How to DIY a rainwater collection system

When it comes to maintaining a lush and thriving garden, one invaluable resource often falls from the sky, completely free of charge – rainwater. As the scorching days of summer loom ahead, it's high time to equip yourself with the knowledge and tools to create your very own rainwater collection system. In this step-by-step guide, we'll walk you through the process of setting up your DIY rainwater collection system, allowing you to conserve water, lower your bills, and contribute to a greener, more sustainable world.

Step 1: Gathering barrels

Ideally, you would want at least 2 or 3 large 200 to 300l barrels (like those blue ones we often see on the side of the road costing around R 300 a pop). Having multiple barrels means you will have reserved tanks and can store any overflow as well. If purchasing a secondhand barrel, be sure to check that it didn't contain oil, pesticides, or any other type of toxic substance. 

 

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Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability

Step 2: Collecting barrel accessories

The following supplies can be purchased at most hardware and home stores. These little accessories will make all the difference in the practicality and convenience of your rainwater set-up. The following items needed are per barrel. 

  • 1 hose spigot tap goodies so you can easily access water from the barrel.
  • 1 PVC pipe couplings and 3 PVC bushings to manage water pressure and secure pipe connections. 
  • 1 hose adapter
  • 4 metal washers per barrel (12 in total if you are working with 3 barrels) 
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability
  • 1 roll of sealing tape
  • 1 tube of silicone caulk
  • 1 s-shaped aluminium downspout elbow to direct water from your downspout to the barrel
  • 1 piece of aluminium window screen to keep leaves, bugs, and other materials out of your water
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability
  • A water leveler 
  • Drill
  • A few bags of gravel - optional 
  • 4-6 concrete blocks
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability

Step 3: Level the barrel platform

Make sure that the area where you want to place the barrel(s) is levelled and has good access to the gutter downspout pipe. You may want to set up multiple barrels at multiple downspout areas if you have a wraparound garden or scattered beds/trees around your home. Stack your concrete blocks in the designated area and make sure they are level. 

Top tip: If you want to get fancy, dig out the levelled area and fill it with gravel before placing your concrete blocks. This will help keep moisture away from the house’s foundation and assist with drainage in that area.

Step 4: Adding the spigot and overflow valve

Drill a spigot hole in the side of the barrel about a quarter-way up. Make sure the hole you make is suited to the size spigot you have purchased. Next, squeeze a circle of caulk around the inside and outside of the hole. Attach the spigot tap with the pipe coupling and secure with the sealant tape to prevent leakage. Add washers to both the inside and outside of the barrel where you have prepared the hole. 

Now, make an overflow valve by drilling a hole near the top of the barrel. Add some caulk around the holes again, both inside and outside the barrel, then pop on a washer and insert your hose adapter.

Step 5: Assembly and final touches 

Connect the s-shaped aluminium downspout elbow to direct water from your downspout to the barrel. Make sure that the end of the elbow will dip well into the barrel so all the water gets collected there. You don't want the water to be pouring into the barrel from above.

If the barrel has a lid, use a hacksaw to cut a hole large enough for the end of the elbow to fit inside. Now cover the area around the hole with the metal screen to prevent nasties from falling into the barrel. 

And - voila! Bring on the rain, baby! 

Top tip: If you are using multiple barrels at the same downspout area, connect the barrels using more hose valves near the top of the container, but below the overflow valve you’ve made. Once the barrel is full, water will flow into the neighbouring container - how neat. 

 

Your gorgeous rainwater collection barrels will be your best friend this summer and you can garden on happily during dry spells. Get your family and friends on board too so that we can work together as eco-custodians and make positive, sustainable choices this season. 

Remember to visit your favourite GCA Garden Centre for water-wise plants and hydrozoning tips. You can read more about this Earth-happy landscaping technique here.

Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability

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