Anyone use rainwater or grey water?

Ida, MI

I plan on putting in 2 rain barrels this year. Actually I guess you could call them rain tanks as I am looking at using 125 gallon plastic tanks sold at the local Tractor Supply. Also have considered the idea of greywater. Anybody have any experience with rain/greywater?

west Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

I try to use nothing but rainwater on bulb seedlings/I have a lot of them. Fortunately, we've had a lot of rain this winter.

Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

I use rainwater while we have it, I have 3 barrels taking water from the greenhouse roof and shed rooves, one doesn't get much from one side of a greenhouse so I should really move it to take water from 2 sides of the other 2 greenhouses. One barrel was already here, a recycled plastic one with a lid and metal clasping band to hold it, I think they are industrial barrels about a 40 gallon oil drum size (I grew up with that as my father was a farmer!), some may not know what that looks like. A pipe going from the roof guttering to a hole cut in the lid, with a brass tap inserted near the bottom. It takes water from one side of the greenhouse and the adjacent shed.

You need to stand them on something to give some height to put the watering can under. I got the other two from the local tip when they used to sell things cheap (don't sell now), or not as cheap as I think they should have sold it! One is the same industrial barrel which are dark blue, we painted them green, bought a brass tap which is used for brick walls with side entry, added washers whatever you can make or find to stop leakage. That fills up very quickly from one sloping roof on the garage. All you need from the rain gutter is a converter to join to a round pipe, we used an angled elbow part way down to direct the pipe to the barrel and another to direct it down into the barrel. I could take pics!

Ida, MI

Thank you both. Yes Wallaby please, pictures would be wonderfull. My biggest question is how fast do your barrels fill up? The reason I was considering the 125 tanks is when I started figuring how much water would be coming off of the roof serviced by the downspouts it seemed a 50 gallon drum would not be very much. One downspout comes from a 14x55' roof area not including extra area added by slope. The other roof area is 12x36'. Now if you figure you get 1" of rain during a downpour which is not at all unusual here and that seems like one heck of a lot of water. Anyone know of a formula to convert sq' surface area per 1" of water = how many gallons? I have never seen this subject addressed before, the amount of water that can be expected from ones roof area in regards to rainbarrels. Anyone seen this anywhere? I have a well and get my water basicly for free, however it is very cold and contains tons of sulfer, most of my plants don't seem too fond of it. I could run it through my water treatment system to remove the sulfer however this seems like a big waste, using treated water on plants and I doubt it would be any healthyer for them. Rainwater seems like just the ticket, taking advantage of Gods gift which in Michigan we get a decent amount of. Problem being, when I will want to be using the water will be during summer when there has been lack of rainfall. Here in SE Michigan in summer we quite often get large summer storms followed by extended dry periods and my soil is sandy loam. I mulch heavily yet there are still times and certain plants that could use supplemental watering. So I would like to be able to have a decent storage capacity appropriate for at least 1" of rainfall. Any thoughts would be appreciated. I have also considered stting up a greywater irrigation system. ie using water from washing and my sump pump and running it to certain garden areas, anyone done this?

Oh yea and where have you folks gotten your diverters to direct your water from the downspout to the barrel?

Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

I did use bath water and washing water many years ago when there was a dorught and hosepipe ban, that problem seems to be not so bad now, and I live elsewhere, my only reservations on using grey water on a constant basis would be the build up of detergents.

I use my barrels mainly for all the pots I have with plants in, in the summer it can be dry and water can run out but now with more barrels it doesn't take many small downpours to have enough until the next one, but I do think I could put another one next to the house for pots I have there. A good downpour and water goes over the end of the guttering where two different angled rooves meet with a gully between.

The existing barrels which take water from rooves do fill very quickly, the garage roof has been rebuilt to join with the shed roof, so it only has one slope which is around 16' x 9', the shed is a similar size. I have thought of putting another barrel next to the ones there with an overflow, it seems such a waste when water is need when there isn't much coming from the skies! I do use some water even over winter in the greenhouses, late winter into spring is sometimes dry too and some of the pots outside need watering, I know I was watering late in autumn to winter last year.

We rarely get even an inch of rain at one time, so considering your roof sizes and the rain you get, plus using it on the ground, you will need the biggest storage containers you can get your hands on. I would like to be able to hook up a hose pipe too but would need more space, larger containers.

The calculations would be a tricky one of how much rain you would get, rain gauges are normally fairly narrow tubes so how that would compute to shed rooves I have no idea! Now if you could measure what volume you had in a certain amount of time, no that wouldn't work either, rain falls at different rates of 'heaviness', think I'll pass on that one!

