Small House Water Totes – One Year Later

Those of you who have been following my old blog; Small House Under a Big Sky http:/ may remember reading about our installation of two 275 gallon water totes to capture rainwater off of our metal pole barn roof.

Double tanks water

The water totes sit on repurposed 8″ X 8″ logs we picked up along side of the roadway with a “free” sign on them. This height gives me the ability to slide a 5-gallon white plastic buckets under the spigot for water.

I’ve been reading about the water shortages in the Western part of the US and find myself feeling compassionate and very sad for the growers and ranchers caught up in this situation. My thinking at the time that we bought and connected this system was that a water shortage due to climate change was just a matter of time – and I definitely want to be prepared.Brown downspout and brown tub

Gene connecting the downspout, flexible hose to the tote. This is how the water flows from the pole barn roof into the tote.

I was most interested in setting this system up for several reasons…

  • I’m not a doomsday prepper, I do believe that climate change is going to alter the amount of water we naturally get through rainfall and that safe drinking water is going to not only become scarce….but become the wealth of the future.
  • I am philosophically opposed to companies like Nestels’ taking the ground water for free and selling it back to us for a cost. I believe that potable water is a basic human right.
  • With a big garden and animals, I want to be prepared for possible droughts.
  • Water is such a precious commodity to me that seeing all that water pouring off our barn roof and going into the ground around the barn seems like a waste of resources to me.
  • Water conservation is a worthwhile and positive effort, for us and for out community.

White pipe with faucet

A close up of the hard PVC pipe and metal hose end and spigot. This allows us to connect a hose or to open up to fill a bucket.

We completed our first season using this tote system and here is what we learned.

  • Check the tote system every few weeks to monitor what’s happening. Things can go wrong quickly.
  • Check your gutter periodically. Ours clogged once and we lost about 3” of rain that day.
  • 275 gallon of water is dispensed faster than you can believe.
  • We haven’t been able to find an appropriately sized pump so we are using gravity feed through a garden hose for drip and it is working out fine.
  • The totes empty quickly, in only a few hours.

We had a wet summer in Michigan this year with plentiful rainfall and our totes surprisingly filled up twice this gardening season. The first usage was for our vegetable garden and the second time we emptied both tanks was to water-in two, six foot white pines trees we planted this fall.

East pines USE

This hose is connected to the water tote system and uses gravity feed to drain its water.

It was a worthwhile experiment, and expense and one that I think worked out well for us. I’m glad we spent the $100.00 to purchase the two tanks and the various part for our system. We saved a lot of electricity this season (which will happen again next yearn as well) but even more, we made good use of a precious commodity that we would otherwise be losing to the ground – potable water.

If you want more information on rainwater catchment and grey water harvesting there is an e-book that can be purchased. This book is available from is the premier resource on water sustainability systems. You can take advantage of the incredible discount on this $25 e-book
during this week only.

Want some more information on what’s inside? Let’s take a look.

One method of rainwater harvesting that you can use is the cistern. Cisterns are for heavy-duty water catchment. They are similar to rain barrels, but are designed for much larger scale use. Cisterns can either be store-bought or DIY systems. If you do-it-yourself, one extremely important idea to keep in mind is:

Since cisterns hold large volumes of water it is extremely important that what you are building is strong enough to hold without failing.

The destructive potential of water should not be underestimated when building a cistern! Even modest amounts of water have the ability to cause great harm to your property.

Most cisterns are designed to collect rainwater for outdoor use. Rainwater should not be used as potable water!

These are just two important suggestions on cisterns from the Rainwater Catchment and Greywater Harvesting e-book. For a more detailed look into how to build one and things to avoid, check out this offer!

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at greywater. And if you have not done so already, please add us to your list of contacts.

Thank you for doing your part for a better future.


Small House Homestead Donna