Off Grid Rain Water Collection Upgrade – Part 1

Rain Water Collection off grid with tarp

The video below is worth a million words but here goes. We finally moved the 550 gallon plastic water tank up on the hill that I bought 5 years ago. Until now we had no way to fill it so there it sat unconnected and unfilled just above the cabin, mocking us. We had be using a single 55 gallon drum that collected water from the shed for our uses, which worked but it had 2 problems, 1. hardly any pressure, 2. It ran out of water by mid summer.

I had do some motivating to convince the other guys that we should move this big awkward tank way up the STEEP hill then carve out a level spot for it to sit. But in the end it was far easier than we thought it would be. We rolled the tank down the driveway, up the dirt road that goes up to mountain past our property and down a neighbors driveway to drop the tank DOWN the steep hill. Which was easily controlled by a strap around the tank.

Rain Water Collection

Excavated spot on the hill.


The Mattock (yellow tool against tree) made easy work of hacking into the hillside and pull the earth over to the low side for our landing pad.


Being short of money and wanting our water ASAP, I bought a heavy duty 9 mill tarp from Harbor Freight and hung it to collect our rain water. 11’x15′. We’re very near the Olympic National Rain Forest so rain happens frequently… just not this summer. It’s a dust bowl up there.


1″ ball valve supported by rocks and your taco shaped tarp funnel weighted down with a pipe and clamps. This setup is somewhat temporary, how temporary is not yet known. We’ll learn, tweak and improve the system as needed in the future.

rain water bucket filter

Primitive and cheap bucket filter to skim off floaters and sinkers and keep our water a bit cleaner. The bucket is glued to the tank and the rocks are there to help it stay there, along with a 15 lb rock inside the bucket.

I’m heading up to the property next week for the annual ax throwing tournament and I’ll report back how much water we’ve got or if the whole system failed.

Stay tuned!



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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4 Responses

  1. Thomas says:

    Check out Sawyer filters to filter your water for drinking purposes. They make 2 kinds. One is 0.1 microns absolute, and filters out bacteria, parasites etc. The second is a 0.02 microns absolute, for filtering out most viruses. Third world countries and backpackers are using these lightweight filters to provide drinking water. Of course, in the Northwest, many of us just drink the water anyway, without filters, but, if you ever thought of using one, these are really good. They don’t need to be replaced. Sawyer used to say they were good for a lifetime, but now I think they say something like 500,000 gallons.

  2. Judith says:

    I worked for a water storage tank/system building contractor for over a year. I strongly advise you spray paint your storage tank and pipes black or dark dark green. Otherwise, light will penetrate and help grow algae. The best tanks to get are the dark green or black ones for this reason. Annual cleaning of tank in winter when water is plentiful is advised, and you can use a swimming pool sweep tool to run along the bottom and sides of your tank to clean. I hooked my system up to an ozone system, too. You might want to check those out. Thanks for all the info. Will have need of this down the road.

  3. Leilani says:

    This is a pretty clever low-cost system you came up with. Assuming there weren’t any unfortunate misfires at the annual Axe Throwing Tournament, I’m interested to hear the update on how it performed in Part II.

  4. C. E. Yapes says:

    Nice setup. I also had a rain cistern set up at my cabin. South end of the Olympics. The pipe froze between the threaded fitting and the ball valve Bursting the pipe and draining all the water. The tank now has a shut off ball valve installed on the inside of the tank. I made a reach rod the turn it on and off by reaching through the man hole cover. Nice set up you have there.