You should be able to get diverters from a DIY store, we have B&Q here where you can get all manner of DIY goods, building materials, garden items, kitchen units, flooring, tools, plumbing, you name it. As you have already got a downspout you would require a diverter, without a downspout it's just a matter of what we have done, making it go in the right direction.

In the pic the barrel next to the garage, the other two can just be seen, the black top only of the other side in view, the one at other side of the greehouse has a home made wooden top as it had no top. It was a purpose made water butt from the tip, with a very slow running plastic tap, and a leak in the bottom! A thick blob of silicone sealant fixed the leak.

The windows in the rebuilt garage were free too from our neighbour who does building jobs, they are old aluminium patio doors. Well one does need light for the plants to grow in there!

Thumbnail by wallaby1
Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

That was a tiny thumbnail! here's a close up of the pipe connections to the garage.

Thumbnail by wallaby1
Ida, MI

Nice setup you have got there Wallaby! I know the formula for figuring out how many gallons of water fall on that roof when 1" of rain falls. I know its out there, ANYBODY? HELP! LOL

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6b)

Here you go spot


KC Metro area, MO(Zone 6a)

We let our laundry water run out a hose into the yard to water the trees and sometimes the gardens. Our trees have managed to stay alive and looking pretty decent because of this.

Glendale/Parks, AZ

I plan on installing a rain collection system this year at my summer place in the forest. I got some ideas from a local guy who hooked together several 50 gal drums. He joins them close to the top and when one fills it spills into the next and so on. He has them elevated with spigots on the bottom of each. I also use wash water for my trees to help abate bark beetles.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Florida Energy Conservation has a good web link for cistern collection... but I cannot find it at the moment.

I had 55 gal. barrels under the 2 downspouts on the front of my house in Asheville, NC. They filled up fast even in summer... but I didn't have enough lift/slope to easily water my garden from the hose bibbs I put at the bottom of each barrel.

Here, I plan to install a solar powered shallow pump into my spring to transport water up the hill to holding tanks which I will use as gravity-fed water for my garden.

Ida, MI

Wow! Thanks henryr10! I printed that and added it to my favorites in case I lose it. I thought we were talking about a LOT of water. Looks like my 125 gallon idea will let me collect about 1/4" of rainfal on my downspout serving the largest roof area! Looks like I would need to have about a 500 gallon capacity to meet my goal of capturing 1" WOW! This is much more water than I was imagining. OK, back to the drawing board. I think I will try the 125 gallon tank on the smaller roof area and in the meantime and try to dig up maybe a used 500 gallon tank for the larger area if this goal of 1" seems realistic. Think I will look up the average rainfall for my area in the summer months, the only time I really need any irrigation normally. The bummer is I think our summer storms can produce more than an " easily. More research to do. But thank you so much, I couldn't think of how to do a search tpo come up with that info.
So there you have it folks, look at all of that free water dropping from the sky!

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Hey Spot... there's FREE STUFF everywhere if we'd but see it! LOL.

Ida, MI

Wow! Average rainfal in my area is approx. 3.5" for each month of June, July and August! I could fill a swimming pool over the summer! LOL

Ida, MI

Oh I know darius, just trying to convince any fencesitters out there to take the plunge (pun intended).

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

I didn't have the patience to find or retrofit barrels so I went with the pricey option from Gardener's Supply: 2 linking green plastic barrels w/combined capacity of 150 gal.
Since I'm on a well & septic, plus can pump as much warm, mucky water out of the river as I want, waste & water aren't huge issues for me right now, but what I want to do with the barrels is use them as a pumping station by filling them from the river from time to time and having the water available gardenside. That way I don't have to trench a line, I can just lug hoses around.

I'm hoping to lay soaker hoses for the first time and really cut down on watering chores.

Denver, CO(Zone 6a)

I want to but it's actually ILLEGAL here? Water rights and such. Can you believe that?

Ida, MI

Yea, I believe it. You have to watch out with greywater usage too. Lots of regs. on that one. But I figure what the gov. don't know won't hurt them.

KC Metro area, MO(Zone 6a)

hehehee. That's our thought too. Plus we live in the country so we can do more.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6b)

spot You're Welcome
rainfall roof gallons

Our old neighbor ran a downspout horizontally over to his above ground pool.
It pivoted so when the pool was full he could drop it back down to vertical.

We take showers then soak in clean water.
That water is obviously heated so we leave the water in the tub.
Overnight that water gives heat (which we already paid for) back into the room.
Come morning the water goes to water the plants (we have 100's inside in the Winter) or outside to the ponds in the growing seasons.
We pay for water on the formula ...where c is the cost of water in..... Water Bill = c+ 2c
The 2c is sewer tax.... so every gallon we use in the garden from the hose still gets taxed for sewer
By using water from the ponds and bathtub we save 100's of dollars a year.
The runoff spout from our roof goes into the pond too.

