How to Make Sustainable Water Storage Tanks

What You'll Need
55-gallon plastic barrel
2 Spigot fixtures
Wire screen
2 Hoses
Lumber (plywood and 2x4s, 4x4s)
Power drill
Wire cutters
Circular saw

To make a sustainable water storage tank, install one or more rain barrels under the downspouts of your home. Once installed, the rain will fill up the barrels, providing water to use on your garden and lawn without increasing your water bill. This method is sustainable because you are not taking from the water supply; rather, you are harnessing the falling rain and storing it for later use. There are a number of steps to successfully building a water storage tank, and it will require a few supplies and some man hours. When it is done, though, you will have a sustainable means of watering your landscape.

Step 1: Layout and Foundation

The first thing to do is decide where the rain barrel will go. It should be directly in line with a downspout from your gutters. If this is not possible, position it as closely as possible to the downspout. The foundation you build will support not only the weight of the barrel, but a potentially full barrel of water. It should be very sturdy. In addition to a wooden frame, the barrel may be lashed to the structure of the house to prevent tipping.

Step 2: Build Foundation

The foundation may be built any number of ways. Whatever the design, it should have a flat surface consisting of two pieces of ¾-inch plywood fastened to 4 legs each made from 4x4 pressure treated lumber. Crossbars should be added between each leg made of 2x4 lumber for added foundational support. The foundation should be high enough so that the barrel sits at least 2 feet off the ground. The higher the better, or else the water pressure will produce little more than a trickle. A barrel resting 4 feet off the ground will produce a decent amount of water pressure without being dangerously high.

Step 3: Adapt the Barrel

Once the foundation is complete, the next step is to prepare the barrel. Drill a hole in the lid of the barrel big enough for either the downspout to directly enter or for a piece of tubing that will run from the downspout into the barrel. You should have two spigots – one for the soaker hose and one for the overflow drain. According to the specifications or by determining the size of the spigot (opposite the valve), drill two more holes into the side of the barrel. One should be as close to the bottom as possible. The other should be about two inches from the top. Be sure to drill holes no bigger than the spigot attachment or you’ll have problems.

Step 4: Connect the Downspout

Either run the downspout directly in through the top of the barrel or disconnect a portion of it a few feet from the top of the barrel and connect a secure piece of flexible tubing to it. Run this tubing into the barrel.

Step 5: Connect the Spigots

Install and seal the two spigots following the manufacturer’s instructions. With proper installation, they should not leak. Some kind of waterproof sealant will likely be necessary to fully seal them.

Step 6: Install Wire Screen

In the gutter where the downspout branches off, fit a piece of wire screen. As long as it fits snugly and will not be washed away you do not need to fasten it. Make sure it is small enough to prevent twigs, leaves and other debris from entering the downspout. This screen should be kept clear especially during the autumn when the most debris falls.

Step 7: Attach the Hoses

Attach one hose to each of the spigots. Keep the top valve always open as this is the overflow. The bottom valve should be closed unless you are using the water.

As it rains, the barrel will fill up, and you will have free water to use for your lawn and garden. You will also be taking pressure off the storm drains and sewers. As an alternative, you can install a pump or air pressure valve to increase the water pressure. This will allow you to use a sprinkler. If you wish, you can install a similar sustainable water storage container at every downspout and store enough water to irrigate your lawn and garden whenever you need it.