How I Built a Rainwater Collection System at my House

Hi Guys, This summer I started a rain water collection system at my house in Seattle. I know what you’re thinking, “It rains all the time in Seattle, why do you need more water?” Which is true most of the year but it can be very dry in the summer time, last summer particularly, We went 45 days with no measurable rain! I’ve never been one to water my lawn in the summer since it’s not cheap and seemed like a waste of several hundred dollars over a summer. Most peoples lawn are dead and brown, mine turned to dirt actually.

But wait there is a solution! I could water my lawn and garden for free if I can store enough free rain water to get me through the dry times. Suddenly I had a reason to have a large rain water collection system at my house!

The system will consist of mainly 2″ PVC pipes that lead to a first flush system then to tanks. Then the water can be gravity drained or pressurized by a shallow well pump and water the lawn via sprinklers.

I needed my system to be far bigger that just a water barrel hooked to a downspout that can gravity feed to a few plants. Rain barrels are actually a terrible use of space. One IBC tote can hold 275 – 330 gallons in the same foot print as 2 barrels. I looked on Craigslist and found 275 gallon totes for about $100 each. Each tote comes with a 2″ valve at the bottom and they can be stacked for the ultimate compact water system. I bought 2 for a total of 600 gallons of water storage.

Here are my 2 totes. One is black since it’s covered with plastic to stop algae growth. The other still needs to get covered. They are different sizes. Which I didn’t know until I brought the 2nd one home. If you care about looks, get them both the same size or cover them all up.

Here you can see the new 2″ PVC pipe attached to my house. It will all get painted soon after testing is done. The larger vertical white pipe is my first flush system which I talk about in teh video. My tanks are over 30′ from the downspout so I wasn’t able to stack the totes like I wanted to since water NEEDS to travel downhill! 1/4″ slope per foot minimum!

first flush rain water diagram

This is the principle behind a first flush system. I use a plastic Gatorade bottle instead of a ball. The best way to keep your water clean is to store it clean. That mean keeping debris from reaching your tank.

Rain Water Distribution System

We have the collection and storage covered but how are we going to get the water out?


I now have a shallow well pump with pressure switch attached to my rain water system to distribute the water  anywhere I want. This is optional but necessary if you want to put your water to work and get the most out of our system. The pressure switch that comes with this pump means that the pump will turn on and off automatically. As soon as I open the tap the pump senses the pressure drop and turns on, giving me water pressure just like city water. When the tap is closed the pump will shut off. This is key to watering my lawn with sprinklers as most gravity feed systems don’t have the needed pressure to run sprinklers.

shallow well Jet pumpThis pump, I got from amazon is 1/2 and was highly rated and the more affordable model. It came with a pressure switch attached and pre-wired. It’s got more than enough power to run 3 sprinklers at the same time and doesn’t use that much electricity. Since my water tanks are at the same level at the pump, it gives maximum performance since it doesn’t have to pump the water out of the ground. Also this is handy since the pump is always primed when there is water in the tanks.



Rain Barrel DiverterPro Kit If I was at my house I would use a more advanced yet simple rainwater diverter filter combo like this easy to use Fiskars system. For $25 you can add this divert on your down spout and it will filter out leaves and other debris and divert rain water to your tanks or barrels. It fix 2×3″ and 3×4″ down spouts. Check it out on Amazon below.






Rain water downspout diverter filter Fiskars Rain diverter installed on downspout


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