This Fall we added a metal roof to the garage.
It's 10.5' x 21' on a side so 441 sq feet. We'll pick up 248 gallons for every 1" of rain.
As our ave annual rainfall is 41" (excluding the snowfall) we could realize over 10,000 gallons just from THAT roof alone.
I'm working on a Tank/water feature in the 1200 gallon range.
It will go across the back of the garage (which is 10' from our veggie


Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

It's amazing, I didn't think there would be a chart on it, so it didn't occur to me to do a search! I thought you would have a lot of water from that size roof, should solve a few problems.

I'm wondering where you will get a 500 gallon tank, there seems to be only the 40 gallon water butts here but countries that experience long dry spells with heat as the norm probably have them. The question is, can you get one for FREE?

Our average rainfall is 53mm for June and July, 64 mm August, or about 2 to 2.5". That is for Lincoln, it's on a hill and the rain follows the ridge, probably less where I am 10 miles out.

Ida, MI

What kind of tank/water feature are you talking about? Sounds interesting. I thought this thread would draw folks from the dry areas but it seams like most of us so far live in higher rainfall areas, strange. Maybe because we can catch it so abundantly. LOL I'll you this much, if I had to pay for city water I would have a cistern in my basement that would hold thousands of gallons, I cant see paying what some folks do for something that falls out of the sky for free.

Ida, MI

Wallaby, they seell tanks of all sizes here for farmers and no unfortunately they are not free, but sometimes you can pick them up inexpensively.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6b)

I'm going to use thin cinder block walls and a pond liner for the tank.
A sump pump for dispensing to the garden.....

You could easily do an in ground pond for your tank.

Currently we have 3 each 100 gallon rigid ponds and a 250 gallon horse tank.
The Tank we got damaged at TC for 25 bucks. It had a small crack in it which 3 bucks worth of silicon and a square foot of pond liner fixed quite nicely.....
They are well landscaped and full of fish.
We use that to water our 200 or so containers and flower beds............


So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Ric, Sounds like you have a good system. I'm looking at used water tanks, 125 gallons, for $25 each. I don't know if the man still has them or not.

Here's some tidbits gleaned from surfing...

Masonry-walled cisterns help neutralize water to reduce corrosiveness and precipitate out any heavy metals dissolved in the rainwater. These heavy metals then accumulate in the sludge at the cistern bottom. Metal or plastic-lined cisterns or non-masonry sealed inside walls do not allow this process to occur.

Sources of Cistern Contamination
Many people think of cistern water as being pure, but this may not be true. Matter that settles on the roof supplying the cistern, such as organic matter from trees, airborne contaminants from burning wood or coal or droppings from birds in addition to bacteria buildup in sand filters, sediments in the cistern and an unclean cistern itself, can contaminate the water. Water that is hauled can also be contaminated.

Bacterial Pollution
Bacterial contamination may be found in any cistern water, suggesting the need for periodic testing for coliform bacteria, which can indicate the presence of pathogenic bacteria. Maintenance should include a regular cleaning and disinfection of the system.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Someone in need of a tank might into a new fiberglass septic tank. They are aesthetically unattractive but will hold large quantities of water which is the point.

Sultan, WA(Zone 8a)

It's illegal here as well. Disrupting the watershed . . . Whatever. What is more disruptive?

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Renwings... I'm sure we will come across more than one government/political barrier about water to which we will all have varying emotions. Suffice it to say we all understand, and choose to avoid political dialog on the thread.

Dang, did I say that??? I could certainly get heated up about water and politics but then Dave would just have to dismember me and cancel my subscription.

Sultan, WA(Zone 8a)

In truth, it was a rhetorical question. I've been feeling downright caustic lately about such things. So you'll have to forgive my outbursts.

Honestly I don't know which would be worse, dismemberment or cancellation.

Ida, MI

Ah? Its political to question the wisdom of some of our wacky laws? Take for example the use of greywater. At present my sump pump is drained through the farmfield to the creek way, way back behind my house. My washing machine uses the sump. This arrangement has been in place since the house was built in the 50s. Its highly illegal now and I can understand why. It doesn't however seem to bother any of the wildlife that use that creek. Actually during the dry season when the creek drys up it is frequented by lots of critters. Now of course there have to be laws against that kind of thing, people did that kind of thing out here because of the low population density and everyone would not be as carefull as I am about what kind of detergent etc. goes into that sump. However, if I try to change it so that it drains into a little irrigation system that goes into my own yard to water my plants chances are again this would be illegal even though it would be going into a septic system anyway. Septic systems dont do anything to destroy bacteria etc. all they do is break down some of the solid waste. If you check out the "Humanure Handbook" you would see how much water we are wasting by contaminating it with our body waste. Composting would solve this problem and correctly composted humanure is !00% safe, especially if you are using your own, how can you give yourself a disease? Not to mention the heat of a good compost pile destroys the harmfull bacteria and parasites, something ac septic tank does not do. Bottom line is some of our laws are going to have to be adjusted in light of newr information to allow greater latitude for people to start trying and perfecting more options of disposal. Our current system is going to need to be revamped if we expect to survive with increasing populations. It not politics, its scientific fact. I don't see why people cant discuss this type of thing and not be civil or let it degenerate into political mudslinging. You may not agree with someone but that doesn't mean you have to let things get out of hand.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

