A Simple Living Guide to Rainwater Usage

Water is one of our greatest natural resources.  However, when it rains, most of the water ends up in storm drain systems where it has to be treated to be recycled. But you can actually create systems to store and use rainwater where it will do the most good.  You can also save money and natural resources by following a rainwater usage plan for your household.

A Simple Living Guide to Rainwater Usage article cover image

A Simple Living Guide to Rainwater Usage

The Benefits of Storing and Using Rainwater

There are many reasons to store and use rainwater.  It benefits both you and the environment around you.  People have stored rainwater for thousands of years, so this isn’t a new idea. 

It’s just become more popular in recent years as we’ve learned what a great benefit it can be.  Understanding more about these benefits can help you make the decision to begin using rainwater.

First, storing rainwater actually reduces flooding and erosion that can be caused by the downspout of your gutters.  This can help keep your yard looking great and prevent water from ending up in storage drain systems.

Using rainwater saves money

When you store and use rainwater, you can also save money.  Normally, you have to pay for the water that you use to irrigate your lawn or to wash your car.  But with stored rainwater, this becomes a free resource for you.

Rainwater is better for your plants

When you use rainwater to water your plants, you’ll actually provide them with better nutrition.  Rainwater is naturally full of minerals that are good for plants.  It’s also free from pollutants and chemicals found in tap water.

If you live in an area that can be prone to drought, storing rainwater can provide you with a water source during those dry times.  City water sometimes becomes restricted during drought conditions, but your rain barrels will be accessible to you.

When it comes to the environment, freshwater is an extremely limited resource.  Only 3% of the world’s water supply is able to be used for drinking and other home use. 

Because water consumption is high in industrialized countries, natural sources of water are beginning to dry up.  Harvesting rainwater captures a renewable resource and prevents water from entering storm drainage systems where it can become contaminated.

Creating a Storage System for Rainwater

Collecting rainwater has become a popular way to conserve water in recent years.  That’s good news – because it’s made it possible to find many different systems for storing it.

One of the most popular and least expensive methods is using a rain barrel. Rain barrels are large containers that can collect rainwater from the gutters of your home.  They can be made from materials such as large trash cans or buckets.

You can also purchase commercial kits that you can put together easily designed specifically for storing rainwater.  Once you have a system in place, your bucket will begin to fill each time it rains.

With a rain barrel it’s important to make sure you take some safety precautions.  For example, the top needs to have a child and pet proof top that doesn’t allow small ones to fall in. 

You also need to have a filter at the top that prevents debris from going into the barrel along with the rainwater.  If you find that this system works well for you, you can even add multiple barrels so that you don’t have any overflow during a rainy season.

Rain barrels typically have a tap at the bottom for you to remove the water.  Some of them allow you to attach a standard garden hose so that you can use the water directly in your yard.

how to use rainwater

Always make sure that any material you use for your rain barrel is food grade.  This means it won’t leach harmful chemicals into the water and the water will be safe to use.

While rain barrels are the least expensive and simplest to install, there are more sophisticated systems if you’d like to have more water storage and can afford the extra cost.

A rain barrel typically holds around 50 gallons of water for use.  You can have several barrels to hold more water.  But if you’re interested in storing much more, you’ll need a different type of collection system.  One choice is called the Rainwater Pillow. 

The Rainwater Pillow is a system that holds up to 1,000 or more gallons of water using a fabric container.  The amount it holds will depend on the size that you purchase.  For the typical homeowner, the original 1,000 gallon size is sufficient.

This system is much more expensive, costing thousands of dollars, but if you use a lot of water in your household for gardening or even farming this could be a valuable investment for you.

You can also invest in an underground system that catches rainwater and allows you to pump it out for use.  You can purchase a system that will provide water for your lawn and garden, but can also be used for toilets.

This system is quite a bit more expensive than other options because of its size, underground placement, and materials.  However, it can pay for itself in the long run by replacing your dependence on other water supplies.

In order to have this type of system, you’ll want to look in your local area for a company that specializes in it.  The cost will depend on your area and your specific needs.

First Flush Systems for the Cleanest Water

One concern people have when using a rainwater barrel system from the rooftop is that it can become polluted by materials on your rooftop as the rainwater heads to the gutters.

This is a real concern as debris can contaminate the water in your barrel.  A great solution for this is to use a first flush system.  The first rain you’ve had is usually the most polluted as it washes away debris.

