By far one of the easiest and fastest ways to get water for your off grid homestead is by collecting rainwater. You can use this water for your crops, cleaning, cooking, and washing, although having a well is probably better than harvesting rainwater but this is not an option for everybody. The problem with wells is that setting a well up is fairly costly and will take a lot of time, even if you hire a company to prospect for a good area on your land for groundwater you are still not guaranteed to find water, or even worse you might find that the water is contaminated.
Luckily setting up a rainwater harvesting system is fairly easy and extremely cheap. If you want to set up a rainwater harvesting system then you must check with your local authorities if harvesting rainwater is legal, in most states it is, although in states where the climate is fairly arid you will either not be allowed to harvest rainwater or you will be limited how much you can actually harvest.
If you are going to collect rainwater then my personal recommendation is to use a collapsable rainwater barrel that comes with a filter spigot overflow Click here to check it out on Amazon.com
While most states do allow you to harvest rainwater without any permits, but in some states, you might find that you will need a permit. In addition to this, if you set up a water cistern then in most cases, there are strict regulations about what kind of water cistern you can set up and how to actually set it up. On the other hand, if you harvest only a couple of barrels of rainwater for your homestead and garden, then you probably won’t have a problem.
In this list, you will find several methods of harvesting rainwater, including harvesting rainwater without gutters and without even using a roof. If you are using the rainwater to cook and clean then it is extremely important to filter and then purify the water with boiling. Especially if you live in close proximity to an industrial zone as all the chemicals deposited in your roof will end up in your water. If you are looking for off grid land, then I highly recommend you to read my recent article What land is good for off grid living? ( Top 15 Qualities ).
Using rainwater barrels to collect rainwater
These barrels usually are made of plastic, and they have a large opening on the top where it collects the rainwater and a small tap near the bottom. This tap basically works like a faucet, the more water in the barrel is the higher will be the pressure. You can even attach your garden hose to it to water your garden and crops. You can easily build such a rainwater barrel, although you should keep in mind to only use either food-grade barrels or barrels which are specially made for holding water, other types of barrels will have chemicals in them which are extremely difficult to get out. If you want to know how you can live off the grid in a boat then check out my recent article Living off the grid on a boat ( Top 15 Things to Know ).
Using a rainwater tarp to collect rainwater
This method is for people who do not have gutters or a roof to use to collect rainwater. For this, you will be needing a tarp and a water barrel, the idea is to let the tarp to collect the rainwater, and with the help of gravity, the water will naturally flow into the water barrel. The problem is that the water tarp needs to be on a higher elevation than the water barrel in order for this to work. You can either get a rainwater tarp or you could just as easily use any tarp which is waterproof.
Gather some rocks and make a circle or a square, then place the water tarp on it, in such a way that the edges are in an elevated position so the water doesn’t flow out. Make a hole in one of the corners of the tarp and attach a hose to it, this hose will channel the water into your water barrel. The trick is to make this attachment in the corner which is on the lowest elevation, so most of the water will flow to that corner naturally.
Using a water cistern to collect rainwater
Simply use your gutters to channel the water directly in the cistern or water barrel, without letting any of the water go to waste. A lot of people who live off the grid actually use this system, as it doesn’t take a long time to set it up and the only noticeable cost will be the water storage tank or cistern. People who live off the grid in NJ mostly use water cisterns, for more info about NJ check out my recent article Off grid living in New Jersey ( The Garden State ).
Using a wet water system to collect rainwater
This is rainwater harvesting on a larger scale, basically, you will collect all the water running through your gutters, from all sides of your house. Most people using this will set up a cistern on a lower elevation than the house so gravity does all the work, although I have seen some people using water pumps also. This is more ideal for people who grow a lot of crops and also have animals if you want to harvest rainwater just for your family’s needs then this won’t be necessary for you.
Collecting rainwater with large catchment systems
Not a lot of people use this water collection system as it can be fairly pricy, and you could have more or less the same results with a simple water cistern setup. The large catchment system basically collects all the water from your gutters and it collects it in an underground water tank or in a cistern in the basement. From here the water is filtered and it is ready for use through your water pipes. Although when it comes to ease of use this is probably one of the best systems, but you will be limited by the amount of water you can store.
Using bladder tanks to store the rainwater
I do have some friends who live off the grid in areas where harvesting rainwater is illegal, or they are extremely limited on the amount of rainwater they can harvest. For this you will need your homestead to have a crawlspace, simply put the bladder tank below it and channel all your gutter pipes to it. From the outside, nobody can see if you are collecting rainwater, although this system has a major drawback, which are rodents who often live in the crawlspace, there is some resin or chemical with which you can spray the bladder to keep away rodents but I can’t remember the products name, unfortunately.
Rainwater chains to channel the rain
You can find these rainwater chains in plenty of stores, most of them do have a decorative purpose although they are still functional. The idea behind it is that you can basically chain the water in a specific point with basically anything from a rope to a chain, mostly because of the water’s surface tension which tends to “stick” to surfaces. Although if you are living off the grid this probably won’t be as useful, but if you don’t have any pipes you could use a chain to channel the water into your water barrel, just keep in mind that metal tends to rust in water.
Using a green roof to harvest rainwater
You have probably seen a couple of houses that have on top of the roof moss or grass is growing, these are green roofs. Although these are not exactly a rainwater harvesting system but some people do use it for filtering water, although you will still need to use a standard filter in addition to this system. The way it works is that you place some soil and gravel on your roof and sprinkle some grass seeds when the rains come the soil will trap some of the water and the rest will go into your gutters.
The main problem with this method is that it is fairly expensive to set it up, you will have to reinforce the roof in order to hold all that soil and water trapped in the soil.
Making your own DIY rainwater collector
This method is good for people who do not have the option to use a roof for collecting rainwater. For this, you will need a water barrel and tarp, place the water barrel in an open area where the rain isn’t obstructed by the trees, suspend the tarp above it and in the middle of the tarp make a small hole. The tarp should look like a sink this way the tarp collects all the water and the water will flow to the lowest point of the tarp, where the hole is, and right below place your water barrel.
Rainwater gardens for filtering rainwater
Some people will channel all their water to go to their gardens, although gardens in the open get plenty of water from the rain, but with rainwater gardens, the runoff water will get more or less filtered. One of the best rainwater gardens which I have seen was used for greenhouses, the gutters were set up in such a way that all the water went into the greenhouses and was watering all the vegetables even when enclosed in the greenhouse.
Collecting rainwater with a plastic pond
In areas where the climate is fairly humid, you could set up a small pond with some plastic lining. Although this water will not be safe to be used for cooking, but for watering crops it could be fairly good. The main problem with these plastic ponds is that they are a breeding ground for mosquitos and parasites.
Harvesting rainwater is fairly easy and cheap if you are a DIY type of person then you will have no problem setting up such a system. For off grid rainwater harvesting, I highly recommend you to use a water cistern, as this can hold plenty of water for a couple of months. For states with arid climates where the regulations regarding harvesting rainwater are fairly strict, you could use a rainwater bladder tank.