Have you seen the many rainwater collection systems that stores and catalogs are selling? Firstly, not only are they expensive and more designed for looks, they’re not very efficient. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we live were it happens to rain a lot from October through to May. It rarely rains in the summer though, and when it does it’s usually not enough to even get a fraction of an inch of water on the ground. We needed a system that would make the most of our months of rain and let us use it even when it wasn’t raining.
First things first, it’s easy to make your own rainwater harvest system, so unless you really want to buy a system because you like its looks, you can make one for much less of the expense. One of the things that always makes me laugh is that the commercial rainwater harvesting systems always show round rain barrels. If you’re buying your container, try to get a square one. Trash cans or food grade barrels can be used very well for rain water collection, and square containers fit more securely against a house or shed.
If you’re trying for water self-sufficiency, chances are you’ll need more than one barrel or container. Hook one up underneath each corner of your house, shed or barn. Link them up via tubes drilled in to the bottom so that when one fills up you can move the water down to the next one in line. That will help you to take advantage of the rainy periods and get as much water as you can even when one container becomes full.
Typically, rain barrel systems will tell you to install a hose on the bottom. This is great, but why not go one step further and install soaker hoses coming off the barrels? That way, you can turn on the spout from the barrel and the water will go where you want it. If you don’t have enough water in your barrel and you need to supplement with your water from your well or city water supply, then just aim your hose into the barrel and fill it up. Look for a hose manifold system that lets you attached multiple hoses to it. If each barrel has a turn-off switch, then you can hook the hoses up to whatever barrel you need the water from, or if you have your barrels in a row that are all hooked up together, you can move the water to whatever barrel has the hook up you want to use.
At home, I use timers on all my hoses so I don’t have to physically go out and water all the time and remember to turn it on and off. Soaker hoses are even better because they slowly direct the water right where you want it. You can even make your own soaker hoses by gathering up broken or cracked hoses and punching small holes into them.