With a first flush system, the first five or even 10 gallons of water are stored and set aside from the rest of your rain barrel storage.  This is the water most likely to end up with sediments or chemicals.

rainwater use tips

You can simply use that water for your lawn and use the rest of the water for your purposes such as a vegetable garden or household cleaning. 

Rain Barrel Maintenance

Once you have a rain barrel, there are things you’ll need to do to keep it in good condition so that you can make use of the water you’ve stored.  These simple steps will help you get the most of your system.

First, you should empty your barrel at least once a month.  This keeps water from accumulating algae and developing an unpleasant smell.  If you want to be able to allow water to sit longer, you can add a capful of chlorine bleach to the barrel.

This will stop the development of algae and at that small concentration it won’t harm your plants.  However, if you use more than that, it could become harmful.  You also want to avoid using an acid such as vinegar because it will harm your plants.

When it comes to your gutters, you’ll want to make sure that you clean them regularly or install a gutter screen that prevents debris from getting in.  This will cut down on the debris and sediment that gets into your rain barrel.

If you notice that your barrel has developed a leak, you don’t have to throw it out.  In many cases you can use aquarium caulk made from silicone to seal up the hole.  This is available in hardware stores and is inexpensive.

Another concern for rainwater barrels is the development of mosquito populations.  Draining the barrel regularly is one way to prevent this.  But you can also add a larvae tablet to your barrel that can prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

Adding this type of tablet won’t harm your plants and will prevent problems such as West Nile virus that can be spread through contact with mosquitoes.

You also need to be careful if you live in an area with very cold winters.  Freezing and thawing over and over again can weaken your rain barrel.  Before it gets that cold, drain your barrel and disconnect it to prevent problems.

When you’re storing your rain barrel for extended periods of time, it’s best to store them upside down. This keeps them free from debris.

How Much Can You Collect?

You may think it will take a long time to collect water in your rain barrel.  But you can actually collect thousands of gallons a year.  You can figure out approximately how much water you’ll collect for every inch of rainfall.

First, you’ll need to estimate the square footage of your roof.  Then divide that number in half.  The number you end up with is the number of gallons of water you can collect from one inch of rainfall.

how to store rainwater

The average house can collect over 400 gallons of water with a half inch of rain.  As you can imagine, that adds up fast during rainy seasons.  This is a great reason to have multiple barrels or larger systems.

Uses for Stored Rainwater

Rainwater isn’t usually used for drinking (although it can be), but it can be used for many other purposes.  It may surprise you to see how many different ways you can use stored rainwater.

The most obvious use for rainwater that you collect is watering your lawn and garden.  It can be costly to water your yard during dry and hot summer months.  Having a rainwater storage system allows you to have access to free water. 

It will also allow you to continue watering even if your water service has imposed restrictions due to drought. One of the easiest ways to use your barrel is to connect it to a soaker hose.  You can use it to keep your lawn irrigated and you can even use it to protect the foundation of your home.

While this isn’t available everywhere, many cities allow residents to use rainwater to flush toilets.  You can even set up a rainwater system where the water is automatically brought into your home for toilet flushing.

This can actually save you quite a bit of money on your water bill, especially if you have a large family or many toilets that are used frequently.

If you own an automobile, you can use rainwater to fill your radiator instead of the tap water you might normally use.  In most cases this will need to be mixed with antifreeze.

You can also use rainwater to wash your car instead of hooking up the hose to the city water system.  This will save money and conserve the water you would normally use.

When you need to clean your home, you can use rainwater instead of tap water to mop.  Simply fill a bucket and bring it inside to clean your floors and other surfaces.

You can use rainwater for washing dishes and even for bathing if you have a filter system to make it better for use inside.  It can also be used for laundry.  Laundry actually makes up a large percentage of water use in households, so this can save a lot of money.

Having water stored in rain barrels can help you if you have a natural disaster or other emergency that keeps you from being able to use your typical water supply. You’ll want to make sure that you have filtration and purification tools before using it. 

For example, you may need to boil the water before drinking or add water purification tablets in order to drink the water.

You can even share the water you’ve collected with neighbors if you have more than you can use.  This can serve as a great example and encourage others to install their own rain barrel systems.

You may not think that your small system of rain barrels makes a big difference, but it can make a difference for your household and you can create a ripple effect in your community.

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Preparing for Water Stores in a Pandemic

If things go wrong, you may lose the ability to have water in your home the way that you’ve always depended on it in the past. In a pandemic, the water supply can suddenly become unusable. While we can go weeks without food, we can only go a few days without water – so your water stores are an important thing to focus on!

water stores article cover image

Water is the one supply you definitely can’t live without for very long. Above all else, you have to be prepared for a good water supply that will keep you and your family alive for days, weeks and months.

