Portable Water Catchment for Livestock

Ray describes the portable livestock shelter and water catchment system he built.    A nice simple, efficient, and inexpensive design.


Thanks very much to Ray for providing this!



Water catchment system with in line filter for watering livestock. 

I built a moveable shed for the goats and the cow out of livestock panels, 2x4’s and a tarp. I bought gutters and attached them to the sides with baling wire.  The roof is 8 x 14.  A 1” rain will provide 70 gallons of water. I decided 4 barrels would be enough for 3 goats, a cow and half a dozen chickens. Four full barrels supplies them with water for 50 to 75 days without rain.  The design of the goat house is based on Joel Salatin's designs.

Portable livestock shelter that includes rainwater catchment, storage, filtering, and water basin.

I drilled a hole in the gutters and attached a 1” plastic pipe fitting through the hole.  A cylinder of hardware cloth is inserted in the top to prevent clogging with organic material.  (Not shown, as I hadn’t installed them when I took the pictures, but they’re on there now.)  I plan to install gutter guards but haven’t done it yet.

Pipes distribute water collected on the shelter roof to the water storage barrels.

Collection gutter with hardware cloth screen.

Click on pictures to enlarge

Low pressure loss filter.

One inch black plastic pipe, elbows and tees connect the 2 gutters down by the ground.  (Hint: To make watertight connections with black plastic pipe, heat all ends before clamping them in place.)  The end is fitted with a garden hose fitting.  A garden hose conducts the water to a whole house filter.  The filter can pass several gallons a minute with as little as one foot of pressure head.  The water passes through the filter and heads to the rain barrels via a garden hose.

The barrels I bought have 2 caps on them.  There is a knockout on each cap that accepts ¾” standard threads, so I bought standard spigots and some teflon tape and screwed one into each barrel.  The barrels are also opaque to prevent algal growth.  The barrels lie down next to each other.  The bottom cap is fitted with the brass spigot as well as a 2 way splitter with an on/off valve on each one.  The top cap of the barrel is left in place, but loose, so air move in and out.  I attached four barrels, but can add more if I want to store more water.  Sections of garden hose with the female hose ends attached to each end are used to connect the barrels. The last barrel leads to a garden hose that ends at a float purchased at a hardware store that caters to folks with livestock.  I got a basin that fit inside an old tire to keep the animals from turning it over.  I bought a plastic float, but I hear that aluminum ones and the ones with a plastic ball float are less susceptible to breaking when they are frozen in place.   

Relationship of collection barrels to shelter.

Collection barrels.

Click on pictures to enlarge

Collection barrel plumbing using standard garden hose components.

I used all plastic, hose and brass to lessen the chances of the thing breaking when it freezes.  It has survived freezing solid on several occasions this winter during 10 degree nights.  I got spigots that go straight out from the barrels, rather than turning down so they don’t turn down toward the grass.  I got splitters with on/off valves, to allow for more tinkering with the barrels and the system.  Anything that develops a leak can be shut off or bypassed and the system will still work.  I bought all good quality garden hose and brass fittings.  I also used exclusively fittings commonly available in any hardware store.  (A leak can drain hundreds of gallons of water in no time.)  The barrels can be moved individually with a hand truck, if necessary, but they’re 450 lbs when full so be careful.  Place the barrels such that their tops are below the gutter bottoms so they can fill all the way.   Think about placing the barrels where the animals can’t step on the fittings, if you have animals prone to do so.  Be careful when building it to have things tucked in so the animals can’t snag or step on any of the parts.  Cows are heavy and aren’t too picky about where they put their feet or what they bump into. 

Shelter, barrels and drinking basin.

Click on pictures to enlarge

Drinking basin has float valve that keeps
it filled.  Basin fits inside a tire to
protect it.


Finished -- note the wheels.

I didn’t keep track of the cost of it all, but it is somewhere around $200 with the barrels costing $5 each and the gutters being prolly about $20, but without the whole house filter (which costs about $30 to $40 at any big box hardware store) 

What it takes:

4 opaque 55 gal drums with 2 caps
2 gutters with end caps
Baling wire
2 @ 1” plastic thread x barb fittings
Teflon tape
2 @ 1” plastic thread nuts
2 little cylinders of ¼ inch hardware cloth
8 @ 1” hose clamps
1@ 1” plastic barbed elbow
1 @ 1” plastic barbed tee
1 @ 1” plastic barbed x internally threaded ¾” fitting
1 @ ¾ “ brass external thered x male garden hose fitting
14@ brass ¾” barb x female garden hose fittings
14 @ 3/4” hose clamps
1 @ whole house filter with male garden hose fittings on inlet and outlet
Spare filters (5 micron size)
4 @ brass spigots
4@ brass garden hose splitters with shutoff valves
1 @ stock tank float

A high quality ¾” garden hose to be cut up to lengths that work and fitted with female ends.
The better part of a day. Actually building it goes pretty fast, but there will likely be a fair amount of indecisive head scratching
A torch to heat the black plastic water pipe, a screwdriver and a knife to cut the hoses.

Ray Milosh

You can email questions to: raymilosh AT hotmail DOT com   (replace AT with @ and DOT with a period)


Jan 18, 2008