spot... your post is SO hard to read because it's just one long paragraph that's hard for old eyes to follow. Can you break future posts up so there's more white space? Thanks! :)

Your content is thoughtful, though. I agree we should be able to discuss many things as intelligent adults and not stoop to mudslinging. But it IS Dave's Garden and it's his decision that we do not bring the weeds of turmoil into his garden.

I don't know the laws in this county or state about greywater as I recently moved here. I have a couple of books on greywater systems (including sand filters) and I plan to utilize the greywater where I can. I'm far enough in the country and on enough land that I doubt anyone would care as long as it's done right and not a health hazard.

This whole place needs replacement of all the plastic water pipes under the house (they are old, brittle and undersized), and shut-off valves installed for each sink, toilet, tub and shower. Should be fairly easy at the same time to run the showers, laundry and kitchen drains separately from the sewage drains. I guess I need to hunt my greywater books and do some planning!

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

My toilets pipe directly into a septic tank that drains directly into the Kankakee River! I don't know much about septic systems, but that just strikes me as bad news.

I have to believe that diverting human waste into the compost pile that is much farther away from the riverbank wouldn't be preferable.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Summer, human wastes break down fully in septic systems except for some residual sludge that builds up in the bottom of the tank and needs pupming out every few years. The healthier the tank (bacteria) the quicker it breaks down.

Here, my septic feeds into a creek as well... at least any drainage from the leach field. The county requires the leach field needs to be at least 50 feet from the creek... and 100 feet from my spring. Nonetheless, there's no way I'd eat trout from the creek!

Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)


That reminds me of what a man said about his new country septic system in the '40s. He said it was supposed to be fit to drink, but he would get his out of the well. LOL

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Indy, I won't even drink the municipal water for which I pay. Tastes terrible, so I buy Aquafina. Then I save the bottles and fill them up when I visit a DG friend who has the BEST tasting pure spring water!

Nth Coast NSW, Australia

Rainwater tanks are common in aussie rural areas- this one is 3000 gals, and fills from our roof. Works well, but the rainfall in my area is 52 inches a drier areas bores are more common. I divert the first flow of water from the roof to ensure dust, etc, does not end up in the tank.

Thumbnail by fourx
Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Wow! that is quite a tank you have there.

Nth Coast NSW, Australia

...not everything is bigger in Texas then, it seems....:)
The wire up the sides is to grow honeysuckle over it, and it's now covered and not quite so stark. We use the grey water from the shower on the vegetable garden, but it has a number of disadvantages- it needs to be run through an extensive gravel bed to remove suds and heat, and there is no doubt it affects the taste of root vegetables, particularly carrots and parsnips.

This message was edited Feb 28, 2007 10:20 PM

Iowa City, IA(Zone 5a)

I'm glad I found this thread! If there are others on any forum that would be helpful to me, please let me know.

I want to set up a small simple rainbarrel system, mainly to use in watering newly planted perennials. (I don't water my established plants- try to put in stuff that does well without it). So like I said, something smallish (40 gal? 80 gal?) and simple.

My questions: Can I use a barrel that is open at the top, or just has a screen on it? Can I use those mosquito ring things (I think it is Bt) without harm to plants or birds? How about a goldfish in there to eat mosquito larvae? If I want to put a faucet in, can I do that with a wooden whiskey barrel?


Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Hi biscuitz5 ~ glad to see someone else has interest in this. I use a couple of plastic barrels to catch runoff. I did use Mosquito Dunks or donuts. They won't harm pets, plants or fish. I quit them as they were hard to find without mail ordering. They have now become more common. I use some cheap fiberglass screen on the top of barrels. In this climate, I have found much less evaporation as well as the bonus of keeping trash (leaves, pine straw, etc.) out of the rain barrels. We do have mosquitos here but not the vicious ones that you do but I've not had a problem with them in the screen covered barrels. You will have to experiment and let us know... pod

BTW, no experience with wooden barrels ~ they would certainly be more attractive!

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.