Preparing for Water Stores in the Event of a Pandemic

The problem with water is that it’s heavy. It’s not the most portable item to carry around, considering that each person should have a minimum of one gallon per day to use. But aside from carrying a small amount, there are ways you can prepare for better water stores in the event of a crisis or disaster.

Water survival is important because water supplies can become interrupted if there’s a lack of electricity, if a terror attack on our water supplies takes place, or if you’re forced to head out to an area like the woods where you can’t just walk over to a sink when you’re thirsty.

The water supply can become compromised at any time. This simple fact is why you often see those boil advisories on the news. You need to be prepared by stockpiling water as soon as possible. 

Short term water storage

Short term water supplies can be met with water bottles, filters, and water purification tablets. But if you’re prepared to bug out to an area other than your home, make sure you scout out water locations (like a stream or river) ahead of time so that you don’t run the risk of running out.

There are some cool products on the market for short-term water storage. These include portable options like water bricks (which can actually be used for more than water), water socks, and even backpacks with built in hydration packs.

Long term water storage

Long-term water storage is important to plan for. Not only do you and your family need water to survive, but you’ll need it for your crops and animals as well as for cleaning and maintaining proper hygiene.

You can invest in water storage tanks that are perfect for indoor or outdoor use. Both should be BPA-free for safety reasons, and if they’re exposed to light, then they should have UV inhibitors in them so that your water isn’t broken down from the light source.

Stock up now!

The water must be stored away from any direct sunlight. Warm water is an invitation for bacteria to grow and has the potential to make you sick. So you’ll need to keep the water stored in a cool area. 

After you get your supply in, you need to look over it often to make sure it remains viable. Water can be stored in plastic bottles or jugs. Wash the bottles, soda bottles, or any clear jugs, and then fill them with water from your home. 

Other options for water storage

You can also buy water barrels. These are 55-gallon barrels that are great for holding an abundant supply of water, and you can find them online. They’re specifically for long-term water storage. 

But you would also need to keep these away from direct sunlight. You can create a cistern for catching rainwater. What you do is position a barrel beneath any runoff areas of your home. 

For example, you can place the cistern directly beneath your gutter pipe. Instead of the water going into the ground and getting wasted, it can be used for drinking or other water needs. 

Make sure your containers keep out light and have a strong seal. In an emergency situation, there are water bladders where you can safely fill up your bathtub with a lot of water in a sealed, plastic container.

In a pinch, when you need a water supply, you can get it from rivers, ponds, or lakes – but the water must be treated first before it’s safe to use. When you use water that you get or collect yourself, you need a filtering system. 

Make it drink-able

Water stores have to be rotated out just like food – it won’t keep forever. Make sure you label the dates on your water containers. Tap water will keep for about half a year. Always check the water first no matter what to ensure it looks clean. Rotate properly stored water once a year.

The filter can clear your water of bacteria and other pathogens that can make you ill if you ingest them. There are different kinds of systems you can get – ranging from the very elaborate to the elementary, such as filtering straws. 

Boiling the water you need to use for eating or drinking kills pathogens as long as the temperature of the water hits about 215 degrees Fahrenheit. Chemical ways to purify water include using iodine. 

You can get these in tablets or crystals. But you need to be aware that iodine does not kill some organisms. So use these only in a case where you have nothing else to use. 

Chlorine tablets are good to use to purify water, and so is regular household bleach. If you use bleach, don’t use any brands that have additives. So don’t use scented bleach. 

To make water safe to drink, put ¼ of a teaspoon into every gallon of water you want to purify. So if you had a five-gallon container of water you wanted to make safe for use, you would add a teaspoon of household bleach. 

Other posts on water:

Why We Love the Lifestraw Prepper Water Filter

It’s common knowledge that you can’t survive long without water. Usually, having a clean water supply isn’t a big deal. Most people have access to plenty of it. Yet, it’s those times of emergency and those times where you’re away from a clean source of water that can have a significant impact on your life. That is why we wanted to test the Lifestraw Prepper Water Filter.

Prepper Water Filter

If there’s a situation where the only water you have to drink may be contaminated with bacteria, you could be in trouble. You’d be forced to take a chance and drink it anywhere, opening yourself up to some severe health risks.

People need water to survive and oddly enough, the human body is made up of about 75% water. On average, a human will lose approximately a half-gallon of water each day through urination and perspiration. This amount increases when you sweat due to excessive heat or activity. The fluids lost, simply must be replaced to maintain good health.

