storage than rain barrels and can be used for various purposes, including flushing toilets and laundry.

    Advantages: Large storage capacity, versatile for multiple uses, often made from durable materials like concrete or polyethylene.
    Disadvantages: Higher installation costs compared to rain barrels, may require permits depending on your location.

  • Rainwater Harvesting Systems: These involve a more complex setup with gutters, filters, first-flush diverter systems (to divert initial dirty runoff), and pumps to transport collected water.

    Advantages: Highly efficient collection and filtration system, suitable for large-scale rainwater harvesting, can be integrated with household plumbing.
    Disadvantages: Most expensive option, requires professional installation and maintenance.

Harnessing the Earth: Groundwater Collection

Groundwater refers to the water stored beneath the Earth’s surface in saturated rock or soil layers. Here are a couple of ways to access this resource:

  • Wells: These are vertical shafts dug or drilled into the ground to reach an aquifer, a water-bearing layer. Shallow wells are easier to construct but may be susceptible to contamination, while deeper wells require professional drilling and can be expensive.

    Advantages: Reliable source of water once established, good for long-term water security.
    Disadvantages: Drilling costs can be high, water quality may vary depending on location, requires regular testing for contaminants.

  • Spring Boxes: These capture water naturally seeping from the ground at a spring. They involve building a structure around the springhead to collect and protect the water source.

    Advantages: Potentially free and natural source of clean water, requires minimal maintenance compared to wells.
    Disadvantages: Reliance on finding a natural spring, flow rate can vary depending on rainfall and season, water quality testing is advisable.

Alternative Water Collection Methods

  • Fog Harvesting: In areas with frequent fog, specialized mesh structures can capture water droplets from the fog. This method is particularly useful in arid regions.

    Advantages: Provides water in areas with limited rainfall, can be a sustainable source in suitable climates.
    Disadvantages: Requires specialized equipment, fog collection efficiency can be low depending on fog density.

  • Air Dewatering: Systems can be used to condense water vapor present in the air, especially during humid nights. This technology has been developed but it has not been around very long.

    Advantages: Provides water independent of rainfall or local water sources, potentially useful in humid climates.
    Disadvantages: It is expensive. 

Keeping it Fresh: Water Storage Solutions

Once you’ve collected water, it’s crucial to store it safely for later use. Here are some common storage methods:

  • Above-Ground Tanks: These are readily available in various sizes and materials like plastic or metal. Ensure they are food-grade, not transparent, to prevent algae growth, and have a secure lid.

    Advantages: Easy to install and access, come in various sizes to suit your needs.
    Disadvantages: May be susceptible to temperature fluctuations and UV radiation if it is see-through.

  • Underground Tanks: These offer protection from temperature variations and sunlight, keeping water cooler and fresher for longer periods.

    Advantages: Less prone to contamination from sunlight and temperature fluctuations, good for long-term storage.
    Disadvantages: Higher installation costs due to excavation, may require permits depending on location.

  • Earthenware Pots: Traditional in some cultures, these porous clay pots allow for slow evaporation, keeping the remaining water cool. Double pots with an air gap between them further enhance insulation.

    Advantages: Natural and potentially decorative solution, effective for small-scale water storage in warm climates.
    Disadvantages: Fragile and prone to breakage, limited storage capacity, evaporation can be excessive in hot and dry climates.

  • Water Bags: Flexible and collapsible containers can be a space-saving option for temporary water storage. They are also useful for transporting water.

    Advantages: Portable and lightweight, easy to store when not in use, good for short-term water needs. Disadvantages: Prone to punctures and leaks if not made of durable material, may not be suitable for long-term storage due to potential leaching of chemicals from the plastic.

Keeping it Clean: Water Treatment Considerations

While collected rainwater or groundwater may appear clean, it’s essential to treat it before consumption to remove impurities and potential contaminants. Here’s an overview of common water treatment methods:

  • Filtration: Various filters can remove sediment, parasites, and bacteria. Options include simple sand filters, ceramic filters, activated carbon filters and more sophisticated reverse osmosis systems. The choice of filter depends on the water source and desired level of purification.

    Advantages: Effective in removing a wide range of contaminants, readily available filters for different needs. Disadvantages: Maintenance required depending on the filter type, some filters may not remove all dissolved contaminants. The filters that remove more contaminates cost more.

  • Chlorination: Adding chlorine bleach is a common method for disinfection, killing bacteria and other microorganisms. Proper dosing is crucial to ensure effectiveness and safety.

    Advantages: Simple and inexpensive method for disinfection, readily available chlorine bleach. Disadvantages: Can alter the taste of water, potential health concerns with long-term use of chlorine byproducts.

  • Boiling: The simplest method for disinfection is boiling water for at least two minutes at a rolling boil. This effectively kills most bacteria and parasites.

    Advantages: Requires no special equipment, effective disinfection method.
    Disadvantages: Not effective for removing chemical contaminants, can be time-consuming and energy-intensive for large quantities of water.

  • Ultraviolet (UV) Light Treatment: UV light disrupts the DNA of microorganisms, rendering them inactive. This method is effective against bacteria, viruses, and some parasites.

    Advantages: Effective disinfection without chemicals, does not alter the taste of water.
    Disadvantages: Requires a UV light unit and power source; is not effective for removing all contaminants like sediment.

Choosing the Right Method for You

The best water collection and storage method depends on several factors, including:

  • Climate: Rainfall patterns, temperature variations, and humidity levels will influence the collection efficiency and storage requirements.

  • Water Needs: Consider how much water you’ll need for daily use, including drinking, cooking, sanitation, and irrigation.

  • Budget: Costs will vary depending on the chosen method, with rainwater harvesting generally being the most affordable option.

  • Space Availability: Above-ground tanks offer easy access but require space, while underground storage requires excavation but saves surface space.

  • Regulations: Check local regulations regarding rainwater harvesting, well drilling, and any permits required for specific storage methods.

The Benefits of Water Self-Sufficiency

Collecting and storing your own water offers numerous advantages:

  • Reduced Reliance on City Systems: By harvesting rainwater or using groundwater, you can lessen your dependence on city water supplies and potentially lower your water bills.

  • Sustainability: Rainwater harvesting is an eco-friendly practice that conserves city water resources.

  • Emergency Preparedness: Having a backup water source can be invaluable during droughts, water shortages, or disruptions in city water services.

  • Improved Water Quality: Depending on your location and treatment methods, collected water can be of higher quality than city water, free from chlorine and other additives.


Water is a precious resource, and taking charge of your own water supply can empower you towards a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle. By understanding the different water collection and storage methods, their advantages, and disadvantages, you can choose the approach that best suits your needs and circumstances. Remember, even small-scale efforts to collect rainwater can make a significant difference, both for your household and the environment. So, the next time it rains, consider catching those raindrops – they may be more valuable than you think!