With this information, it is easy to understand why water is so crucial to survival. For this reason, it is a great idea to keep an extra stash of water on hand in case of an emergency.

Make finding water a priority

Even if you have some water with you in your survival kit, it is important to locate water quickly if you are stranded for a period of time out in the wilderness. Depending on the length of the situation, you may need more water to drink. It is never too early to plan ahead and search for water.

Adults can survive for several weeks without food but will last only days without water. When fluids that are lost are not replaced, dehydration occurs. Symptoms of dehydration include weakness and loss of mental capacity. Dehydration can not only be serious, but fatal. Finding water is crucial for outdoor survival. This is a skill that must be learned in order to survive.

Find water before food

Often, people make the mistake of searching for food before they give much consideration to locating safe water for drinking. Never wait until you are out of water to decide it is time to look for something to drink.

Finding water can be tricky and takes time. Furthermore, water must be made safe to drink. This task also uses up your valuable time. Keep in mind, that your body is continuously losing water that must be replaced.

While you look for water, it is important to avoid dehydration. To prevent water loss, stay cool. Rest whenever possible. Overexertion will only add to the amount of water your body is losing. Find shade and avoid direct sunlight. Avoid alcohol and fatty foods. This simply wastes the water your body has on hand.

Water needs to be potable

Know That all water is not the same. Although the body needs water to survive, unhealthy drinking water can have serious problems associated with it. Learn about what types of water are considered safe and dangerous. Learning how to properly treat water is a life-saving skill for outdoor survival.

It is wise to make sure that your outdoor survival kit contains the tools you will need to treat water and make it suitable for consumption. You should know how to use the products in the event of an emergency.

Simply having the tools to purify water is not enough. It is imperative that you learn how to properly use these items to make the water safe to drink.

Lifestraw Personal Water Filter in a hand

One of the top tools we love that should be in every bug-out bag or medic kit: a Lifestraw. 

Lifestraw Prepper Water Filter

Fortunately, there is a way that you can always be prepared. If you have a Lifestraw Personal Water Filter, you’ll never have to worry about being able to drink water. 

It’s the perfect tool in the event of a crisis, and your survival is depending on water. One of the reasons that it’s such a perfect item to have around? The simple fact that it doesn’t take batteries in order to operate it. You will never have to worry about it not being usable. It also doesn’t have any parts that need to move for it to work, so you’ll never be caught with a water filter where the elements have worn out. 

This Lifestraw is a great item to have on hand at home, as well as in your car. The filter is strong enough to keep out even the most robust bacteria. That means that you would have protection against nasty things like Giardia and Salmonella. 

You also won’t have to worry about cryptosporidium or E-coli either. The filter is especially helpful when you’re going to an area that’s known to have problems with the safety of the water supply. 

How Lifestraw Works

How to use a Lifestraw Personal Water Filter

The filter is lightweight and can fit into your pocket or backpack. Since it doesn’t require you to mix any chemicals, you don’t have to worry about being thirsty and having to wait to get something to drink. 

You can insert the filter right into a body of water and drink as much as you want. Because it does the job so well, if you know you’re going to go out hiking or camping and you’ll be near water, you won’t have to load down your gear with bottles of water. 

All you need to take to have something to drink is the filter. It can effectively eliminate 99.9999% of bacteria found in water. The EPA rating on this water filter is higher than the score needed to pass approval. 

Lifestraw Personal Water Filter 3 pack picture

It’s simple to use, too. All you have to do is take the caps off the ends and put the bottom of the filter straw in the water source. As you drink through the straw, the membrane stops the bacteria from reaching your mouth and holds it there. 

All you get is good, refreshing water. You’ll want to get one of these filters for every member of your family so that you are prepared in the event you’ll need them. 

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How to Store Water Safely

We’ve talked about Emergency Prep before; about needing a water supply, bug out bags, and stocking up on enough food that you can eat with minimal preparation in the event you have to relocate quickly or are without power for an extended period of time. One critical thing you need to know: How to store water.

how to store water
 While wildfires rage on in different areas of the world and people are dealing with those toxic fumes, there are so many other things we need to consider: 
  • Tornadoes
  • Blizzards
  • Ice Storms
  • Earth Quakes
  • Black Outs
  • The list could go on!

What is the FIRST thing to do?

It can be easy to be flustered and overwhelmed when you start doing emergency prep research.

Get stocked up on water

We can live almost 30 days without food, but only a few days without water!

You will need MORE water than you think you do…and need two different kinds: drinking water and washing/cleaning water.

I am not usually a fan of bottled water – but this is an excellent reason to have some on hand. When you get a good deal on it, grab a few extras for your emergency prep area. FEMA says 72-hour supplies of things for emergencies, but if it is a bad situation, it could take 3-4 WEEKS to get any help. Sadly we have seen this repeatedly through different situations over the last few years.

When you can’t get to a store, the stores are all closed or empty; you can’t turn on a faucet. Bottled water will be your friend.

There are other things you can do instead of buying bottled water –

  • Water filter pitchers. Most of them filter out sediment-type elements and won’t eliminate harmful bacteria from water.
  • Water purification tablets. They often have a slightly funky chlorinated taste when used, so try them first before stocking upon them.
  • Boiling all water for 30 minutes, so it is drinkable. Let’s face it, that can be a hassle when you are in the middle of an event.

Let’s talk about cleaning water

For washing up, doing dishes, helping to flush the toilet — you will need water too!

  • A simple way to stock up on cleaning water is to fill milk jugs after you empty them. (Rinse them out first).
  • You can also use the jugs that laundry detergent comes in, or white vinegar, etc. Do NOT rinse them out as that water can have those residual remnants in there and be more useful when needed.
  • Install a rain barrel or two. These work great for the garden as well as cleaning tasks.

You can even stock those in the garage if you want – just make sure they are not FULL if your garage freezes in the winter as mine does. Leave about 2 cups of water out, and you have plenty of “headroom” for the water expansion.

It’s critical to understand the importance of hydration and how to stay safe if the regular water supply is interrupted. People can go longer without food but not water. Cells start to deteriorate and die when deprived of water, soon after which organs quickly shut down, and the damage can be irreparable. At least 64 ounces of water is needed every day.

Dehydration danger signs

Here are some symptoms of dehydration:

  1. Swollen tongue
  2. Weakness
  3. Dizziness
  4. Heart palpitations
  5. Confusion
  6. Sluggishness
  7. Fainting
  8. Inability to sweat

Water storage is crucial to any prepper supplies. You can only live 3 days without it and we use it in almost everything we do. Making sure that your water preps will last is another must-do task when it comes to your prepping. Learning how to properly store water will help you do just that.

How to Store Water Properly

To start, you need to know how much water you need for your family in the event that something would go wrong and you needed to rely on it. This means figuring out exactly how long you want to prepare for. You must know this before you go any further.

How much water do you need?

Once you’ve got a time frame in mind, you will need to do some light math. You need to prepare, at the very minimum, 1 gallon of water, per person in your family, per day that you want to prepare for.

For instance, if you have a family of 3 and you want a 3 month supply, you would need 3 gallons per day, 21 gallons per week, 84 gallons per month, and 252 gallons for the 3 month period.

How to store water for your pets

Be sure not to forget your pets too. You should count on 1oz of water per pound of each pet per day. Your 16lb would need roughly 16oz of water per day. These are bare minimum amounts. Ideally, you would want to store at least one and one-half times the minimum to account for things like excessive heat, cleaning, bathing, and so on.

What to store water in

Water needs to be stored in something obviously. The best thing to use is something that is made for doing just that. You can pick up 5-gallon jugs at Wal-mart for around $15.00 each that will keep your storage safe, but if you are planning on storing a lot of water, you might want to consider food-safe barrels.

On the flip side, if you don’t have the money in your budget to buy containers, rinse out 2L soda bottles or empty juice containers and use those. Just be sure to rinse them well so that there is no sugar content left behind.

Keep it safe to drink

If your water is chlorinated, you won’t need to do anything to store it. It will store safely for well over a year. If it’s not chlorinated, however, you will need to give it some help. To each one-gallon bottle, add 1 small cap full of bleach. This will keep anything yucky from growing within your bottles so that your water is still safe to use and drink.

If you don’t like the idea of bleach, water purification tablets are always an option – we like the Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets With PA Plus.

It is a revolutionary two-stage process that makes water bacteriologically safe to drink and taste good. After treating water with Potable Aqua, simply drop 1-2 tablets of the neutralizer into the water and wait 3-5 minutes for clear, great-tasting water.

It greatly reduces the iodine taste and the discoloration caused by the iodine. Packaged in a 50 count bottle along with a 50 count bottle of Potable Aqua on a blister card.

You can get the Potable Aqua system HERE.

Once you’ve got your water storage started, congratulate yourself! You’re one step ahead of a lot of other people now!

Do you have any great ideas to share about how you store water?

Check out these other posts you may find useful now that you know how to store water: